First Air Attack on UK of WW2

(see "Witness to Air Raid on the Forth Bridge")

September 30, 2009

Greetings from the Highlands of Scotland! I have for some time been following your interesting Archive articles so perhaps you will allow me to add a little colour to your recent Blog "Spitfires over Edinburgh".

I am 80 years old and on the eve of the 70 th Anniversary of the Raid on the Fleet anchored in the Firth of Forth I would like to record my eye witness perspective of the Raid from another angle, here is my version:-

On the 16th October 1939 I was a passenger on the afternoon Edinburgh to Dundee train. It had just entered the first arch of the Southern end of the Bridge, the next stop was to be at Leuchars (Still a famous RAF aerodrome). I was in the corridor with another passenger looking downstream to the right of the carriage to see if we might recognise any of the Fleet at anchor below the Bridge.

Simutaneously there was a giant waterspout as high as the Bridge which even wet the carriage windows and a pinnace alongside one of the ships seemed to fly up in the air!. In later life I discovered it was HMS Southampton. There were several other mountainous waterspouts further away. One ship HMS Mohawk was struck and many casualties sustained on board. The German bombers were in plain sight for several minutes one flew almost parallel to the Bridge. The train halted briefly and as it did so the painters and riggers maintaining the structure scrambled from the scaffoldings and made for shelter.

The train proceeded without further incident but the pursuing RAF fighters could be seen over Fife driving the Raiders out to sea bringing down three of them.They were Junkers 88's of 1/KG 30 Squadron.

There are two sequels to my story;

(1) One bomber brought down off the May Island two injured crew were picked up by a trawler and taken in to Military Custody at Edinburgh Castle my late Uncle William Thomson was with the British Red Cross there and had to see to their welfare as POW's.

(2) In 1977 I was employed as a Traffic Officer with British Airways at Edinburgh Airport in consequence of which I had to live in South Queensferry in the shadow of the Forth Bridge. One of my neighbours was a retired Bridge Inspector and we shared our experinces of what happened that day. Wartime Security was such that I only learned then that 16 sailors had been killed in the action.15 of them are interred at North Queensferry Naval Cemetery.

I hope this is of interest to your blog as there cannot be many of the train passengers who remember this action still around. If you do publish it let me know!

Edward Thomson
Angus .Scotland

Dear Edward,

Thank you for your mail, lovely to hear from you.

You are right, there cannot be many around who actually witnessed the German air raid over the Firth of Forth particularly from a train on the bridge.

We will certainly add your vivid account to AHOY, the odds of an eye witness from 1939 finding AHOY, and of me writing about the raid and you finding that article must be huge.

Thanks again for taking the trouble to contact me, my web master Terry Kearns in Atlanta Georgia will just love it when he gets your story.

Post war whilst a Lieutenant RAN, I was undertaking a specialist Torpedo Anti Submarine course in UK schools, and I spent three weeks doing a mine sweeping course on the Firth of Forth, I loved Edinburgh and the surrounding country.

All the best from Australia. 

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