Last week we featured the tragic story of the death of Dorset Home Guard Captain James Rowland West.

Weymouth resident Captain West, who received the Military Cross for his efforts in the First World War, was at at Imber on Salisbury Plain for a ground strafing demonstration when he was killed as the crowd of 2,000 spectators was gunned by mistake instead of the line of dummies.

A fellow Dorset Home Guard member from Poole, Captain Frederick Joseph Willy, was also among the 27 killed on April 13, 1942 - 80 years ago.

John Pidgeon, who shared this tragic tale with us has been back in touch with what happened when the true story of the incident emerged 30 years later.

He writes: "Many officers of the Home Guard from Southern Command were involved in the Friendly Fire Incident at Imber.

"They were among the 2,000 invited guests at a ground strafing demonstration near Bowls Barrow in the parish of Heytesbury. The event was a preliminary practice for the main event on the 17th of April where Winston Churchill was present. A coach was organised to collect officers from Poole, Bournemouth and Boscombe Home Guard and at least five officers were also present from the Weymouth Battalion.

"It is 30 years before the true story surfaces. The target area and spectator areas had not been properly identified with white tape. Due to a haze exacerbated by sunshine, the pilots had difficulty identifying the line of dummy soldiers.

"After the fourth pilot missed the target completely, the RAF controller sent the fateful message “If you cannot see the target fire anyway, but before reaching the spectators”.

"The fifth pilot made a successful attack and the RAF radio operator transmitted “Good show aircraft that has just passed”. At this time the sixth plane, flown by an inexperienced American-born RCAF pilot, was approaching on what he thought was the correct direction, but was lined up on the rows of spectators. He gave two short bursts, sending a fusillade of bullets into the crowd. He only realised his error when the “dummies” started to scatter. The final death toll was 27 dead and 69 wounded.

Dorset Echo: James Rowland WestJames Rowland West

"It proved to be an unlucky 13th for Dorset Home Guard with two of their officers listed among the dead, with at least four of them wounded and one Weymouth officer off sick from work suffering from today what we call PTSD. At least one Boscombe officer was also wounded and Lt the Hon R E P Cecil of the Grenadier Guards, heir of Viscount Cranborne was seriously injured.

"A military investigation was held immediately after and changes made to spectator safety prior to Churchill’s visit.

"It does raise the question what would have happened if they had not held the event on April 13, but just undertaken the main demonstration. "Was this a near miss for Winston, with severe consequences for the entire outcome of the Second World War?

Winston Churchill visited Imber on April 17, 1942 and is stood with the same group of officers that lost one of their colleagues, Brigadier Taylor. It was only in 2012 on the 70th anniversary of the incident that a memorial was placed in the local garrison church.

On Friday, April 13, 2018, an additional plaque was added to commemorate the 26th and 27th victims of the incident that died of wounds a week later.