SEVENTY people gathered this year to remember two brave Canadian airmen who sacrificed themselves but averted a disaster in Wallingford.

On September 9, 1944 a Halifax bomber of the Royal Canadian Air Force was returning from an abandoned raid over the French port of Le Harve.

While still carrying a full bomb load it caught fire over Wallingford when an outer engine exploded.

Ordering most of his crew to bail out, the pilot, Flying Officer John Archibald Wilding, and Flight Engineer Sergeant John Frank Andrew remained at the controls to steer the plane away from the town.

They crashed into the fields at Newnham Murren, preventing the loss of many civilian lives.

Wilding and Andrew were mentioned in Dispatches for their bravery, with Wilding being posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

They are commemorated by a memorial at the junction of Wilding Road and Andrew Road in Wallingford and by the Canadian flag that is flown over Wallingford Town Hall every year in their memory.

Wallingford mayor Bernard Stone, one of the people attending the memorial, said: “It is one thing to lose your life in conflict, but to sacrifice yourself like these men did is something else.

“This was an incredibly important event in Wallingford’s history. That is why it merits being remembered.”