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Stephen Fry renames Dambusters dog so as not to offend Americans: historians annoyed

Nigger with members of 617 Squadron. His owner, Wg Cdr Guy Gibson is crouching on the right with a pipe in his mouth.

The Dambusters dog Nigger will be renamed Digger for a modern remake of the iconic film to avoid offending American viewers, it has emerged.

Script writer Stephen Fry, 53, has confirmed that pilot Guy Gibson's faithful black Labrador will be renamed for the forthcoming Peter Jackson movie.

In the original 1955 film Gibson's dog's name was spoken 12 times as a code word to report successful dam breaches to RAF Bomber Command.

But Fry, who is writing the script for the long-awaited remake, has revealed he will now be renamed Digger to avoid offending American viewers.

He said: 'There is no question in America that you could ever have a dog called the N-word.

'It's no good saying that it is the Latin word for black or that it didn't have the meaning that it does now - you just can't go back, which is unfortunate.

'You can go to RAF Scampton and see the dog's grave and there he is with his name, and it's an important part of the film.

'The name of the dog was a code word to show that the dam had been successfully breached.

'In the film, you're constantly hearing 'nigger, nigger, nigger, hurray' and Barnes Wallis is punching the air.

'But obviously that's not going to happen now. So Digger seems okay, I reckon.'

The iconic 1955 film tells the story of British Second World War scientists who developed a bouncing bomb as a means of attacking Germany's dams.

During the film a special squadron of Lancaster bombers, 617 Squadron, is formed and trained by Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

His black Labrador dog Nigger is present throughout the film and his name repeatedly used as a code word to report successful breaches of dams.

But when Peter Jackson began planning a remake of the historic film, which has been scripted by Fry, the team agreed to rename him Digger.


Nigger's grave

Nigger died in a car accident on the morning of the Dambusters raid on 16 May 1943 and is buried at the squadron's home of RAF Scampton, Lincs.

The move has attracted criticism from historians and aviation enthusiasts who have revealed they are 'unhappy' with the alteration.

Mervyn Hallam, curator of RAF Scampton museum, today slammed the change and accused Fry of trying to 'rewrite history'.

He said: 'It's not a problem with coloured people it's the people in power creating the problem. Sod their political correctness and sod human rights.

'They should keep the dog's name the same - it's ridiculous that they are trying to rewrite history. His grave is still here with his name on it.

'What they are trying to do is dishonouring Nigger and dishonouring the brave men who flew that mission.

'We have over 9,000 visitors a year at RAF Scampton and many of them are not native to England but none of them are offended.

'Nigger is the name of the dog and that shouldn't be interfered with. In the context of the time and the film it's not a racist name.'

Jim Shortland, a historian who specialises in the Dambusters, added: 'I'm unhappy with the change because it's sacrificing historical accuracy for political correctness, in particular for the American market.

'If someone was offended by Guy Gibson's name you wouldn't go around calling him Richard Todd.

'One wonders what else the film might get wrong. Once you know something is incorrect, you're going to be suspicious.'

But Phil Bonner, spokesman for Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire, admitted the name of the dog is 'very emotive'.

He said: 'The name of the dog is very emotive for many people and in some respects it's a reflection of the changes that have happened across the generations.

'The whole core of the film is about the bravery of the people who flew from Lincolnshire on a very daring raid and it's important that this aspect of the film is not watered down.'



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