Fringe play celebrates bravery of Scots soldiers

An appeal has been made to find former Scottish soldiers who crossed the Rhine alongside a 93-year-old veteran whose story is being told in the Fringe play Bomb Happy.

It was made after Ken Cooke attended the opening of Army@TheFringe, the Army’s own venue, which is hosting the verbatim drama that follows the fortunes of five young servicemen from D-Day to VE Day.

Originally a member of the Green Howards, Ken was wounded while fighting through Normandy, and sent for treatment at Stracathro Hospital near Brechin.

Later he returned to the frontline to serve with the Highland Light Infantry in Belgium to help make up for losses they had suffered as they pushed back the Nazis.

It was alongside Scottish comrades that the teenager witnessed another of the key moments of the war, climbing into a small boat and crossing the Rhine into Germany.

He said: ‘We were all dug in and ready and then the artillery started – firing against the German side of the river. I’d never heard noise like it. It was simply incredible.’

After landing on the other bank they pushed into enemy territory, ending up in an abandoned trench. There were parachutes around the place, some hanging from trees.

He said: ‘So that’s how we spent the night. We gathered them in and slept in the trench wrapped in parachutes.’

Army@TheFringe would very much like to hear from anyone who was with the HLI and crossed the Rhine at the same time.

He said: ‘In all the years that have passed I have been to lots of events and asked around but have only ever met one other person who was there.’

Ken Cooke was accompanied by Ken Smith (94) another of the veterans whose story was at the heart of Bomb Happy who also had Scottish connections, having come here from Yorkshire to train on the lochs for D-Day.

He was wounded five months after the initial but later posted to Palestine. The wartime experiences took a permanent toll on his health and he still suffers from PTSD.

Brigadier Robin Lindsay, operational head of the Army in Scotland, welcomed Ken Cooke and Ken Smith, another of the men whose story is told in Bomb Happy, to Army@TheFringe.

He said: “It’s deeply moving to meet these men, to shake their hands and thank them for all they did 75 years ago – in D-Day and beyond, to the final liberation of Europe.

‘Bomb Happy is an important piece of work because it allows us to understand these world-changing events through the words and experiences of the young men who made them happen.

‘We would be delighted to hear from anyone who crossed the Rhine at the same time as Ken Cooke and to welcome them as our guests to meet him and see the play.’

Ken Smith added: ‘When the idea for a play using our memories came about back in 2016 we never thought we would still be here for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day to see it performed at the Edinburgh Fringe!’

Bomb Happy is coming to the Fringe as part of a commemorative tour to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. It follows the stories of ordinary lads who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

Venue: Army@The Fringe, Hepburn House (Venue 210)

Dates: 13 to 25 August. Previews: 13 to 15 August. Time: 13-15 & 20-22 Aug at 14:20. Then 16-18 & 23-25 Aug at 15:40.

Duration: 70 mins

Ticket prices: £8.50 to £11

Box office: 0131 560 1581 and

Advisory: Ages 12+