City-based war story goes Commando in comic

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IT WAS the moment the war came to Edinburgh, and now a famous dog fight in the skies over the Capital has been used as the inspiration for the latest Commando comic.

The year was 1939 and RAF 603 Squadron was repelling 12 Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88s over the Firth of Forth. By the end of the engagement, one Junker had been shot down east of Dalkeith.

The historic encounter provided the basis for the latest graphic novel from Edinburgh writer Ferg Handley, a Second World War adventure called Divided Aces, released later this month by the famous Commando comics.

"A while back, I wrote a Commando book set during the Battle of Britain in southern England and it started to bug me that there was so little literature on the same battle in Scotland," said Handley.

"I was amazed to learn that the first German aircraft to be shot down by the RAF was in Scotland, a bomber which was involved in a failed attempt to bomb the Forth Bridge.

"Of course, there was a certain amount of research to do. The main problem was working out which type of airfield to use, as they varied in size and had different functions. RAF Kenmure, the one in the story, ended up loosely based on RAF Drem in East Lothian."

Divided Aces is also the story of a man coming to terms with his move to Scotland, where he learns to love Edinburgh. It's not just the Forth Bridge and Edinburgh Castle that feature either, with the Camera Obscura and Royal Mile also shown in the epic tale.

"I wanted to depict the beauty of Edinburgh, to suggest that it was so important to protect the city. We're lucky so many famous landmarks remain.

"Jose Maria Jorge, the artist, is Spanish, so kudos to him for doing such a good job. He got so many small details in."

First published in 1961, Commando comics have entertained generations. Divided Aces is one of four new adventures due for publication this month to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Handley also said that he hoped it wouldn't be the last time the Capital stars in one of his novels.

"I've already set a Spider-Man story in Edinburgh and a Commando book about the old Border Reivers, which had some Edinburgh scenes," he said. "Regular readers may also have come across a series called Ramsey's Raiders. One of the characters, Sergeant Derek Jarvis, was based on a close friend of mine, which led to a few more Edinburgh scenes. I reckon Edinburgh would be a good setting for more superhero battles. 'Hulk Smash Trams!' anyone?"