AN OTLEY woman has learnt the truth about her father's heroic wartime death.

Flight Lieutenant Frank Bolton, who served in the RAF's 168 Squadron, was 29 when he was killed in action in Holland on September 26, 1944.

His daughter, Margaret Thompson, was born four months later and for decades believed that her father had died due to a parachute failure.

The family found out the more dramatic truth earlier this year when they travelled to the Netherlands to meet someone who had witnessed Flt Lt Bolton's final moments.

Mrs Thompson, 72, said: "At the end of World War Two there was very little known about his actual death.

"The tumult of war and the lack of any witnesses meant that the story I received, and believed all my life, was that he was shot down and died as his parachute failed to deploy.

"Fast forward a few years and my son, Paul found an article written about an aircraft that had been exposed by the floodwaters of the River Meuss, near Gennep, and that this had belonged to my father.

"A man called Han van Avensbergen - whose uncles had often spoken about the plane being shot down and a British pilot struggling to avoid their village - had been searching for our family to tell his amazing story."

Mrs Thompson and her family contacted Han and were invited to Gennep in April to hear the entire account - and to meet eye-witness Jacob van Tankeren.

The group went to the Jankerbos War Cemetery at Nijmegen, where they found Flt Lt Bolton's grave decorated - by Han - with a Union flag, poppy wreath and photograph.

They then travelled to Gennep to meet Han and were driven around accompanied by 88 year old Jacob who, aged just 17, had been the first to reach the pilot's body.

Mrs Thompson said: "We stopped at the spot from where Jacob had seen the burning plane - and my father wrestling at the controls rather than bailing out.

"He had also seen that once my father had passed over the village he climbed onto the wing of his plane and threw his parachute as high as possible and bailed out.

"Finally, he had seen my father's body fall to the earth and his plane crash land in the River Meuss - he told us, very emotionally, that by not bailing out immediately my father's actions had undoubtedly saved many lives.

"Jacob had raced across the village to my father's body and was the first to reach him.

"The event obviously affected him very deeply and at that spot Han had arranged a flag, photos and a wreath, as before, and also the propeller from the actual plane.

"We scattered dried rose petals and had a moment to think about what we were hearing."

The family also went to the river to see where the plane lies, and to the church where Flt Lt Bolton was buried before his body was moved to the war cemetery.

Mrs Thompson, reflecting on a 'very moving' visit, said: "The village of Gennep is now engraved on my heart and I am very thankful I was able to hear this story."