THE family of a New Zealand First World War hero have flown half way across the world to visit his grave.

Captain John MacDonald Allan volunteered to fight for Great Britain when he was 18 and saw action behind enemy lines before being shot down and seriously injured in July 1917.

It was while the airman was recovering from his injuries that he started his training to be a flying instructor, testing the Sopworth Camel flying out of the region.

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He suffered fatal injuries when his plane spun out of control when it failed to correct itself after a manoeuvre and plunged to the ground on Redcar Lane close to Redcar cemetery where he was buried after his death on May 22, 1918.

A young girl who witnessed the fatal accident as a four-year-old girl, grew up to become well known local historian Vera Robinson and it was through her work, alongside members of the Friends of Redcar Cemetery, that work started to restore the grave and trace his family.

After the war the Captain’s family came to Redcar to disinter his remains and take him home, but when they saw the love and care the gravestone was receiving they changed their minds and decided to arrange the fitting of a memorial stone instead.

Today (Friday, May 9), members of the Allan clan visited his grave with his great nephew John Allan, who was named in memory of his airman, speaking of his delight at meeting centenarian Mrs Robinson.

He said: “We received a beautiful letter from Vera after we had been contacted by our local newspaper when they received a message from the Friends group. My sister came across a few years ago, but we thought this would be a perfect time to come across and see the grave with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

“I’m delighted with the work they have done on starting to restore the gravestone and it will be a great honour to see it when it’s completed.”

Ged Fleming, the chairman of the Friends of Redcar Cemetery group, said: “It is wonderful to meet the family of Captain Allan who have travelled so far to visit the grave. When we first contacted the newspaper in Christchurch we didn’t know what to expect, but it was great to get in touch with the family and help them to see his grave.”