The fate of a World War ll Rotorua soldier has been discovered after researchers located a fatal air crash site more than 75 years later.

Now, the researchers are hoping to find local descendants of the airman to share the discovery and build a memorial.

Warrant Officer Adrian Vincent Douglas was involved in the crash of the Stirling bomber near Ludwigshafen in Germany on the night of September 5 or 6, 1943.

Crash site researcher Erik Wieman hopes to get in touch with descendants of Douglas, who was Māori and resided on Clayton Rd in Ohinemutu.


The wireless operator and air gunner on the flight was the son of Mr and Mrs E. Douglas.

The Stirling bomber (Code EE872). Photo / Supplied
The Stirling bomber (Code EE872). Photo / Supplied

Wieman said an excavation was planned with Archaeological Services and a memorial would then be built for those who lost their lives at the site.

"We want to make this almost forgotten site, and the sacrifices that were made here, the soldiers that were killed here, visible again.

"The descendants, families of the crew usually do not know what happened, or where. We want to change this and tell them about our find and our plans for a memorial for their family members."

Flight sergeant Alexander Hunter Holms from Invercargill. Photo / Supplied
Flight sergeant Alexander Hunter Holms from Invercargill. Photo / Supplied

There were seven men aboard the aircraft that night, three of them being New Zealanders and the remaining from the United Kingdom.

All but one died in the crash. The survivor was crew member Barnard.

Navigator Flight Sgt. Alexander Hunter Holms, son of Alexander Scott Holms and Helen Holms of Invercargill, Waimahaka and bomb aimer Flight Sgt. David Heribert William Badcock, son of George and Florence Mary Badcock from Hawera, 109 Argyle St Taranaki.

Flight Sergant David Heribert William Badcock from Hawera. Photo / Supplied
Flight Sergant David Heribert William Badcock from Hawera. Photo / Supplied

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What researchers know

At 7.36pm on September 5, 1943, the Stirling Bomber EE872 launched from Lakenheath in the United Kingdom on a mission to bomb the cities of Ludwigshafin and Mannheim in Germany.

For those two cities, it was the most devastating attack of the entire war but there were heavy losses on both sides.

There were 34 aircraft shot down and 174 men were killed.

Researchers believe the aircraft with the three New Zealanders on board was hit about 1.15am by aircraft defense cannon's on a night fighter.

The crew of the bomber consisted of a mixed team from both New Zealand are the United Kingdom:
- Navigator, Alex Holms, NZ
- Radio operator and gunner, Adrian Douglas, NZ
- Bombardier, David Badcock, NZ
- Pilot, Andrew Brown, UK
- Flight engineer, Doug Guest, UK
- Gunner, Henry Saunders, UK
- Gunner, Harry Barnard, UK

The only survivor of the crash was Barnard known to the rest of the crew as 'Barney'. He survived the remainder of the war as a prisoner of the war and died in the 1970's.

Only Doug Guest and Alex Holms were clearly identifiable when the Germans recovered the bodies the next day.