NO-ONE is quite sure who first showed the then 82-year-old Reg Wilson how to use Google Earth.

It was, says Janet, 2005 and: “When he realised you could look at all these places online he said he wanted to locate the crash site of the Halifax bomber he had to bail out of over Berlin in the war.”

She was sceptical, telling him; “You don’t know where it came down.” But Reg, the aircraft’s navigator, produced a “photocopy of a photocopy” of a map with a cross on it and, after getting it to the right scale, located some woods in part of what had been East Berlin.

Because she speaks German, Janet agreed to contact the nearest museum, more in hope than expectation. “Deep down I thought he was being unrealistic and we were looking for a needle in a haystack,” she says. However, the German museum was eager to help.

The family was invited to a reception in Berlin and during the event an elderly gentleman rose to say that as a schoolboy he had been living nearby and had made notes and sketches of the fateful crash on the night of January 20 1944, when the plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire.

“We couldn’t believe it,” remembers Janet.

“Everything he said about the damage was true; the three corpses in the wreck and a fourth thrown out by the explosion which they had to remove quickly because the locals were kicking and shouting at it.”

By the time the family returned to Berlin the following May they found themselves walking to a “dent in the ground” in the woodland – the crash site – and a local historian started up his metal detector.

“We knew the fuselage had been taken away and broken up, but we started digging and found all this stuff that looked like old Kit-Kat wrappers,” she says.

“The historian said it was the aluminium strip they threw out to confuse the radar.”

There was more. Janet opens a shoe box to show me a piece from a window frame including the original hinge, an item that resembles a fuel pipe, and a piece with a serial number on it. Most moving of all, perhaps, is the fragment of the cockpit hood or gun turret.

The serial number later confirmed that it was indeed Old Flo or, to give her proper name, Halifax LW337 but Reg never seemed in doubt. “When we arrived back at the hotel he started scrubbing the parts in the bathroom sink with a toothbrush and some shower gel,” says Janet.

“They discovered human remains and a clasp from a parachute,” says Janet.

“They told me but I sat up for ages, not wanting to tell Dad because I worried it would open the wounds again.”

She did tell Reg and after an initial hitch – where the Berlin police checked to see that the remains weren’t those of a crime victim, they then entered a frustrating period where the authorities in Canada (it was thought the dead person may be Canadian) wrangled over what to do.

Frustrated, and feeling that he could do better, Reg remembered a letter his mother had received from Ada Bremner, the mother of one of the missing airmen and contacted the Newcastle Chronicle, appealing for relatives to come forward.

“He got a phone call from the man married to the dead man’s niece,” says Janet.

“They managed to obtain a sample of DNA from the airman’s sister, Marjorie.”

For Reg, however, the journey wasn’t quite over. “The Royal Institute of Navigation made a special award to him, presented by Prince Phillip in 2009,” says Janet.

Reg remembers receiving it. “I think I said: ‘It came down hear the Brandenburg Gate’ and he said ‘You didn’t land on it, did you’?”

His book, Into The Dark, came about after Reg attended the opening of the Bomber Command Memorial and his wife, Barbara, encouraged Janet to write down his story.

It contains the details of his bailout from the bomber and the shock of becoming a Prisoner of War, as well as his search for Old Flo, whose memory, along with that of the gallant men who died and fought in her, can now be laid honourably to rest.

  • Into The Dark is published by Fighting High publishing,