Emotional memorial for World War II pilot killed 74 years ago

A Kiwi World War II pilot whose wreckage and grave have only just been found has finally had a memorial service, 74 years after his death.

Dozens turned up to a small cemetery in Shrawley, England to pay their respects to Lieutenant Commander Ron Richardson - including his 95-year-old wife.

Sheila Richardson has waited more than seven decades for an official memorial service for her husband, and on Sunday (local time) she finally got one.

She married Gisborne pilot Lt Cmdr Richardson in England in 1943, in the middle of World War II.

"He was a lovely chap," she says of her late husband. "Frightfully good-looking, very amusing, very wild."

But less than a year later, when he led a fleet squadron of Hellcats to bomb German battleship Tirpitz in Norway, he went missing - presumed dead.

"Within 11 months he'd been killed, leaving me with a six-week old baby," says Mrs Richardson.

No one knew what happened until earlier this year when the wreckage of his plane was found, and his final moments were pieced together by his family - including Alistair, the son he never got to know.

"It really does mean something," he says. "I've never really known what I've missed out on up until now."

A park bench was unveiled as a memorial to Lt Cmdr Richardson. His great-grandkids were the first to sit on it, one holding a piece of plane wreckage.

After 74 years of not knowing what happened to Lt Cmdr Richardson, his family at least now has some closure.

The Navy's Dave Crossman paid tribute to the man on behalf of New Zealand.

"Recognising heroes is really important, and being able to bring his story to life for the first time in 74 years I think is really valuable."