- Contributed by
- Elizabeth Lister
- People in story:
- William Carnie
- Location of story:
- Newhaven, Edinburgh
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 01 December 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Berkshire on behalf of William Carnie and has been added to the site with his permission. William Carnie fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
This is a very little known fact, possibly because the period from the start of the war, 3rd September 1939 to April 1940 was generally known as the “Phoney War” much to the anger and disgust of many of those who are serving as seamen whether in the Royal Navy, Merchant Service, fishing, etc. their war started from day one with the immediate action of the ‘U’ boats.
The German submarines had sunk several ships by 16th October. Young as I was at the age of 6 with my brother Colin 9 and Roy 10, living with our parents in Newhaven, Edinburgh, 200 yards from the harbour on the plateau, this gave one a good view of the Firth of Forth and ships.
We knew that quite a number of local men were in the Merchant Navy and younger fishermen were joining the Royal Navy. Not to mention the fact that many of the local families were involved with the services during the first World War and now this one.
Newhaven was situated on the coast between Leith Docks East and Granton, which was both harbour for the trawlers and a Naval Base, all very close.
I was in the walled garden of the stone-built mid-Victorian terraced house with my Mother and Roy. Father had just entered the garden when we all heard this very loud noise. Suddenly a German plane appeared so low that we thought the chimney pots would be knocked off. Close on the Heinkel HeIII’s tail was a hurricane. As our street was on, the plateau side of Newhaven, the sea level part was 75 yards away from our garden; this was indeed a close encounter.
To enlarge the picture, Colin was apparently about 500 yards away in the local Victoria Park where everyone was ushered into the air raid shelter. He only told me this in July 2005.
This raid became known as the Queensferry Forth Rail Bridge Raid. The actual target was Rosyth Naval Base, a mile from the Great Forth Cantilever Bridge, which is a good landmark. The RAF base nearby answered the call very quickly with half a squadron of Hurricanes. This rapid response upset the attack on Rosyth. The ensuring dogfight obviously spread across the sky. The Heinkel that past over the house was at that point 9 miles east of the target. Furthermore the Hurricane chased him to Port Seton, 9 miles further east from Newhaven, where he was shot down. The crew actually survived, not so 18 miles away at the Forth Rail Bridge, where the German crew did not survive, but I believe they received a funeral with full respect given.
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