Scriptwriter Stephen Fry has announced he's successfully tackled the thorny problem of just what to call Guy Gibson's dog in Peter Jackson's upcoming remake of The Dam Busters.
The mutt will be rebranded "Digger", Fry announced to the BBC, because "there is no question in America that you could ever have a dog called the N-word".
He added: "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."
Gibson's faithful hound was killed on the morning of the Dambusters raid on 16 May 1943, and is buried at 617 Squadron's home base of RAF Scampton, in Lincolnshire.
The original 1955 film featured the dog's name 12 times as the codeword used to report the successful breaching of the Möhne and Eder dams. Fry said: "In the film, you're constantly hearing 'n-word, n-word, n-word, hurray' and Barnes Wallis is punching the air. But obviously that's not going to happen now. So Digger seems okay, I reckon."
Some historians are less than impressed, and were only too willing to express their dismay to the Daily Mail. Mervyn Hallam, curator of RAF Scampton museum, thundered: "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 N*gger 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.
"N*gger 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."
Dambusters historian Jim Shortland offered: "I'm unhappy with the change because it's sacrificing historical accuracy for political correctness, in particular for the American market." ®