Pilgrimage for pilot’s Bradford on Avon relatives
Relatives of a Canadian pilot, killed when his plane crashed in Bradford on Avon during the Second World War, paid an emotional visit to the town this week.
Randy and Lynne Grover went to Westbury Gardens to see a memorial plaque to their late uncle, Pilot Officer Don Hernando de Soto Grover, who died at the age of 23, with five other crew members.
They were shown to the spot by historian Jonathan Falconer, whose interest in the crash, near Christ Church in 1944, began from stories he heard as a boy.
Mr Grover said: “We were very honoured to know that the Brits paid tribute to them and that Jonathan had been a part of that.
“Growing up, I looked up to my uncle as he flew in a plane. When I was 18, I got my own flying licence and was in the Air Cadets.
“My younger brother, Tom, is a maintenance engineer in the aviation industry and so are his sons. There’s a long family connection with flying.”
Ms Grover said: “We knew nothing of our uncle’s death, except he was killed overseas. I am very impressed with Bradford. I love the architecture and I love all the flower beds.”
The Canadian crew was on a training flight from its base at Tholthorpe, North York-shire, when the plane, a Handley Page Halifax III, was seen flying over Bradford with one of its four engines on fire before it crashed.
Residents, soldiers and the fire service rushed to help.
Mr Falconer, who helped to get the Westbury Gardens plaque put up in 1994, to mark the 50th anniversary of the crash, has also written a book about the Canadian crew.
He said: “Having gone to school in Bradford on Avon at Fitzmaurice Grammar, I always heard stories about a crash during the war.
“This has always intrigued me and, as I have an interest in air force history, it lodged in my subconscious.”