Could historic Scampton be used to house migrants?

An eminent group of historians has signed a letter to the government opposing plans to house asylum seekers at RAF Scampton

Following news earlier this month that the historic Lincolnshire airfield had been 'saved' for “continued use as an operational airfield”, West Lindsey District Council has now confirmed that Scampton is being considered by the Home Office for use as an asylum centre.

As aviation enthusiasts will be aware, Scampton has a rich history. Not only was it home to the RAF's world famous Red Arrows display team from 1983 onwards, but it was also the base from which 617 Squadron staged its legendary Dambusters raid in 1943. This year in fact marks the 80th anniversary of Operation Chastise. It was also the base from which numerous other significant operations – too many to list – took place.

As reported by the BBC, historian James Holland is among those opposing the move to transform the site into a centre for migrants. Mr Holland is among the open letter's 40 signatories, which also include Sir Antony Beevor, Dan Snow, Sir Max Hastings and AM Cliff Spink. “There are so many places around the country where asylum seekers could be housed with the kind of sensitivity and care that they absolutely need,” he told the BBC. "But it just doesn't have to be on one of the richest places in terms of history and heritage in the country for aviation.”

No 83 Squadron Hampden AD837 at its Scampton base some time in 1940 or 1941 VIA ANDREW THOMAS
No 83 Squadron Hampden AD837 at its Scampton base some time in 1940 or 1941 VIA ANDREW THOMAS

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is expected to receive the letter on Monday, March 20. It describes RAF Scampton as "a hub of innovation from Barnes Wallis' bouncing bombs to the low-level precision by the Dambusters", and explains that a dramatic transformation into an asylum centre could pose threats to the base's extraordinary heritage.

The letter also suggests that the famous site could be better used as an innovation centre for future generations of engineers, if a suitable regeneration scheme could be enacted swiftly. This would presumably also mean that its significant history could be appropriately marked, celebrated and observed. A petition, opposing the government plans, was signed by more than 2,000 people in less than 24 hours, according to local news outlet The Lincolnite. At the time of writing, it had reached nearly 10,000 signatures.

Dambusters pilot Sir Harold 'Mickey' Martin was described by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC as “the greatest operational pilot the Air Force has produced”
Dambusters pilot Sir Harold 'Mickey' Martin was described by Gp Capt Leonard Cheshire VC as “the greatest operational pilot the Air Force has produced" VIA GRAHAM PITCHFORK

Shortly after it was announced that the former RAF base had been purchased by West Lindsey District Council from the MoD, news began to filter through that the site might be used to house migrants.

A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC: “We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being put on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.

"We continue to work across government and with local authorities to look at a range of accommodation options and sites but the best way to relieve these pressures is to stop the boats in the first place.

The Red Arrows perform the Spaghetti Break over Scampton in 2015
The RAF Red Arrows perform the Spaghetti Break over Scampton in 2015 SAC ADAM FLETCHER-WIKIPEDIA