THE frustration of patrolling the skies of Hampshire in a state-of-the-art dog-fighting aircraft while the war against Nazi Germany raged on the continent was all too much for one pilot.

Flying his Curtiss Tomahawk back from Eastleigh to Odiham after having new exhaust dampners fitted, the battle-hungry Canadian flyer had a moment of madness.

Diving thousands of feet in a few seconds he swooped low underneath a small bridge near Winchester in the ultimate dare-devil manoeuvre.

But suddenly a lorry appeared hurtling towards him forcing him to take split-second evasive action.

He slammed his controls to the side and the plane's wing tip smashed into the bridge, ripping off a 3ft chunk and leaving the pilot fearing he would be unable to limp back to base.

Somehow the crippled plane held together but while the pilot performed a wheels-down landing it flipped over. Amazingly George Rogers walked away with only minor injuries on October 19, 1941.

But that was not the end of the matter. It was just the start of a 47-year mystery that wrongly saw the bridge nicknamed Spitfire Bridge until it was cleared up in the Daily Echo.

Controversy raged over whether it was a Spitfire, Tomahawk, Mohawk or Martlet but the myth among locals was that it was Reginald Mitchell's famous fighter which he designed and built on the south coast.

But in 1980 former Lieutenant Commander William Blake, who was at Worthy Down during the war years, categorically stated in was a Curtiss Tomahawk.

The Echo revealed in 1988 that local historian Melvin Hiscock had put the final pieces of the jigsaw together after his research at the Public Record Office turned up in the aircraft's record book. However, it was too late to rename the bridge on the Winchester bypass which was demolished in 1983 on October 24, almost 42 years after the crash.