We saw the first air raid at Rosyth.
Here we print a vivid unpublished account of the bombing of
British cruisers during the first air raid on Britain, written
by Mr A. Neilsen, an ex-member of the British Royal Air Force
On Monday, 16
at 14 and 30 hours. My wife and I chanced
to be travelling slowly along the coast road on the Firth
of Forth, at a point exactly opposite to cruisers, HMS Edinburgh,
and the HMS Southampton.
Suddenly there was a loud cracking noise, which seemed to
be within the car, and which I immediately diagnosed as a
broken ball race. Again ! But this time, the cracking noise
was a few hundred yards away and easily recognizable as machine-gun
fire. I stopped the car and jumped out, just in time to see
a great volume of water shoot up within a few yards of one
of the cruisers. Air Raid ! I called. Come out quick ! The
attacker had gone, but presently the cruisers started losing
their shells to a height of about 6000 feet. Up among the
white puffs of smoke my wife spotted something. Look, there
he is ! As she spoke, the machine banked and came down in
a fast dive from the West. Down, down the he came, until directly
over the Forth Bridge he released two large bombs whose course
we were able to follow until they plunged into the river within
a few yards of one of the cruises.
Several times, this happened, and of the bombs which were
dropped. I should say more than one was as near as 30 yards
from one of the other cruisers. Certainly a lucky day for
them. Right behind us in a wood an anti-aircraft battery blazed
away, and as we were not more than 400 yards from the cruisers
the noise was too terrific, and all about us we could hear
quite distinctly the orders given on the ships loud speakers.
As we were on rising ground, and looking down on the scene
we had a perfect view of the whole affair. My wife was a bit
afraid, to begin with, but I insisted that we were tremendously
fortunate to get such a view and that we might never have
such an opportunity again. I may say, it was fairly obvious
she was satisfied on this point, but not just in the way I
intended her to be. I continued to reassure her, however,
and pointed out that there was not a chance in a million of
a bomb dropping near us as the marksmanship was far too good
for that. The danger of shrapnel, dropping on us was slight
as we were too close to the guns. One large piece did, however,
land within 50 yards of my car. What I did not tell her and
what I dared not think about was my secret fear of what would
have happened to us if one of the bombs had made a lucky hit,
where the raider was aiming.
It was the most thrilling experience, which I should not have
missed for a great deal.
The HMS Edinburgh, HMS Southampton and HMS Mohawk came under
attack from Kampfgeschwader 30, commanded by Helmut Pohle
The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton
The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton
2194 Days Of War.
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