A group of Keighley scuba divers have reunited a grandfather with part of a crashed Second World War plane which claimed the lives of his three colleagues.

Royal Navy airman Frank Walton, 88, made an emotional visit to Great Gulley, above the Lake District’s Wast Water, after Keighley’s branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club rediscovered the engine of the Royal Navy Grumman Avenger.

The plane crashed on a night exercise in 1945, killing all three of its crew. Mr Walton was due to be on board, but had swapped with a teenage friend. The cause of the crash remains a mystery. Among the dead was wireless operator Phillip Royston Mallorie, who had been a friend in training with him. The pilot of the doomed flight was Canadian Lieutenant Barnard Kennedy. Also onboard was navigator Gordon Fell.

Mr Walton, who was born in Bradford and now lives in Preston, was a member of Lt Kennedy’s crew, but days before the accident a previous skipper made a request to have his old crew back, so he returned to his command. That decision saved his life.

He said: “After the accident they didn’t tell us immediately because probably they thought it would be too upsetting. I was all right, but I felt for Phillip. He was a nice lad.”

He has been to Mr Mallorie’s grave, but had never before seen the crash site.

On a visit to Wast Water he said: “It’s a bit upsetting thinking about what must have happened. It was a terrible thing.”

Graham Clay, of Keighley Sub-Aqua Club, said: “It would be nice to have a commemorative plaque to put on the aircraft’s engine block, which is something we’ll think about.

“We dived the lake in April, but couldn’t find the tail section. Just after we got back we met some other British Sub-Aqua Club members and they’ve tipped us off as to where the tail is. I think we’ll go back in August to see if we can locate and photograph it.”