Humbie Heinkel

To this day 603 and 602 Squadron argue about who's kill this German bomber is. However officially it is credited jointlyto 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron,602 City of Glasgow Squadron and the Army.

A Heinkel He 111 attempting reconnaissance in the Firth of Forth on 28 October 1939 was intercepted by Spitfires of 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) based at Drem and pursued inland. 

The intercept was led by ArchieMckellar. McKellar sprayed the Heinkel with bullets but it continued to fly, it's flightpath taking it towards Midlothian around Dalkeith. At this stage the Heinkel was bounced by a flight of Spitfires of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron and they continued the pursuit southwards towards the Lammermuir Hills and the small village of Humbie descending ever lower.  I interviewd the late Syd Scott from Newtongrange and he recalled the bomber flying low over the village with Spitfires in close attendance.

The Heinkel was flown with great skill by it's pilot Kurt Lehmkuhl, but it was obvious from the state of the aircraft, and the lack of return fire, that that it would never make it home. With three Spitfires attacking like sharks, Lehmkuhl decided to make a forced landing on the moors.It came down on a hillside outside Humbie, but Lehmkuhl would not give up.He tried to get the machine into the air again, and ran along the ground for about half a mile before he hit a dry stane dyke causing extensive damage to his aircraft writing it off. The struggle was finished, and the first enemy aircraft to be brought down on British soil was left sitting forlorn on the slopes of the Lammermuirs

With the aircraft at a standstill Lehmkuhl and his navigator Rolf Niehoff exited, sporting injuries from the combat and forced landing. The gunners in the mid section were dead however, having succumbed to gunfire, probably from McKellar although this cannot be confirmed. First on the scene was a local police officer,who approached the Heinkel and was met by Lehmkuhl who addressed him in perfect English, " We surrender as prisoners of war, please attend to my crew." Lehmkuhl and Niehoff spent the rest of the war in captivity. His gunners, Flt Engineer Gottlieb Kowalke and Gefr Bruno Reimann, were buried with full military honours. The pictures show the recovery of the bullet ridden HE111. Niehoff is standing next to the Police Sgt nursing his sore back, which turned out to be broken.

The Debate

Credit for the kill was officially split between 603, 602 Squadron and the Army ack ack units all of whom had hit the Heinkel. In fairness McKellar probably done the bulk of the damage and pieces of the Heinkel were take by 602 as trophies. McKellar was shot down and killed just after the Battle of Britain, as a result he does not appear on the Battle of Britain Memorial. He is in rear row, 3 from right, wearing gloves.

Syd Scott

Syd Scott, now sadly passed away, spoke to me about his wartimes experiences. Syd worked in the Lady Victoria pit, and was a member of the Home Guard, before joining the Navy as a submariner. However at the beginning of the war, he recalls the Humbie Heinkel flying low over his house in The Square, Newtongrange, and the panic it caused to poor Mrs Mathieson of the ARP.

Pathe Newsreel

A newsreel filmed shortly after this raid, including a farm worker, John Irvine, who lived near where the bomber came down. The lady interviewed sounds  nothing like your average Edinburgh housewife, terribly pukka.