Honour the 617 the proper way

There’s been a significant amount of backlash over a song the England fans sung last night, a song we at Lincoln have adopted as our own. I refer of course to the ‘ten German bombers’ song that has been heard this season at Sincil Bank.

I know this may not be a popular opinion, but I for one do not like the song. Before I start I ought to point out I am hypocritical as I joined in with it at Burnley, but on reflection I wish I hadn’t. It is easy to get caught up in a moment when you’re drunk and have watched your team beat a Premier League side, but since singing it I haven’t really be happy with myself.

I am afraid to say there is an element of casual racism in the song, something that has been all-but stamped out at football grounds across the country. I’ve heard an argument that we sing it as a tribute to the 617 squadron, something that seems a little nonsensical as the 617 were in fact bombers themselves. They didn’t shoot down German bombers, and if I’m being picky we weren’t attacked by German bombers in the war anyway, we were attacked by Nazi bombers.

I’m not sure as a country, or indeed as a club, we need to still be celebrating a war that took place over seventy years ago. As a nation Germany are ashamed of their Nazi past, and they lost a lot of young men who were fighting for a forced ideology. I’m not ignoring the Second World War, nor am I looking to diminish the role our county played in it. I do feel though that the wording could be construed as offensive, and I’d wager many of those involved in the war wouldn’t feel we are honouring them by singing it.

It was in a pub in Barnet that I really began to feel the song wasn’t right for us or our achievements. Yes we were ‘bomber county’, yes we won a war seven decades ago and yes we should be proud of what our men and women achieved all those years ago. However, the world has moved on, Nazi-ism has been eradicated from mainstream politics and frankly to turn that terrible time into some sort of celebration is plain wrong. Singing it in Germany is another level of offensive, but even belting it out at Sincil Bank is poor form. When I heard it in the pub before Arsenal I cringed, I even discussed with another fan how it wasn’t our best chant.

When I heard it in the Emirates I was a touch ashamed. It may have escaped many people’s notice, but Mesut Ozil is a German man, and had Germany won the war he absolutely would not be playing for them today. The chant singles out on nation’s sinister and long-despised history and tries to use it as some sort of point of reference for our own achievements. The Battle of Britain is not something we should be using against Germany today, because the Germany of today is not the same as that of 1939 to 1945. The song itself has no relevance, it is not a celebration of our culture, it is a celebration of a dark and troubling time in the world.

As a club we have many great songs that celebrate the good things about our club and our City. I love the Dambusters theme tune because it does celebrate the achievements of our ancestors. When we sing the Dambusters and have our arms in the air it is not a symbol of xenophobia towards Germany, it signifies the march of Lincoln both on the field and of course from the past. That celebrates our culture in the correct manner, the other song does not.

I hope the media furore makes our wonderfully vocal fans think twice about the  using the song in future. There is no need to have something controversial on the ‘play list’ when we have so many great chants and songs that do celebrate our culture and our city. Why do we need to mention a nationality in this context? Why do we need to pay homage to tragic events that lead to losses of life on both sides? Why do we feel that a victory in a major war is something we should be reminding people of in such a crass way? Is drunkenly belting out anti-German songs at a Football Ground really the way to pay tribute to the brave people who helped secure our liberty?

Forest Green are our opponents on Saturday in front of the TV cameras. The stakes could not be higher, and every time we have had the television people at our ground we have done ourselves proud. If we choose to sing the German Bombers song this weekend it will be broadcast across the country, and the national spotlight could fall upon us for the wrong reasons. Remember, FGR have a German striker by the name of Omar Bugiel which (in my opinion) makes the song an absolute no-go this weekend. As Lincoln City Football club we’ve done our city proud on and off the pitch this season. We can celebrate our 617 culture by doing the Dambusters song, but please don’t sully the memory of our fallen heroes by mocking the country that they essentially fought to save from fascism.

11 Comments

  1. I must admit I have mixed views on this. My late mother was a child growing up close to RAF Waddington during the war. She witnessed the tragic side of war even there with damaged bombers returning and at Christ’s Hospital Girls School where a Mustang fighter crashed killing the pilot and one of her teachers. Her family home was hit by shrapnel during a raid on the aerodrome and she married my father in the newly restored previously bomb damaged parish church. The bombers that attacked Waddington were German, of that there can be no doubt, even if that country was led by the Nazi regime. It wasn’t until the tide of war turned against Germany that its citizens began, however privately, to question Hitler’s leadership. There is plenty of well documented evidence of the adulation he received from the German people up to that point. All that having been said, however, I can understand your misgivings at the singing of this song and the contrast you draw between it and the splendidly stirring Dambusters March that we all hum so proudly both at Sincil Bank and whenever we see the film on out TVs. However I am still somewhat ambivalent about the 10 German Bombers song because whereas the German people are right to be ashamed of that particularly dark chapter in their history, we, by contrast are fully entitled to be proud of our role in saving the world from tyranny and that, to me is what 10 German Bombers is all about. You argue that it was 7 decades ago and you are quite right. I would nevertheless put to you that it is 200 years since our parliament passed a law outlawing the slave trade which our Royal Navy set about enforcing with commendable zeal wherever it came across it regardless of the local jurisdiction and we still quite rightly proclaim our role in this civilising campaign even now. I accept Gary that you have a perfectly reasonable and valid opinion on this subject. I am just not sure I entirely agree with it. Thankfully we still live in a country where we can agree to disagree while still respecting the opposing point of view.

  2. I agree with your sentiments entirely Gary, however I feel lucky I live in a country where different opinions can be aired freely and opposing viewpoints respected!

  3. Historically inaccurate and totally unnecessary song. As Gary correctly says we were essentially a bomber county not a fighter base. Remembrance is great and called for but let’s move on.

  4. 1.Keep up the good work Gary
    2.That song was funny until May 1945, it is now offensive.
    3.I have proper German friends, they are just like us with a dry and wicked sense of humour.
    4. We have better and wittier songs.
    5. UTI

  5. I agree with Gary on this completely. He is quite right that Ozil’s entire family would have been eviscerated by the Nazis, which is why I abstained from singing along at the Emirates.

    I think that there is a new movie coming out soon about Bert Trautmann, which will be a “must see” for any football fans who are interested in this topic. He overcame all kinds of hostility to become one of the greatest goalkeepers ever seen in England. And he did it by playing football.

    I hope we can park the 617 song on Saturday, and focus on winning the game !

  6. I completely agree with Gary about the Mesut Ozil topic. In Nazi Germany, his family would have been victimized and probably murdered for being Turkish muslims. Now in England, Ozil gets abused for being German. It didnt seem quite right to join in and sing 617 at the Emirates when he came on.

    Anybody following this topic will probably enjoy the imminent “Trautmann” movie when it comes out later this year. Through football, Bert Trautmann won the respect and admiration of English fans, despite being a German in immediate post-war England. Football doesnt have to divide people; it can be a great unifying force too.

  7. Gary,
    Great article as ever and thought provoking, especially as I sit in the Co Op Stand opposite the magnificent IBCC spire on Canwick Hill that represents the 55,574 men (26,000 from Lincolnshire airfields) that made the ultimate sacrifice serving with Bomber Command. If I could be pedantic: Lincolnshire was also part of 12 Gp Fighter Command and Spitfires from RAF Digby shot down Nazi Dornier bombers en route to Hull in 1940.

    As such, the German Bombers song clearly presents a dilemma. For my part, I think it is a crass and laboured chant bordering on Jingoism and as such is somewhat lazy; as such I don’t sing it. However, the Dambusters march very much represents the essence of Bomber County and where I/ we have come from. Interestingly, a parent in the Junior section last week commented ” why don’t we sing about the tanks built in Lincoln?”; fair point.

    I am fortunate that my day job allows me to get up close and personal with both the aircraft and heroes that flew and maintained them during WW2 and as such, I sing the Dambusters March both with passion and pride , for both the people who flew them and respect for those they fought against. I educate my Son’s to be tolerant and caring but to also understand how our country got to be here today: as such we will be respectfully arms outstretched on Saturday whilst singing ‘our March’ and be proud as punch when George Johnny Johnson DFM walks onto the pitch in a few weeks time.

    I suppose what I am actually saying is that I hope that those singing understand what they are singing about / for, and why the club and county is quite rightly fiercely proud of its history: that way we won’t offend anyone.

    Keep up the great blog
    Lest we forget

  8. Totally agree with you.My late father was a pilot in Bomber Command in WW11, it is right that we always remember the courage and sacrifice of these young men,as their losses were the heaviest of any in WW11.
    The “Dambusters” tune for me is something unique for LCFC,and for our fans it seems akin to a respectful tribute,however,the other song is distasteful and panders to a xenophobic element within the English. Perhaps we should ponder on why Germany as a country has done so well economically in the last 50 years,could it be that they are looking forward to the future and we just look back wishing for past glories to return?
    On a brighter note,fingers crossed for 3 points tomorrow to get the wheels back on!

  9. An extremely well thought out and well written piece. I always feel uncomfortable when that gets sung, and have been thinking more over the last couple of days of media attention as to the reasons for that. Your blog articulates those reasons so well. I will always sing the dambusters, but there is a different undertone to the bombers song that I think is best avoided.

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