A SECOND World War flying ace, whose dying action was to save an entire village, is finally to be honoured by the community.

And his only surviving son, who barely knew his father, will be there to witness the occasion, after being traced by The Northern Echo.

Wing commander Richard Bunker, of Teesside, narrowly managed to avoid crashing into Windlesham, in Surrey, as his plane hurtled out of control towards the ground.

The story has been meticulously researched over the years by villager Bill Lindsay, who raised money for a plaque dedicated to thrice decorated Wg Cdr Bunker and his six crew.

The plaque will be unveil-ed next year - but, despite months of effort, Mr Lindsay could not trace any members of the hero's family.

Eventually, The Northern Echo published an appeal for information in its Tracer column, and Wg Cdr Bunker's son, Tony, 62, of Acklam, Middlesbrough, came forward.

Information obtained by both Mr Bunker and Mr Lindsay has thrown fresh light on what happened on April 20, 1945, when Wg Cdr Bunker and his crewmen died. The Stirling bomber was making a short journey after undergoing repairs when something went wrong with the electronics.

Villagers watched in horror as the plane, with flames and smoke shooting from her rear, plunged towards a row of houses in the village. However, the men did not bail out and, with extremely limited controls left to him, Wg Cdr Bunker, who was 25, managed to steer the plane to a field where it crashed.

"This man and his crew saved our village and it is time we honoured them," said Mr Lindsay, a member of the Royal British Legion.

"It is simply wonderful news that The Northern Echo has found his next-of-kin. I can't tell you what it means to us here. We will be able to tell him that we held a ceremony at his father's grave, near here, last year."

Mr Bunker said his father, who he has only vague memories of, has been a hero to him all his life. He said that although his father's home was recorded as being in Redcar, Wg Cdr Bunker was in fact a London man who moved to Teesside when he met and married Stockton girl Stella, while stationed in Thornaby, in 1938.

Wg Cdr Bunker DSO, DFC and Bar served for the duration of the war, and Tony Bunker went to Buckingham Palace with his mother shortly after the war to receive his late father's Distinguished Service Order medal from King George VI.

"I couldn't believe it when my next-door neighbour showed me the article about this," said Mr Bunker. "I will take the greatest pride in taking part in the ceremony, in Windlesham, in April.