Incredible story of first World War Two air attack on Britain - The Daily Record A PAIR of wreaths from anonymous Scottish women graced the graves of the German airmen shot down in the first air raid of World War Two. One message read: "To two brave airmen from the mother of an airman", and the other stated simply: "With the deep sympathy of Scottish mothers". In the poignant inscriptions, there was no ally or enemy, just a heartfelt compassion for a mother's loss, regardless of geography. The raid on Rosyth had been launched on October 16, 1939, and was to become a significant moment in the war, where crucial lessons would be learned that would be taken into the Battle of Britain. The German planes were engaged by RAF Spitfires from 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron based at Drem, East Lothian, and 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron from Turnhouse. Two of the enemy JU 88 dive bombers were shot down, killing four of their crew, and three British ships were damaged with 16 sailors killed. Two of the German dead, Under Officer Kurt Seydel, 19, and his Observer 17-year-old August Schleicher were buried in Portobello Cemetery overlooking the icy waters of the Firth of Forth where they had fallen. Their coffins were draped in the Nazi flag, and a cortege of British airmen and dignitaries followed, as pipers from 602 and 603 played Over The Sea To Skye. Among the 10,000 who lined Edinburgh's streets, a policeman gave a sombre salute. The chaplain for 603, Reverend James Rossie Brown, delivered a moving address at their graveside and later he would write to their mothers to assure them that their sons had been buried with full military honours. Military historian John Weal said: "At the beginning of the war they were honoured in that way. "This was the first raid. Later they were buried where they came down without pomp and ceremony. "But there was always a mutual respect between the German and the British airmen and similar respect was shown in the burials of the first RAF who were shot down by the Germans." This chivalry between foes, in the period of relative calm known as the Phoney War, has been largely forgotten, overtaken in history by the horror of human sacrifice which would follow. The raid of October 16 was unexpected and would mark the beginning of the end of the Phoney War. That morning Joe Parker, now 89, and then a leading aircraft man went through the daily routine inspection of the Spitfires of 602 squadron. He had just returned to the duty room and was contemplating breakfast when the Red Alert came through, placing the crews on standby. Even when the call to scramble came,the men weren't convinced there would be an enemy engagement. "We thought it was just another false alarm," said Joe. "It wasn't until later when the crews returned and we saw the black of the gun ports that we knew there had been action. The crew were excited. We all were. We were young and daft and to us it was a buzz." Adozen of the newly manufactured German "Wunderbomber" aircraft, the Junkers, had taken off around midday from their base on Westerland on the island of Sylt, just off the German coast. They flew in groups of three and their target had been chosen by Hermann Goering himself. He had impressed upon his friend, the Group Commander Hauptmann Helmut Pohle, that results were needed and that the Junker should prove its worth. Second in command was Lieutenant Hans Sigmund Storp, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War attack on Guernica. Their target was the pride of the British fleet, HMS Hood, but they were under orders from Hitler that the Luftwaffe were only allowed to hit ships that wereat sea or anchored in the Forth. At this point the Fuhrer still hoped that the there could be some accommodation with the British he so admired and ordered that civilian casualties must be avoided at all costs. Earlier that morning, two German Heinkel 111 reconnaissance aircraft had seen a large British battleship about to enter the Firth of Forth and assumed it was the Hood. The German intelligence was wrong, not only about the Hood but also about there being no Spitfires in Scotland. The battle which would follow was to be the first major test of the Spitfire against the Luftwaffe. The JU 88 was a new plane too and its pilots were well trained, many of whom had been involved in the bombing of Poland and the Spanish Civil war. The RAF squadrons, 602 and 603, werereservists, they were volunteers who had been firemen, lawyers and farmers and, unlike their adversaries, they weren't used to combat conditions. As he looked down to Rosyth 22,000 feet below, Pohle could see that the Hood was already in dock. He later recalled that it had been a dream target. Hesaid: "A stationary target, perfect for dive bombing, but we were strictly forbidden to attack this sitting duck." But there were other targets in the open waters of the firth just below the bridge,British cruisers HMS Southampton,HMS Edinburgh and the destroyer HMS Mohawk. Pohle picked out the Southampton and tipped the nose of his plane into an 80 degree dive. He later wrote: "Suddenly there was an almighty crack as the roof of the canopyflew off, taking the rear gun with it." Despite the intensity of the wind, which now battered against his face, he held his aircraft steady and planted his 500KGbomb on the Southampton. The bomb failed to go off, instead slicing through three decks and flying out the flank sending the ship's barge into the air. Just afterwards, Lieutenant Hans Storp led the second section to attack the ship from the west. Then the German wireless operators issued the fateful warning that a squadron of Spitfires were heading their way. The Scottish men who flew these planes were young and dashing and what they lacked in combat experience they made up for in courage. Flight Lieutenant Patrick Gifford, of 603, fixed Storp in his sights, fired, hitting his port engine and killing his gunner, sending the plane hurtling to the ocean. Gifford had shot down the first enemy aircraft over Britain in WWII and few could havefitted the role of heromore comfortably. He was lawyer from a middle class background, handsome behind the wheel of his open top Frazer Nash sports car. Once for a bet, he claimed he would leave the clock tower at Castle Douglas at 10am, head for Turnhouse, almost three hours away, and be back over Castle Douglas by midday in a plane. He won the bet, of course. Gifford used to park his car and ask the local children to look after it. Bill Simpson,who is writing a biography of Gifford said:"The wee boys adored him. "Heseemed to them to be a daredevil. Hewas only about 5ft 8 but he was considered to be very handsome. "In the thirties, when men like Gifford joined the auxiliary airforce, it was like a flying club. They were very privileged youngmen. The officers and the other ranks didn't mix. But when it came to go to war they stood up to the plate and many lost their lives." Later, in May 1940, Gifford would lose his, shot down over the fields of France, his body never recovered. Nine minutes after Pinkerton's hit, former farmer, Flight Lieutenant George Pinkerton of 602, claimed the second bomber, taking down pohle and killing his three crew. Pohlesaid: "I didn't have a chance to take defensive action, our left engine was hit almost immediately." The broken bomber plunged into the water three miles east of Crail. Pohle was rescued, bleeding from facial wounds suffered in the crash. He was taken to the Miltary Hospital at Edinburgh castle where he was nursed back to health, beforehe was transferred to the POW camp at Grizedale Hall in the Lake District where he saw out the rest of the war. As Pohle plunged to the Forth,HMS Mohawk was under attack,narrowly missed by bombs but hit by shrapnel and machine gun fire. The Mohawk lost sixteen sailors but the Edinburgh was barely damaged . Witnessing the spectacle had been the passengers of a train still trundling across the Forth Bridge. Fortunately, after Hitler's decree, the bridge was deemed off limits. Edward Thomson, then a young boy, was on board the train. Hesaid: "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 weretrying 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 the ship was the HMS Southampton. "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 on the bridge scrambled from the scaffolding and made for shelter." There had been no air raid warning given and so the dogfight was watched bycivilians across Edinburgh. Some were hit by shrapnel. John Ferry, then a worker on the Silverknowes army camp, said it hit him on the leg "like a hammer". Inagentlemanly gesture, Pinkerton and Gifford visited Storp and Pohle at Edinburgh castle. Pohle appreciated the gesture and thanked them for coming, stressing they were all pilots together. Squadron Leader Bruce Blanche, Royal Auxiliary Airforce (retired) is chairman of the 603 Association. He said before the Rosyth raid there had been controversy about the idea of an auxiliaryforce but any dubiety disappeared after their remarkable performance at Rosyth. Crucially, lessons were learned from the attack, which both the Germans and the British would take into future battles. Bruce said: "This was a significant raid. It was the beginning of the end of the Phoney War, the chivalry pretty much disappeared after that and from then the gloves were off." Headded:"It was also a wake up call for Britain and a lot of lessons were learned from that raid. "It was established the Spitfire were shooting at the JU 88 from too far a range. They really had to get closer. Aerial tactics were refined "All of these things had a beneficial outcome in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. "It was also an indication of what the Luftwaffe could do. It was a warning for us to improve our air defence system and a wake-up call for the civilian authorities to increase civil defence. Barrage balloons sprouted up all over the place after that." Pinkerton and Gifford were given the Distinguished Flying Cross. Bruce said: "The auxiliaries had proved the doubters wrong." 16 October 1939 British warships at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth come under attack from Junkers Ju88 of Kampfgeschwader 30 flying from Westerland. Three of the German raiders are brought down, and are the first aircraft destroyed over British territory in the Second World War. The first German aircraft to be shot down, is intercepted by Supermarine Spitfires and comes down in the Firth of Forth near Crail. The pilot, Hauptmann Helmuth Pohle survives and became a Prisoner of War. The successful pilots of No.602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, are Flight Lieutenant G. Pinkerton and Flying Officer A. McKellar.