Skip to main content

04/03/15 14:06

Forth Bridge at 125

Spitfire returns to celebrate Forth Bridge’s anniversary.

The world famous Forth Bridge today celebrated its 125th anniversary with a spectacular fly past recalling one of the most momentous days in life of the Bridge.

Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Keith Brown joined primary school pupils to witness the Spitfire and RAF Typhoon soar over the Forth bridges at 1:25 PM to mark the rail bridge’s landmark anniversary.

Bridge bosses themed the celebration around the Forth Bridge Raid, which happened a few months before the bridge’s 50th anniversary on October 16 1939. It was the German Luftwaffe’s first attack on Britain and the first time the RAF’s famous Spitfire engaged the enemy. While the attackers objective was the naval vessels operating from nearby Rosyth, the dogfight took place above the bridge.

Earlier, the Cabinet Secretary and pupils from the James Gillespie’s Primary in Edinburgh, heard an account of the raid from Ed Thomson, who as a schoolboy, had witnessed the air battle from a train stalled on the bridge. Mr Thomson spoke to the children alongside Mark Taylor who curates an exhibition about the raid in Queensferry Museum.

They also listened to a talk from Dr Miles Oglethorpe from Historic Scotland on the global significance of the Forth Bridge.

Speaking at the event in South Queensferry, Mr Brown said:
“Even after 125 years, the Forth Bridge is a working bridge, playing a vital role in Scotland’s transport infrastructure. But, of course, it represents so much more than that alone.

“It is a true icon of Scotland, recognised the world over. It represents a revolutionary feat of Victorian engineering and its unmistakable red girders have been synonymous with Scotland and part of our collective imagination for 125 years.

“Given the Bridge’s significance, it is fitting the theme for today is the Forth Bridge Raid. A hugely historic day in the life of the country, which is perhaps still not as widely known about as it should be. After all, this was the first air attack of the Second World War and the first time Spitfire pilots fought in defence of the country. It was thrilling to see the Spitfire and the modern Typhoon fighter plane having their moment alongside the bridge too.

“It was also fascinating to hear the eyewitness account from Ed Thomson who was around the age of the children in the audience today when his train crossed the bridge at the precise moment the raid happened.

“There may not be another day quite as dramatic as October 16,1939 in the life of the Forth Bridge, but we can be sure it will remain a hardworking and majestic icon of Scotland for another 125 years and beyond.”

David Dickson, Route Managing Director for Network Rail Scotland commented:

"As well as providing a vital link in the Scottish railway network, The Forth Bridge provides a constant source of fascination for people. We receive hundreds of enquiries every year from people wishing to visit.

"A huge amount of information has been written and recorded about the construction of the bridge prior to 1890 but we'd love to do more during the bridge's 125th year to remember the contribution made to maintaining the bridge in the intervening years. The story of the Forth Bridge Raid is a dramatic example of that.

"Our charitable visits in the last week have already raised over £160,000 for good causes and over 500 people have visited the bridge. We look forward to encouraging further community events and activities during the course of this anniversary year."
Today’s spectacular event kicked off a series of 125th anniversary celebrations expected to take place over the course of the year. Last year’s successful Forth Bridges Festival – which focused on the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge – is being held again in September. Details can be found at www.forthbridgesfestival.com.

Notes to editors

Background

  • More information about the history of the Forth Bridge and the Forth Bridge Raid can be found here: www.forth-bridges.co.uk
  • The fly past featured a replica Spitfire owned by Perth-based pilot Iain Hutchison. Mr Hutchison is also the director of engineering company Merlin ERD.
  • The Typhoon is based at RAF Lossiemouth with Flight Lieutenant Ben Geal, a junior pilot on II (Army Co-operation) Squadron, is the pilot today. He has been a Typhoon pilot since September 2014 and has 95 hours on the swing role fast jet. Today’s fly-past is II (Army Co-operations) Squadron’s first public event since it re-roled as a Typhoon squadron on 9 January 2015.
  • An exhibition about the Forth Bridge Raid is currently running in the Queensferry Museum, 53 High Street, South Queensferry. More details can be found here http://forthbridgesfestival.com/portfolio-item/forth-bridge-raid-wwii-display-exhibition
  • The Forth Bridges Forum is a dynamic and innovative partnership of major public sector bodies and infrastructure owners with common interests in the bridges and the local communities. The Forum is committed to the successful management and promotion of the Forth Bridge, Forth Road Bridge and forthcoming Queensferry Crossing for the economic benefit of local communities and Scotland as a whole. In conjunction with community groups, it has already led the nomination bid for inscribing the Forth Bridge as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO’s decision is expected in 2015.