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Monday, 15 April, 2024
16October 1939

Luftwaffe strike British Royal Navy ships. RAF retaliate

The German air force, the Luftwaffe, today launched a surprise bombing raid on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, damaging three British warships.

The German bombers flew to the very limit of their range, reaching the Rosyth naval base in Scotland. The British didn’t expect bombers to reach that far, and the enemy aircraft reached the naval base without triggering any alarms or alerting coastal defences. Such was the surprise of the attack, the anti-aircraft crews based at Rosyth were conducting training sessions at the time and had to quickly swap their dummy rounds for live ammunition when the Luftwaffe bombers were spotted.

The Royal Navy cruisers HMS Southampton, HMS Edinburgh and the destroyer HMS Mohawk were all anchored at the Rosyth naval base. The Luftwaffe aircraft attacked the warships, including dropping a 500kg bomb onto Southampton from only 150 metres above ground level. All three warships were damaged in the attack, along with 16 Royal Navy personnel killed and 44 injured.

The Royal Air Force 603 Squadron then arrived, shooting down three of the German aircraft before the remaining enemy bombers managed to escape.

This is the first time German aircraft have been shot down over Britain.

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