RELATIVES of a Tillicoultry bombardier who lost his life during a WWII sortie have been successfully traced for a Canadian family.

The niece of James Rutherford Hutton Bell, the bomb aimer who died on June 17 in 1943 along with Canadian trainee navigator Jean-Paul Laurin when their Lancaster bomber was shot down, has been able to provide photos and copies of documents relating to the Tillicoultry man's service.

As reported last week, Tony Thomas has been researching the Canadian man's service for his nephew Jacques Laurin, issuing an appeal for information in the Advertiser.

Amazingly, he received word within a few hours of publication last week and files from the Clacks family, who did not wish to be named, have been passed on to the Laurins in Quebec.

Since then, more information has been received regarding the flight, which launched on the night of June 16 in 1943 on a mission to bomb Cologne.

Only one of the eight crew, which included trainee navigator Laurin on his first and unfortunately last mission, survived.

Tony, who also received an account from relatives of the pilot Alan Pullan, explained that only Percy Cottle, a gunner, managed to parachute to safety before being held as a POW for the next two years.

The plane was attacked immediately after dropping its bombs at the target and the starboard inner engine and wing caught fire.

Cottle went on to report: “When we got low enough the skipper gave the order to bail out.

“The skipper seemed by his voice to be alright. I said 'OK skip. Taffy going'.

“During this time there has been no word from the rest of the boys. I then climbed out of my turret and made my way to the back door, waited a few seconds and then jumped.

“From that moment to this I haven't seen or heard anything of the rest of the boys.

“I landed in a field just outside Julich. I forgot to mention that the intercom doesn't work individually, if you call one person everyone else can hear you.”

Three bodies were recovered from the wreckage but only one as positively identified in navigator Cecil Dudley.

Sadly, there is no known grave for James, who died at the age of 26 it is understood, but his name appears on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede in Surrey.

Tony added: “We have so much to be thankful for – for these brave men who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.”