A DUTCH man tasked with unearthing the stories of fallen soldiers has tracked down the family of a Northumberland war hero – using the power of social media.

Private Ridley Richardson was killed in action during World War Two and is buried in the Nederweert War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

Christine and George Ridley, of Haltwhistle, were shocked after hearing Jürgen Beekers was searching for information about Private Richardson, George’s brother.

Mrs Ridley was notified by friends someone was searching for information about her husband’s brother and immediately got in contact with Jürgen.

"I was really surprised, " she said.

"A friend at work was just browsing over Facebook and said is this your George? We printed it off and I showed George when I got home from work. He was so pleased."

Mr Beekers, 48, lives in Meijel, a village in the south-east of the Netherlands. In his spare time he volunteers for the Adoption Graves Foundation of the Nederweert War Cemetery.

He participates in a research group which investigates the soldiers buried in cemetery to try give each grave a face.

He was assigned to track down information about soldiers who served in the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division including Private Richardson.

Mr Beekers has adopted graves before but this case was a little bit harder.

"My search usually starts with a place name which is mentioned on the certificate of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission of the soldier in question,” he said.

"After this I go to Facebook and try to find an interesting Facebook group of the particular village or town. I then post my request for information on this Facebook-group as I did for example on the Facebook group "Haltwhistle Matters".

"With Richardson Ridley, however, things were a little different. Richardson's certificate did not mention a place name, only his age and date of death are mentioned.”

He said during previous researches he has enlisted the help of Sandra Pickles from Mirfield for help with researching family trees.

He added: “Through her I ended up in Houghton (Durham County) first and then in Northumberland. However, I didn't know where in Northumberland to look yet. I had therefore posted a message on the Facebook group “Durham and Northumberland Ancestry”.

“Here I got important information from Vicki Rodger and Mona Lott. It turned out that, according to the 1939 census, Richardson lived in Eals Farm, a hamlet between Haltwhistle and Knarsdale. In the meantime I myself found Richardson's name at the Memorial Cross in Haltwhistle and the War Memorial in Knarsdale. So in my opinion it could not be otherwise that Richardson came from Haltwhistle and the surrounding region. After this I posted my request for information on the Facebook-group Haltwhistle Matters and to my surprise I was in contact with Christine Ridley within an hour.

"I am very pleased to have come into contact with Christine and George and the rest of the family. I understand from Christine that they do not have much information regarding Richardson's death, but that the need for this information, especially with George, is very great. I myself have quite a lot and detailed information about Richardson's death at my disposal which I will forward to them.

"I feel really honoured to be able to do this for them. Also the heart-warming reactions of the members of “Haltwhistle Matters” give me a lot of satisfaction for the work I spend on the research."

Mr Beekers has asked The Ridleys for various information and a photo of Private Richardson to which he will put into a document including a description of the battle in which he was killed. This document will also contain various photos, such as of the Nederweert War Cemetery, of the battle in which Richardson was killed and the War Memorials on which Richardson is named. It will also be kept on the archives.

Mrs Ridley added: "George and the family are really looking forward to find out more. It’s such good and exciting news."