The historian fighting to stop the Dambusters HQ from becoming a migrant detention centre says his battle has been hijacked by anti-immigration campaigners.
Second World War expert James Holland set up an online petition which has now fetched 18,000 signatures.
He supports a £300 million alternative plan to redevelop the Lincolnshire site and protect the HQ.
But Mr Holland believes the future of RAF Scampton has been leapt on by anti-migrant figures.
He said: ‘This is not about Dambusters versus migrants. This is about what’s right for the future of RAF Scampton.
‘The whole thing seems to have been slightly hijacked by Nigel Farage, which doesn’t meet with my approval whatsoever.
James Holland (left) set up an online petition which has now fetched 18,000 signatures. He supports a £300 million alternative plan to redevelop the Lincolnshire site and
He says he thinks ‘The whole thing seems to have been slightly hijacked by Nigel Farage’
Mr Holland believes the future of RAF Scampton has been leapt on by anti-migrant figures
‘My sympathy for the migrants is enormous, and for me it’s not about that,’ he added to the Times.
The online petition is now being advertised by Tommy Robinson as well as Farage, the former leader of Ukip.
In an open letter sent earlier campaigners urged Suella Braverman to reconsider the proposal, saying that to erase its heritage would be a ‘scandalous desecration of immeasurable recklessness’.
The 44 who have signed the letter include historians Sir Antony Beevor, Sir Max Hastings, Dan Snow and Tracy Borman, broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, Falklands veteran Air Marshal Graeme ‘Black’ Robertson, First Gulf War veteran Air Marshal Cliff Spink, and comedian Al Murray, who presents a popular podcast about the Second World War. RAF Scampton closed last year.
The 617 Squadron – the Dambusters – was formed at the airfield, from where 19 Lancaster bombers departed for the famous raid in 1943 to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley, the industrial heartland of Germany, with ‘bouncing bombs’.
A host of historians, broadcasters and high-ranking RAF veterans have joined forces in the battle against a ‘very alarming’ plan to turn the Dambusters’ former HQ into a refugee detention centre. Pictured: A Lancaster HAP at RAF Scampton in 1967
The 617 Squadron – the Dambusters – was formed at the airfield, from where 19 Lancaster bombers departed for the famous raid in 1943 to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley. Pictured: 617 Squadron led by 24-year old Wing Commander Guy Gibson (in aircraft door)
The 800-acre site in Lincolnshire had been earmarked by the council for a £300million regeneration project, which would make it a centre of aerospace technology and create 1,000 jobs as well as, the letter says, having the aim of ‘honouring the incredibly rich heritage of Scampton’.
The letter highlights how it would include turning the officers’ mess into a hotel, offering the ‘enticing thought’ of being able to sleep where ‘so many courageous airmen’ did, including 617 Squadron’s commanding officer, Wing Commander Guy Gibson.
Aviation historian Victoria Taylor and James Holland, who is chairman of the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival, wrote the letter, which they shared on Twitter.
In it, they write: ‘Of course refugees need to be housed in a safe, functional and secure location, but do they need to be taken to a place where there is already an exciting and viable plan to safeguard its future and in a county where such investment is so desperately needed?
Dambusters George “Johnny” Johnson (Bomber Aimer – Front Left) with the Rest of His Lancaster Bomber Crew in November 1943. (Back Row L-R) Dave Roger (Rear Gunner), Dom Mclean (Navigator), Bill Radcliffe (Flight Engineer), (Front Row L-R) “Johnny”, Lem Eaton (Wireless Operator) Joe Mccarthy (Pilot and Captain) Ron Batson (Mid Upper Gunner) George ‘Jonny’ Johnson
Comedian Al Murray, best known for his pub landlord character, described the plans as ‘bizarre’
‘And where the dramatic change of use to an asylum centre will threaten the rich heritage of the site?
‘There are other options – alternative sites throughout the UK that do not share Scampton’s heritage, nor an already oven-ready levelling-up plan.’
The letter adds: ‘Johnny Johnson, the last of the Dambusters, recently passed away, which means it is now left to the buildings of Scampton to provide that all-important tangible link to the past.’
The letter also points out that Scampton’s heritage dates back to a Royal Flying Corps airfield on the site in the First World War, pre-dating its 1930s development, and that post-war it became an important Cold War base.
Comedian Al Murray, best known for his pub landlord character, yesterday said: ‘Losing the redevelopment plan in place strikes me as bizarre.’
The Home Office said: ‘The Government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders.’
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