The Dambusters connection and how Gibson got his dog
The house in Church Street that Tovil Working Men’s Club occupied was lived in afterwards by Thomas Gladstone Bincham, known as “Glad”.
Mr Bincham went on to become manager and director of Southern Paper Stock in Straw Mill Hill, Tovil, a business that collected waste paper across Kent and turned it into brown wrapping paper.
Lester Lawrence described said: “He was a big man, full of presence. He was a fine operatic singer with a marvellous voice.”
In 1921, Glad Bincham founded the Tovil Scout Group in the shed in the garden of his Church Street house, making it the oldest troop in Maidstone.
Mr Bincham went on to become Scoutmaster of the Loose Swiss Scouts and eventually International Commissioner for the British Scout Association. In 1957, he was awarded the Bronze Wolf Award for his services to Scouting during the Second World War.
Lester Lawrence remembered going on a camp with Glad Bincham and 30 other boys in 1936 – to Zell am See in Austria. He recalled: “We went by ferry to Zeebrugge and then by train, stopping in Munich on route. There were huge swastika flags hanging from all the buildings. It was really something to see. Of course, we boys didn’t register the political implications.”
Later Bincham was to move to the large Ebbor House in East Farleigh, where he entertained the servicemen posted nearby.
The RAF personnel at West Malling Airfield had a standing invitation to attend Ebbor House every Monday. One of those who called in frequently was Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who was later to lead the famous Dambusters raid.
In his autobiography, Enemy Coast Ahead, Gibson refers to the parties as “some of the happiest times of my life”.
It was also via Glad Bincham, that Wing Commander Gibson obtained, as a puppy, his famous black labrador, which (with the moral codes that prevailed at the time) he named Nigger. The pup had been belonged to Bincham’s niece Joan, but she didn’t have room to keep it.
The dog went on to become the official mascot of 617 Squadron. He was hit by a car and died on May 16, 1943, the day before the Dambusters raid.
In his beloved pet’s memory, Wing Commander Gibson chose “Nigger” as the radio codeword to report the successful breach of the Mohne Dam.