Witness to Air Raid on the Forth Bridge

November 21, 2009

Looking for items about Edinburgh's 603 Fighter Sqadron I came across your site and the eyewitness story from Edward Thomson. Well, I, too, was a witness to this episode but from further down the coast. At that time in 1939 I was 10 years old and lived with my family in the Fife village of Elie. I well remember playing on the beach when the sound of gunfire could be heard echoing across the Firth Of Forth. All eyes turned across the Firth in the direction of North Berwick. There we could see a warship and could just make out a couple of aircraft flying above it. Puffs of black smoke appeared in the sky near the aircrat and we could easily distinguish water spouts erupting around the warship. An elderly man near us  pointed to where this action was taking place "Looks like yon's jist a wee practice." He
remarked. It was then that the  sound of  a low flying aircraft was heard. Looking up we  were excited to see the black shape of a German bomber with black smoke issuing from one of its engines heading out in the direction of The May Island and the North Sea. Seconds later an RAF Spitfire roared overhead in hot pusuit of the German raider. The elderly man quickly revised his earlier observation. "you laddies better lie doon in the bushes. This is no  jist a practice efter all!" There was no way we were heeding his advice . We wanted to see all of this unexpected excitement.  We were rewarded with the siight of one of the aircraft we'd seen over the warship suddenly going into a dive and disappearing from view behind the hills of East Lothian.

BBC news that night reported the attack on the naval base at Rosythe and an attempt to bomb the Forth Bridge. What we had seen was The German aircraft fleeing for home with a bit of an altercation with a British destroyer off North Berwick. The aircraft we'd seen disappearing over the North Berwick area  was the first German bomber to be shot down on British soil. We learned later that the bomber that had flown over Elie eventually crahed in the sea off the May Island and two crew members survived to be picked up by a fishing boat and then taken to Edinburgh and detained as prisoners of war.

Having emigrated from Scotland in 1956 and working in various ground staff capacities with Qantas I am now eighty years young, well and truly retired and living a relaxed life on Australia's Gold Coast.

Thanks for a most interesting web site. Best regards from Les Johnston.


Thank you for your mail, I am always suprised that something I wrote about on AHOY will spark an old memory, and bring flooding back an individal's past and a particular event. The coincidence then deepens when that event took place across the world, but my correspondent now lives in my own country.

Like you Les I am in my eighties, and if spared will turn 88 in next February, its a great time to be around, and I really enjoy hearing from people and their stories. It was good of you to get in touch with me and I wish you and yours well for the festive season and the coming  years.

We will add your account to our Edinburgh pages.

Best regards,

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