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, 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.