AN account of the Second World War tragedy that saw a Royal Canadian Air Force Handley Page Halifax bomber crash in flames in Bradford on Avon has been penned by a local author.

Bradford historian Jonathan Falconer examines in detail what happened when a night-time cross-country flying training exercise ended in tragedy for V for Victor of 425 (Alouette) Squadron and its eight-man crew of Canadians and British airmen at 8.50pm on March 26, 1944.

Three men escaped by parachute before the bomber reached Bradford, landing at Rudge, Clivey near Dilton Marsh and Westbury, but only two survived.

Two airmen died after taking to their chutes over Bradford, when they were too low for them to open properly. Three men died inside the bomber when it hit the ground at what is now Priory Close.

Jonathan, 58, of Downs View, a former pupil of Fitzmaurice Grammar School, said: “The incident came within a hair’s breadth of devastating large areas of the town.”

Mr Falconer began his research in 1985 and has since interviewed dozens of Bradfordians who witnessed the crash and its aftermath, as well as V for Victor’s sole surviving crew member, Craig Reid, who gave a vivid account of events leading up to his bale-out over Clivey.

Mr Reid, from Calgary in western Canada, found it difficult revisiting his memories of the crash, but he accepted an invitation in 1994 to unveil a memorial at Westbury Gardens in Bradford on Avon to the men who lost their lives in the tragedy.

He travelled to the UK with his wife Verna as special guests of the town and was later reunited with Len Pickett, who rescued him when he was injured during his parachute drop.

Mr Falconer decided that as the 76th anniversary of the tragedy approached, it was about time he finally committed his research to print.

He said: ‘It’s been worth waiting because many official records were not available when I first started.

“With the advent and growth of the internet, I’ve been able to trace people in Canada and the USA, and nearer to home, something that simply wasn’t possible even 20 years ago.’

V for Victor can be purchased direct at price £12, plus £2.50/$ signed for P&P.

Mr Falconer has written more than 40 books on aviation, military and local history including Names in Stone: Forgotten Warriors of Bradford-on-Avon and District 1939-45, Filming the Dam Busters, the Haynes Handley Page Halifax Manual, RAF Bomber Command Operations Manual and the D-Day Operations Manual.