- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Edward Thomson
- Location of story:
- On Forth Bridge
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 November 2003
On the 16th October 1939 I was a passenger on the Dundee section of an Edinburgh to Aberdeen train which had just entered the first arch at the Southern end of the Bridge. The next stop was to be Leuchars Junction. I was in the corridor with an older boy called Jack Thomas from Edinburgh. We were looking downstream to the right of the carriage and were trying to identify some of the fleet at anchor below the bridge. Almost simultaneously there was a giant waterspout as high as the bridge alongside one of the capital ships and a barge tied up alongside; it seemed to fly up in the air! In later life I discovered it was HMS Southampton. There were two or three other explosions further off and one of the ships was actually struck; it was HMS Mohawk and casualties were sustained on board. The German bombers were in plain sight only a short distance away flying parallel to the bridge. Meanwile the train stopped briefly and as it did so the painters and riggers working scrambled from the scaffolding of the bridge and made for shelter.
The train carried on without futher incident, only by this time the RAF fighters had become involved and drove the raiders out to sea bringing dowm (I believe) three Heinkel bombers in the Forth estuary
There are two sequels to this story:-
(1) One bomber was brought down off the May Island and two crew were rescued by a trawler; they were transferred to Military Custody at Edinburgh Castle and my Uncle William Thomson was with the British Red Cross at the Castle and had to deal with the POW registrations back to Germany. He said the crew were almost certain the War would be over in a matter of weeks.
(2) In 1977 I was working at Edinburgh Airport and had bought a house in South Queensferry in the shadow of the Forth Bridge. One of my neighbours was a retired bridge inspector and I shared with him our memories of that day. Only then did I learn that due to Wartime Security at that time, information regarding the casualties on HMS Mohawk, which included 15 Sailors who were killed, was not released for many years. Some of the dead are interred in the Naval section of South Queensferry Cemetery.
I hope this is of interest to you there cannot be many of us left that were actual eye witnesses to that air battle.
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