The raid on Rosyth was launched on October 16, 1939. This raid was unexpected and would mark the beginning of the end of the Phoney War. Six weeks after Britain declared war on Germany, a dozen Luftwaffe bombers, the newly manufactured German "Wunderbomber" aircraft, the Junkers, flew from their base on the island of Sylt, just off the German coast ,over the Firth of Forth.
They flew in groups of three and their target had been chosen by Hermann Goering himself. 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 were at sea or anchored in the Forth.
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 HMS Hood. The German intelligence was wrong, not only about the HMS 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.
German’s pilots could see that the HMS Hood was already in dock. 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.
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.
As a result, 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.
It was the first time aircraft had been shot down by a Spitfire in the war, and the first record of Prisoners of War being captured, as four German airmen were taken to Edinburgh Castle.