The mystery of the treasure-box of family records found on an Auckland motorway has been solved after an article appeared on nzherald.co.nz.
The inlaid box, home to a wartime royal letter, fell off the back of a ute, without its driver noticing, on to Auckland's Northwestern Motorway on February 3.
Among its photos, documents and memorabilia is letter of condolence from King George VI. It was to the family of Auckland Flying Officer Sydney Aldridge, 24, who, with 13 other men of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, went missing over the South Pacific Ocean in August 1944.
Aldridge's grandson Michael Land saw a photo of the box on nzherald.co.nz yesterday, read the article, and got in touch.
"I thought, 'That looks familiar, that must be [our] box', then I read where it had been found - it must have come off the ute."
He was surprised by the story as the family hadn't even known the box was missing.
"I'm definitely happy it's been found."
The box had lain in a shed at the back of his property in Pakuranga for more than a decade, since his grandmother died.
He is considering moving house and had asked his mother, who lives in Kumeu, if she would like to take the box. She said to put it on her ute.
"It must have got blown off."
A NZ Transport Agency spokesman said an officer monitoring CCTV motorway cameras spotted an object on a "live" west-bound lane on the Northwestern just before Rosebank Rd. A maintenance crew was sent for a closer look and retrieved the box which, fortunately, had not sprung open and lost its contents.
In the last year of World War II, Aldridge was on one of seven Lockheed Hudson bomber reconnaissance planes flying from Fiji to New Zealand.
They left Nausori, about 16km from Suva, at around 6.10am on Sunday, August 20, 1944.
"They flew in formation for half the route, when they ran into very thick weather and, in accordance with standard procedure in such conditions, they broke formation and continued individually," according to a Press Association report in the Herald.
"Five of the aircraft arrived in New Zealand, landing between 1.30 and 1.52pm.
"As far as is known, no distress signals were sent from the missing aircraft. They had the maximum fuel capacity, sufficient for flying until 4.30 on Sunday afternoon, and when they failed to arrive at that time arrangements were made for an extensive search."
Land said the Hudsons had difficulty getting away from Fiji.
"They were called back a couple of times as there was a cyclone coming. The third time they were let go and they hit the cyclone."
An aerial search began the morning after the two planes' non-arrival. The day after that the Minister of Defence, Frederick Jones, publicly announced the losses, and the search.
The search was abandoned on its fifth day.
Land's grandmother Shirley and the other men's wives appealed to the Mayor of Auckland John Allum to have the search resumed.
"The mayor pulled strings and the search was resumed," said Land, "but nothing was ever found."
Eight months before his death, Aldridge was wounded in the foot in an air battle with Japanese fighter planes. His plane was attacked by nine Zeros, of which three were shot down.
Land plans to meet NZTA officials on Monday for the return of the box.
The men lost with the two Hudsons were: Aldridge, Flight Lieutenant W. Lange, Pilot Officer K. A. Ross, Flying Officer J. A. Olsen, Pilot Officer K. B. Marshall, Flying Officer D. O Stewart, Sergeant G. A. Bryant, Flying Officer N. K. Baird, Sergeant R. B. Gillespie, Warrant Officer A. F. Dunstan, Sergeant T. B. Carey, Pilot Officer I. R. Johnson, Flight Sergeant T. H. Ward, and Flying Officer J. T. Waugh.