A MEMORIAL commemorating the first German aeroplane to be shot down over British soil has been given the go-ahead for the Greenhills, between Prestonpans and Cockenzie/Port Seton.

The area’s Coastal Regeneration Forum plans to put 18 concrete memorial seats along the path to the west of Cockenzie Power Station, overlooking the Forth.

Plans to rebuild two other seating areas which have been damaged, and add a boat planter, have also been approved by East Lothian Council.

The plane, one of a dozen Luftwaffe Junkers 88 bombers targeting Royal Navy ships in the Firth of Forth, was shot down by Spitfire pilot Flight Lieutenant Pat Gifford from the City of Edinburgh 603 Squadron on October 16, 1939.

According to local accounts, Port Seton residents heard the sound of low-flying planes and machine guns as the Spitfires chased the German bomber pilot out to sea.

He came in low over the village school, where children were attending class with the RAF fighters close behind.

By afternoon it was rumoured that the plane had been brought down in the Forth, and a few hours later a local fishing boat, the Dayspring, returned from a day’s work with the three surviving German aircrew on board.

Two of the prisoners were taken by soldiers to Edinburgh Castle, while a third was taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries.

During the rescue, one of the airmen gave the skipper of the Dayspring, John Dickson, his gold ring in appreciation of saving his life.

The three airmen who were rescued were later named as Hans Storp, Hugo Rohnke and Hans Georg Heilscher.

Flt Lt Gifford, who at the time of the battle was 29 years old, was a lawyer from Castle Douglas.

Prestonpans’ new dental practice, Family Dental Care East Lothian, which opened last summer, named its building after the pilot.

He was killed in action when his own plane was brought down in May 1940. A memorial to him was recently unveiled in Castle Douglas.

The Greenhills memorial is being progressed by the Coastal Regeneration Forum, which carried out an extensive public survey for ideas to improve the coastal area between Morrison’s Haven and Longniddry.

Although the Greenhills site is owned by ScottishPower, it is managed by East Lothian Council and there were no objections from the energy company to the memorial.

Jimmy Yule, chairman of Prestonpans Community Council, which covers the Greenhills, said: “I am delighted this is going ahead. It is good the actions of the pilot and community on that day are getting the recognition they deserve and it will improve the area for people who use it.” David Ostler, from Longniddry, a retired police officer and aviation enthusiast, has been behind the campaign to have the memorial set up.

The forum raised up to £3,000 to fund the project.

Mr Ostler had previously said: “When I found out there were plans for building and regeneration in the area I thought we couldn’t miss out on a chance to mark what happened at the site.”