VALERIE has no memory of her father, but can recall her mother sitting on the stairs and crying after reading a telegram which confirmed her airman husband had been shot down and was missing, presumed dead.

The family heard no other details of how Sergeant Reginald Renton, from 90 Squadron, died until more than 70 years later when – unknown to each other – a North Yorkshire man and a German researcher both began looking into his fate.

Richard Fieldhouse, editor of a community news site for Bishop Monkton, near Harrogate, published an appeal to find out if anyone knew the identity of 'R.Renton' named on the village war memorial.

To his surprise, Erik Wieman got in touch from Germany, suggesting the man may be Reginald Renton and he was investigating the site where his Stirling bomber crashed in Germany in 1943.

He and friend Peter Berker had managed to recover more than 2,000 items from the site, including bone fragments and piles of ammunition.

They had also spoken to witnesses from the night of the crash and managed to establish exactly what happened to the North Yorkshire airman.

Richard Fieldhouse then traced Sgt Renton's family in Harrogate, where his only child, Valerie, and the airman’s granddaughter, Sallyann Linfoot live.

Erik will meet with the family and present them with artefacts from the crash site at a Remembrance Day service in Bishop Monkton.

Sallyann said: “We didn’t have a clue how he died. My mother remembers her mother receiving a telegram one day, when she was three-years-old, and how she just sat down and cried her eyes out because it said he was missing presumed dead.

“That was the last she heard. Then she got a phone call this Christmas to say they had found my father’s crash site in Germany.”

The news answered questions that had hung in the air for 78 years.

“All we knew was that his plane had been shot down – probably out at sea,” said Sallyann.

“My mother had always thought he was a navigator, but Erik’s research found he was an air gunner, or a bomb operator. It’s incredible what he has discovered.”

Netherlands-born Erik Wieman, who lives in Germany with his family, had heard about a World War Two plane crash which happened close to where he lived, near Ludwigshafen.

He spoke to local witnesses who described an Allied bombing raid in September 1943 in which 50,000 people were left homeless in Germany and 34 English bombers and 11 German nightfighter planes shot down.

Erik and his friend Peter Berker investigate sites where English and Allied personnel died in Germany. They share their research with surviving relatives, passing on items or personal belongings to them. They work closely with the cultural heritage service in Speyer (GDKE).

“Ludwigshafen and Mannheim were important targets in World War Two because of the industry. Many planes crashed here,” said Erik.

“But most of them are forgotten. Peter and I try to find the forgotten crash sites. We do not want to let them fade into history, with the fates, names, people behind it. Many airmen, American, English, but also Germans died here. Often complete crews were killed in action.

“Many families and relatives of the crashed airmen do not know what happened. The only thing they know is “crashed over Germany”. We try to change that so they can find closure."

He added he wanted a memorial stone at the crash site, adding: “So no one passing by will forget what happened there. Lest we forget.”