THE nephew of a Canadian airman who lost his life during a WWII sortie is hoping to trace the Tillicoultry relatives of the plane's bombardier.

Bomb aimer James Rutherford Hutton Bell lost his life on June 17 in 1943 along with Canadian trainee navigator Jean-Paul Laurin.

His nephew Jacques Laurin has been working to put together a booklet recording his uncle's history, and that of the crew, with hopes that relatives of Mr Hutton Bell may still hold information.

On the night of June 16 in 1943, a Lancaster bomber W4798 set off on a mission to bomb the city of Cologne.

Unusually, there were eight airmen aboard. Normally, the crew would have been comprised of a pilot, flight engineer, bombardier or bomb aimer, navigator, wireless operator and two gunners – explained Tony Thomas who contacted the Advertiser on behalf of the Canadian family.

The eighth crewman on the famous bomber type was the Canadian trainee navigator who arrived to the UK just a few months before.

Tragically, this would be his first and last mission.

“It is not known whether the plane reached its target,” said Mr Thomas. “It was shot down in the early hours of the following morning over the village of Pattern close to Cologne.

“One of the gunners, Percy Cottle, managed to parachute to safety and then spent the rest of the war as a POW.

“Two bodies were recovered from the wreckage but only one was able to be identified – the body of Cecil Dudley is buried at the Rheinberg British Military Cemetery.

“The remaining crew members are listed on the Runnymede Memorial for the Missing in Surrey including that of the bomb aimer James Rutherford Hutton Bell from Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire.”

In what has been research spanning the last two years, Mr Thomas has actually been assisting an Australian family in obtaining records for a pilot.

He added: “The research is approaching a conclusion.

“However, along the way we have come across many moving stories and also have been able to help families piece together part of their family history.

“It was so often the case that these airmen, if they survived the war and 40 per cent didn't, were not able to talk about their experiences – it brought back too many painful memories and they lost so many close friends.”

It is understood flying officer James Rutherford Hutton Bell, RAFVR 61 Sqdn and service number 131959, was the son of James Hutton Bell and Jane McConnell Rutherford Bell of Tillicoultry.

He was 26 when the Lancaster went down.

Anyone with information is asked to email Tony Thomas on