On 16th October, 1939 the air raid sirens sounded over Dalkeith and Newtongrange, this was no practice the unmistakable roar of Royal Royce Merlin engines could be heard and the offbeat throbbing of a German bomber’s engine.
An attack by Junkers 88s on the Royal Navy at Rosyth had gone badly wrong for the Germans, faced by an alley of fire from the static anti aircraft, the ships guns and then Spitfires from Drem (602 Squadron) the attack had split up.
One of the JU88 was chased inland at high speed towards Dalkeith where it was bounced by Spitfires from 603 Squadron based at RAF Turnhouse, (Edinburgh Airport). The Squadron had just taken delivery of brand new Spitfires and were keen as mustard to try them out against the Luftwaffe.
They did not disappoint, one of the Pilots a Flt Lt Patrick Gifford from Castle Douglas, latched onto the JU88 and let rip with 8 .303 Browning machine guns, the noise was deafening and could be heard for miles around. Twisting and turning the JU88 headed back towards the sea and was shot down into the sea at Prestonpans followed by two more bombers.
Mr Gifford scored the first enemy aircraft to be shot down over Great Britain since 1918, and the first RAF victory in the Second World War.
Patrick Gifford was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and promoted to Squadron Leader, sadly for him his war was to end the following year leading his Hurricane Squadron in the Battle of France when he was shot in combat over Belgian airspace, his body was never found.
A nice story about Pat is that, for a sizeable bet, he drove a car from Castle Douglas to RAF Turnhouse, a distance of 95 miles (on country roads) and flew back to appear over the town in less than 2 hours. Pat must have been a hell of a driver as he made it with minutes to spare.
603 Squadron Royal Auxilliary Air Force went on to have an outstanding war, Brian Cadbury DFC was one the top aces of the Battle of Britain. In 1943 the Squadron converted to Beaufighters and became the scourge of enemy ships in the Aegean and Med