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RAF Scampton

RAF Scampton reopened in 1936 (originally having opened as Home Defence Flight Station Brattleby in 1916, renamed Scampton in 1917 and closed in 1919) and at the outbreak of World War II it was transferred to Bomber Commands No. 5 Group, being the base for 83 Squadron, 49 Squadron, 57 Squadron and 617 Squadron (the Dambusters). It is the mascot for 617 Squadron that reputedly haunts RAF Scampton to this day.

Formed on 21 March 1943 at RAF Scampton, 617 Squadron was created for Operation Chastise, an attack by Avro Lancaster bombers on three dams in the Ruhr Valley (Möhne, Eder and Sorpe) using the ‘Bouncing Bomb’ devised by the British inventor Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, CBE (26 September 1887 – 30 October 1979). 617 Squadron used Avro Lancaster Bombers and were led by Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson VC DSO DFC (12 August 1918 – 19 September 1944).

The mascot of 617 Squadron was Wing Commander Gibson’s dog, a black labrador retriever called ‘Nigger’. On 16 May 1943 Nigger was hit by a car and died. This is also the day that Operation Chastise launched and Nigger was buried at RAF Scampton at midnight as 617 Squadron attacked the Ruhr Valley dams. His grave can still be seen to this day.  It has been suggested that perhaps Nigger was killed to attack the morale of 617 Squadron by an enemy agent, though it was probably just an unfortunate accident and a coincidence that it happen on that specific day.

RAF Scampton was upgraded in 1944 with 57 Squadron and 617 Sqaudron being replaced with 153 Squadron and 625 Squadron.

During the Cold War, RAF Scampton was home to Vulcan Bombers which carried Britain’s nuclear deterrent. The base is now home to CRC (Control and Reporting Centre) Scampton, 1st ACC (Air Control Centre) the RAFAT (Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team - Red Arrows) and the Mobile Meteorological Unit.

There is a story of an World War II airman who after bring his damaged aircraft down just outside RAF Scampton was seeking assistance. A local farm laborer guided him to the road, but when the airman turned to thank him, he had vanished. After recounting his tale he discovered that no farm hands had been out in that area at the time he came down.

The apparition of nigger was probably first seen in February 1952 by Leading Aircraftman Yeomans who was a waiter in the Mess. In an article for Lincolnshire Life (May 2009) entitled The Ghost Dog of RAF Scampton, Bruce Barrymore Halpenny describes the sightings.

‘It was about 4pm an Yeomans was sitting alone in the downstairs staff room, the windows of which looked out on to a small yard which led into the rear entrance of the Officers’ Mess. It was becoming dark but the visibility was still good and Yeomans saw the Labrador, sitting close to a large heap of coal, which was used in the Officers’ Mess. “The dog sat motionless,” recalls Yeomans, “it sat looking up towards the upper windows at the rear of the building.” On this floor, being the top floor of the Officers’ Mess, were the private rooms of commissioned ranks, officers’ sleeping accommodation. The dining room, kitchens and Mess bar being all on the ground floor. LAC Yeomans said that he watched the dog through the window for about two minutes as he sat at the large staff room table. Throughout that time the animal did not move, but continued to gaze up at the top floor windows. Yeomans curiosity became aroused by the manner in which the Labrador was staring upwards, with no sound or movement at all. He rose and went out along the rear passage to the rear door. Yeomans opened the rear door to call out to the animal; but the Labrador was gone. Yeomans was puzzled for it had only taken him about fifteen seconds to reach the yard door and in that time it had vanished. He crossed the yard to try and see if he could find the dog, going through the rear gate which opened out on to a very large tract of open field, situated between the Officers’ Mess and airmen’s billets and barrack blocks.

Two days later Yeomans had just come on duty at around 4.30pm, at the Officers’ Mess. He was just taking off his battledress jacket when Corporal Dwane snapped: “Go and get that bloody dog out of the corridor, next to the dining hall!” Yeomans quickly slipped his white Mess jacket on and hurried out to obey the NCO’s order. On entering the dining hall corridor Yeomans saw the same black Labrador sitting close to the dining hall doors. By this time there were several other RAF Mess staff in the building. Yeomans moved towards the dog and as he did so it immediately rose from its haunches. “As it moved it seemed to blur,” said Yeomans. The dog headed for the stairs leading up to the officers’ sleeping quarters. And Yeomans dashed after it, going up the stairs two at a time. On reaching the top he could see no sign of the animal. Yeomans was very annoyed about losing the dog and he searched the entire upper floor, but there was no sign of the mysterious black Labrador dog.

Although Yeomans did not see the dog again, according to Bruce Barrymore Halpenny, he did hear about it.

The dog was seen again running across the field towards the Officers’ Mess. It was about 8.30pm and it was seen by at least five people, including the Mess waiters. They said that the dog went past them soundlessly, without even looking in their direction. There had been a light fall of snow yet the dog left no marks. They watched the dog sneak out of sight heading for the front of the Officers’ Mess. The WRAF aircraftwoman said that she had felt no fear on seeing the phantom dog.

Bruce Barrymore Halpenny is author to a series of books named Ghost Stations in which he shows that Nigger also apparently haunts theWoodhall Spa, Dambusters Memorial.

Other related Articles:
The Dambusters trained at the Lady Bower Resovoir where a ghost Lancaster Bomber is said to have been witnessed.

One of the most famous Lancaster Bombers of World War II was based at RAF Scampton and was positioned there at the gate between 1958 – 1970. This plane is now on display at Hendon RAF Museum and is said to be haunted.

The bouncing bomb was tested near Reculver which is also said to be haunted.

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Ian Topham
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Re: RAF Scampton

The dogs name was Nigger, which is obviously not politically correct and is not suitable in this day and age.  It has led to some censorship arguments regarding films of the Dambusters raid.  I think in the planned Peter Jackson version it will be called Nigsy.   I decided for the purpose of the article the name should remain accurate and history should not be censored. 

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Re: RAF Scampton

Re the supposedly haunted R A F Museum Lancaster which is referred to. This may beggar belief but not so many years ago, there was a machine in the Museum on which visitors (for a modest fee of course) could listen to supposedly paranormal sounds which had been acquired from the deserted hangar  Unfortunately these had been faked by the Museum itself as they admitted to me by letter after I had tried to organise a scientific investigation at the site.

Another RAF Museum outpost is Cosford Aerospace Museum where there is a supposedly haunted Lincoln bomber.  Here again it was admitted after several years that the Museum had manufactured spurious claims that the aircraft was haunted in order to forestall its proposed removal and transfer to the Manchester Industrial Museum. 

They finally came clean apparently as a result of receiving too many letters from grieving widows who enquired if the "ghost" might be that of their lost loved ones.

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Re: RAF Scampton

Hi James, welcome to the website and thank you for adding what you know about the museum cases.  I have come across my fair share of faked evidence whilst investigating cases in the past and it is our policy to expose it when we find it.  

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Re: RAF Scampton

I do not see anything offensive... are we to change facts to suit some people (with way too much time on their hands)?
Anyway RAF seems to have her fair share of ghosts and other supernatural happenings. Apart from the articles of this I've already related the appearance of a lone Supermarine Spitfire near Biggin Hill and various "vintage" aircrafts seen in parts of Britain.

In Distortion We Trust

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Re: RAF Scampton

On 2 November 2011 an article by Katherine Faulkner entitled 'Ghost of the Dambusters dog: Picture 'shows long-dead Labrador' at memorial to WWII heroes' appeared in the Daily Mail.

He was the loyal companion of the Dambusters hero whose extraordinary bravery enthralled the nation.

Now ghost hunters believe the spectre of the Dambusters' canine mascot is still faithfully guarding his master's old quarters.

They are convinced that the wraiths of both Wing Commander Guy Gibson and his chocolate–coloured Labrador haunt the remote airfield from which the audacious raid was launched.

Investigators decided to step in after a mysterious photograph emerged of what looks like Gibson's long-dead dog sitting at his master's memorial.

The picture, taken in the 1980s, shows a Labrador among a school group at a memorial to the Dambusters, close to where Gibson's dog was buried.

The photographer is said to have claimed the dog appeared from nowhere just as the photo was being taken, refusing to be shooed away.

As soon as the photo was taken, the dog disappeared, never to be seen again.

After staking out the base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, now the home of the Red Arrows, ghost hunters are convinced it is haunted by a ghostly Labrador.

The lead investigator, Paul Drake, said: There is definitely paranormal activity there.

'One of our investigators felt a cold spot and when we measured it, it was eighteen inches, which is about the height of a dog.

'The curator of the museum has told us that he has felt for years that he has had a presence following him and he definitely feels that it is that of a dog.'

One investigator who stayed overnight at the base last month even claimed she heard a dog growling when she entered Gibson's former office.

'I definitely heard the growl of a dog', said Michelle Clements, 45. 'Three of us heard it and we all agreed it was a dog.

'It was a really low growl. It wasn't a happy yap at all. It sounded sounded like he was warning us to stay away.'

After scouring the base with infra-red lights, proximity sensors and video cameras, the team say they picked up activity which suggests the pilot was trying to speak to them.

'I do believe we spoke with Guy Gibson,' Miss Clements, a school dinner lady from Leicester, said.

'We asked him if he was with his girlfriend Margaret and he said yes.
'We also played some old music from the 40s and there was a response to that as well.'

Gibson's Labrador, Nigger, was the mascot for the squadron that launched an audacious night-time raid on three heavily defended dams deep in Germany's industrial heartland using bouncing bombs.

Their success was immortalised in the classic 1954 film The Dambusters, its thrilling theme tune and gung-ho script evoking the best of British derring-do.

The Labrador's name was used as a code word whenever one of Germany's Ruhr Dams was breached during the mission.

Tragically, he had been run over and killed outside the base just hours before the raid and, fearing it was a bad omen, heartbroken Gibson ordered the death to be kept secret and the dog to be buried quickly outside his office next to the squadron hangar.

Gibson himself returned from the mission and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery, but was later killed in 1944, when his Mosquito crashed in Holland during a raid.

The story of the Dambusters is now set to be retold in a new film by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson – although the dog is to be renamed Digger as the original name is now recognised as an offensive term.

Jim Shortland, a historian who specialises in the Dambusters, said he was sceptical about the paranormal but welcomed the investigation.

'What they expect to find I don't know,' he said.

'But I think anything that helps to keep the memory alive of the things those lads did in the Second World War is a good thing.'

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Re: RAF Scampton

On 2nd November 2011, The Telegraph also published an article entitled 'Guy Gibson: ghost of Dambusters dog 'found' at airbase'

Wing Commander Gibson led the Dambusters raid in 1943 from his base at RAF Scampton, near Lincoln, just hours after his black labrador, called Nigger, was run over and killed.

Before taking off for the Ruhr Dams, Wing Commander Gibson left instructions for his faithful companion to be buried outside his office
But a legend sprung up around Nigger after there were several reported sightings of a black dog seen around the base following his death.

His office has been empty for more than half a century and is now part of the RAF Scampton Historical Museum, near Lincoln, Lincs.

Now paranormal investigators, given special permission to stake out the operational RAF base, have claimed that the spectre of the dog's spirit may have tried to speak to them as they have picked up activity on their electronic detection equipment.

Filmed by the BBC, the team embarked on three all-night stakeouts at the base, now home to the Red Arrows.

It came Paul Drake, the lead investigator, was inspired by a 1987 photograph showing a mystery black dog at the opening of a Damsbusters memorial in the nearby village of Woodhall Spa.

"I saw a picture that had the dog in it, which the photographer said was not there when it was taken, and that has stayed in the back of my mind for a few years," said Mr Drake, 49, a computer engineer and founder of Paranormal Lincs.

"After I saw the picture I got in contact with RAF Scampton to see if we could do an investigation. I never dreamed they would say 'yes' as it is still an operational base and everything has to go through the base commander.

"But they have been absolutely brilliant and have welcomed us with open arms."

The name of Gibson's black labrador was used as a code word whenever one of Germany's Ruhr Dams was breached during the "bouncing bomb" mission in May 1943, and was immortalised in the 1955 film starring Richard Todd.

Among the specialist kit used by the paranormal team were infra-red lights, proximity sensors and video cameras.

Mr Drake added: "We have been up there on three different occasions, each time something different has happened. Something is definitely going on as there has been no power to the office for years.

"The equipment we use to measure the electromagnetic field in a building is very sensitive, and every time we have been inside Guy Gibson's office there has been a reaction.

"When we have asked the question 'are you there?,' the metre has always gone up."

Fellow paranormal investigator, Michelle Clements, added: "We are looking for the spirit of Guy Gibson, but there have been a lot of things reported about his dog."

Before his death Nigger was always at the side of Gibson, who would take him for long walks around the airfield.

The raid on the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe Dams was launched on 16 May 1943. Only hours before the raid Gibson was informed that Nigger had been run over by a car outside the camp and he was killed instantaneously.

The Möhne and Eder Dams were breached, but it was a very costly operation with loss of nine aircraft and fifty-three men.

Gibson returned and was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross but was later killed on a raid against Germany in September 1944, when his Mosquito plane crashed in Holland.

The first sighting of a dog matching Nigger's description was in February 1952 when a mess waiter working at RAF Scampton reported seeing a "phantom" black dog on the base.

Jim Shortland, a historian who specialises in the Dambuster raids, said he was sceptical about the paranormal but welcomed the investigation.

"What they expect to find I don't know," Mr Shortland said.

"But I think anything that helps to keep the memory alive of the things those lads did in the Second World War is a good thing."

Mr Shortland said the exact location of the dog's grave was unknown, but it was thought to be near Guy Gibson's former office next to the 617



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