Ivan Douglas can't remember his brother Adrian; he was not even 2 when his three elder brothers went eagerly to war.

But, after years of yearning to know more, he has finally been granted his wish.

Yesterday, the last brother of 13 siblings, was informed of the final moments of Warrant Officer Adrian Vincent Douglas' life.

Now Ivan hopes to fly to Germany to witness the unveilling of a memorial at the newly-discovered crash site for Adrian and the six other crew members who died with him.

Adrian Douglas was the radio operator and gunman on the aircraft. Photo / Supplied
Adrian Douglas was the radio operator and gunman on the aircraft. Photo / Supplied

Adrian Douglas was involved in the fatal crash of the Stirling Bomber near Ludwigshafen in Germany on the night of September 5 or 6, 1943.

Ivan was stunned to hear yesterday that the memorial was being planned, more than 75 years after the crash.

"I was shocked that anything like that has been thought of.

"But it's, wow, it's hard to really realise that they would go to that extent."

Ivan did not know his brother Adrian or Wallace, who also died in the war, but through tales told, feels like he has known them all his life.

"Even though I was only a little fella when they went away, you weren't allowed to forget them."

"Over the years, your brothers are with you. You got to know what they were like."

Adrian's grave in Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany. Photo / Supplied
Adrian's grave in Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany. Photo / Supplied

The Douglas men were three of about 30 people in the extended family who went overseas to fight. Six, including Adrian and Wallace, were killed.


Ivan remembers when his parents recieved the telegram that had the fateful news.

"I was only about 5, but boy I knew what it was all about."

"I think it killed my mother in the finish. She was only 56 when she died, but I always said she died of a broken heart."

But music held the family together, a gift that both Adrian and Wallace also had.

"They must've been good brothers. When they were going to school I remember Mum and Dad saying... they always knew when they were coming home, because you could hear them singing and whistling on their way."

Crash site researcher Erik Wieman reached out to the Rotorua Daily Post this week in hopes of finding the descendants of Adrian, who he only knew was Māori and had resided on Clayton Rd in Rotorua.

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.

Evidence suggests that 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 Ludwigshafen and Mannheim in Germany.

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

The only survivor of the crash was Harry Barnard, known to the rest of the crew as 'Barney'.

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

Some researchers believe that Barnard only lived because Adrian ran to the back of the plane and told him to bale out with his parachute.

Ivan and his family were moved to tears when they heard this news. He only hoped his other siblings had had the chance to hear it too.

Wieman said it would be an honor to meet Ivan and to create the memorial site for him and his family.

He said the memorial enabled Adrian's story to stay alive, even when his family were not around to share the tale.

"This site will be alive and not forgotten.

"I think I will bring them to a historical site for their family. Where they can feel closer to him."

He said the memorial made sure the actions of heroes would never be forgotten and families had a place to go to remember them.