Red Arrows' dog mascot Dusty's grave transformed for anniversary

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Media captionMascot Dusty, a Labrador Retriever, was killed by an aircraft on the eve of the Red Arrows' first flying display

The long-forgotten grave of the Red Arrows' first mascot, Dusty the dog, has been transformed to mark the team's 50th display season.

Dusty was killed by an aircraft on the eve of the Arrows' first-ever display at RAF Fairford in 1965.

He was buried at the Gloucestershire base but his grave became neglected.

Now his owner, Henry Prince, 80, from Norfolk, has returned to RAF Fairford to see the Labrador retriever's newly-renovated resting place.

Image copyright Air Tattoo
Image caption Dusty was buried at RAF Fairford in 1965 but his grave was largely forgotten

In May 1965, the Red Arrows' commanding officer, Wing Commander Edmonds, flew in to RAF Fairford to wish the team good luck ahead of their first flying display.

After a short briefing, he returned to his aircraft and started it up, ready to depart.

Team manager, squadron leader Dick Store, having forgotten to mention something, rushed out to the aircraft to catch him before he departed, followed by Dusty.

The dog was hit by the aircraft propeller and died. He was buried on the north side of the airfield at RAF Fairford and a gravestone was erected, surrounded by a picket fence.

Unknown to all but a small number of people, his grave became "unkempt and dirty".

Image caption Local primary school children cleaned Dusty's grave

On Tuesday children from nearby Kempsford Primary School, whose parents are serving members of the RAF, cleaned and painted Dusty's grave ahead of the Red Arrows' celebrations next month.

They will be returning to Fairford, their first base, for the Royal International Air Tattoo from 11 to 13 July.

Air tattoo spokesman Richard Arquati said: "Dusty's story has never been told before, yet it goes right back to the beginning, when the Red Arrows flew their first display whilst based at RAF Fairford."

He said Mr Prince, a member of the first Red Arrows team, and his wife Nikki said they were "lost for words" when they heard what the pupils had done.

"For them, Dusty was not only the Red Arrows' first mascot but also a loyal, much-loved pet," he said.

Mr Prince said: "I can't thank the children enough; they've done a wonderful job. I visited here three weeks ago and the difference between now and then is amazing."

Image copyright Crown Copyright
Image caption The first Red Arrows team began life at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire

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