A SEARCH into one Hereford man's family tree ended up bringing him closer to his famous relative than he could have ever imagined.

Leslie Causer had always been interested in family history – particularly the story surrounding his cousin Walter Handley.

Wal was a four-time champion in the Isle of Man TT races between 1922 and 1934.

He was the first to win two TT races in a week and also set a lap record on a BSA Empire Star which earned them a gold star. It inspired BSA to produce the BSA Gold Star. 

Wal subsquently took up flying and gained his pilot's licence, buying a Dehavilland Pussmoth which he flew around France.

Then, in 1933 he bought a Gypsymoth which he flew extensively before joining the Air Transport Auxiliary, launched by the Air Ministry, to fly medical supplies.

His ultimate job was to pick up and fly much-needed aircraft from factories and other airfields around the country.

During that time, Walter flew around 40 different types of aircraft until, on November 15 1941, he picked up a notorious American Bell Aerocobra.

Leslie said: "He climbed the aircraft to 800ft when it burst into flames and crashed, killing him aged just 32 and bringing to an end the career and life of an amazing man of whom I am so proud."

Leslie, now 83, decided to try and find out what happened to the Gypsymoth which was sold to a buyer in Canada.

He said: "I have for many years been trying to trace the movements of this aircraft and recently found out it had been bought by an aircraft engineer working in Coventry Airport.

"My aim was to see this aircraft that had survived for so many years. Being a qualified pilot, the next step was to enlist the help of a very good friend Alan Ramsden who is MD of Tiger Helicopters at Shobdon.

"Arrangements were made and on May 31 we flew over to Coventry Airport and saw the beautiful aircraft which had taken up so much of my time. I don't think there's a word that can express what it meant. It was the culmination of many years of work.

"The most exciting finish will be when Ben Cox, the present owner, brings it to Shobdon and takes me for a flight."