It is 80 years since Nazi bombers flew over the Forth Bridge and bombed the Forth. Sandra Dick finds the raid is now being revisited in a new comic book.

The sky was blue, the October sun shone bright and young Harry Day sat on a pier at Granton Harbour and dangled his fishing line into the waters of the Forth hoping to catch some sprats.

Harry, just 11 years old, heard the rattle of the anti-aircraft fire and saw the puffs of grey cloud they left in their wake well before he noticed the Spitfires.

By the time the ominous dark outline of a Luftwaffe bomber with its distinctive swastika emblems came into view, Harry, fishing line clutched tightly in his hand, was rooted to the spot in utter shock.

“All hell broke out,” he recalls. “I was scared, but it was amazing too.

“A policeman walked up; he had a steel helmet and a gas mask around his neck,” he adds. “I asked him what it might be and he said ‘It’s alright son, it’s only practice’.”

In fact Harry, the policeman, and all the others who poured from houses from North Berwick to Bo’ness, Dunfermline to the centre of Edinburgh to watch and pick up chunks of shrapnel which fell to earth, were witnessing the first dog fight to the death over UK airspace between the Luftwaffe and the RAF's new – and soon to be legendary - Spitfires.

Now, 80 years on, Day has reflected on the events of October 16, 1939, to help with the creation of a new comic book which tells the story for a new generation of readers.

And such has been interest in writer and artist Colin Maxwell’s book, Raid on the Forth, that his Kickstarter call for cash to help with its creation ended up achieving four times the original £200 he had sought.

Mr Maxwell says the comic, which will be launched in autumn to coincide with events marking the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, will draw on accounts of the spectacular dog fight from people like Mr Day, who saw it played out before their eyes.

“I realised a lot of people don’t really know about the raid or, if they did, their knowledge of it was a bit vague.

“As I looked into it further, I had people contact me to talk about how they or their grandparents had seen it.

“One man told me how he watched one of the German planes fly low over Anstruther in flames and with smoke pouring from it.

“The sight remained with him – and with others who saw what happened – all those years. It was obviously an incredibly shocking thing to see.”

The German raid by a dozen of Hitler’s Junkers JU88 bombers in four carefully controlled raids over the Forth was intended to strike first blood in the opening weeks of the war, by crippling Royal Navy vessels – including flagship HMS Hood – at Rosyth.

Their plans were largely thwarted, however, as the fast and furious Spitfires – with a hastily trained crews of farmers, teachers and solicitors, and newly delivered to Scottish air bases - took to the air.

Flight Lieutenant Pat Gifford from the Turnhouse-based 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron trained his 8.303 Browning machine guns on one bomber, firing off round after round in a deafening roar that was heard for miles.

His attack sent the JU88 into a deadly spiral into the water off Prestonpans – the first enemy aircraft to be shot down in British airspace since 1918.

Soon a second bomber was mortally wounded, shot off the coast at Crail by Flight Lieutenant George Pinkerton from 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron which had recently relocated to Drem in East Lothian.

Other Spitfires latched on to the remaining Junkers sending them into a frantic dash to escape, which saw planes skim rooftops and roar over Edinburgh streets.

One limped painfully all the way to Holland only to crash, killing all on board. The remaining nine bombers made it back to their base on Westerland on the island of Sylt, just off the German coast.

According to Mr Day, the raid – against the backdrop of a beautiful autumn day and just six weeks into the war – took everyone by surprise.

“All the police boxes had air raid sirens on them, but there were no sirens to be heard,” he says. “People didn’t know what was going on.

“I heard the anti-aircraft fire coming from a couple of units at Dalmeny, and another at Cramond. I saw the shells explode in the air, next thing there was a Spitfire there, then another.

“The Germans were so low I could see the crew’s faces as they flew over. I was scared but I was amazed too.”

For passengers on board trains preparing to cross the Forth Bridge, there was a serious decision – whether to travel while Spitfires and Junkers battled it out, or take cover on land.

According to the report, the temptation of a bird’s eye view of the action seemed to win the day. “We were informed that an air raid was in progress and it was left to our own discretion whether we could continue the journey across the Forth Bridge. Most of us decided to continue,” Mr David Archibald of Dunfermline told the paper.

“As the train travelled slowly across the bridge we were able to watch the progress of the raid. Bombs were dropped a short distance to the east of the bridge and a great column of water shot up.”

Another revealed the mayhem at water level, as a passing fishing vessel went to the aid of three stricken enemy fighters. “We saw a large black aeroplane travelling at a high-speed being pursued by two British fighters,” said one of the crew. “They both started firing into the tail of the German machine which swept around in a circle then suddenly keeled over and flopped into the sea.

“Three of the crew were clinging like grim death to a life buoy. We threw ropes to the crew and when we hauled them aboard we discovered they were all wounded. They were all young chaps.”

The pilot was so grateful, he removed a gold signet ring from his finger and gave it to the skipper.

The Battle of the River Forth had left eight German airmen dead. Two whose bodies were recovered - Under Officer Kurt Seydel, 19, and his Observer 17-year-old August Schleicher - were buried in Joppa Cemetery overlooking the Forth. Crowds lined the streets – either out of curiosity or to pay humble tribute – to watch as their coffins, draped with swastikas, passed by.

While the Spitfire pilots’ actions were praised and damage to the naval fleet was limited, the raid was not entirely unsuccessful from a German perspective. Sixteen Royal Navy sailors died, and a further 44 were injured.

Incredibly, despite shrapnel raining onto streets from Bo’ness to North Queensferry, Edinburgh to Dunfermline, civilian casualties were limited to a Portobello man who was injured by a stray bullet – and became the first British casualty of WW2 - and a dog in Inverkeithing killed by shrapnel.

Mr Maxwell, a computer games design lecturer at Fife College, said funding for his comic book has come from around the world.

“What happened stuck with the people who saw it all this time,” he added.

“It is incredible to think it all happened within just a few hundred feet from the Forth Bridge.”