Dambusters dog bone of contention

TOM CARDY
Last updated 11:22 13/06/2011
Dambuster dog Nigger, renamed Digger for Peter jackson film

HISTORICAL INACCURACY: A painting of Dambuster Guy Gibson and his pet dog Nigger, renamed Digger for the Peter Jackson film.

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One of the big questions hanging over Sir Peter Jackson's Dambusters film has finally been answered - the dog Nigger will be renamed Digger as it might offend Americans.

The film's script writer, actor Stephen Fry, revealed the change to British newspaper The Daily Mail.

In the original 1955 film the name of pilot Guy Gibson's black Labrador is spoken 12 times as a code word to report successful dam breaches to the RAF's bomber command, The Daily Mail reported.

Fry 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 got back, which is unfortunate ... Digger seems OK, I reckon".

However some historians and aviation enthusiasts were unhappy with the name change.

The dog is buried at RAF Scampton in Britain, where the Dambusters 617 squadron was based. Curator of the RAF Scampton museum accused Fry of trying to "rewrite history".

"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," said Mervyn Hallam.

"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."

Dambusters historian Jim Shortland said it was sacrificing historical accuracy for political correctness. "One wonders what else the film might get wrong. Once you know something is incorrect, you're going to be suspicious."

But Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire spokesman Phil Bonner told The Daily Mail the dog's name was emotive. "In some respects it's a reflection of the changes that have happened across the generations."

Jackson first announced plans for the film, to be directed by his protege Christian Rivers, in 2006. Fry, who also has a small part in The Hobbit, joined as script writer in 2007.

As of last year, Jackson was fine tuning Fry's script, with no set date for shooting. It is understood some pre-production work has been underway for some time, including full scale replicas of Lancaster bombers, some of which were made in China.

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- The Dominion Post

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