A REDEDICATION service marked almost ten years of work by families to identify graves.

Michael Hands and his wife Pamela of Bidford-on-Avon scoured through thousands of documents and contacted several groups to identify an unmarked grave as Mr Hands' uncle Frank Hands who was killed in Belgium during the Second World War.

Mr Hands and his extended family went over to Belgium to see the rededication service for Frank, who was part of the Royal Air Force.

Frank, who was also from Bidford-on-Avon, was reported missing in the Evesham Journal on May 13, 1940.

Mr Hands said: We have been trying to prove that it is Frank in this grave for nearly ten years.

"The rededication service was very special and it was a fitting tribute to his sacrifice."

Frank's aircraft, the Bristol Blenheim was lost on May 13 1940 with two others also losing their lives, and having their graves rededicated.

The service, organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), part of Defence Business Services, was conducted by The Reverend Doctor (Flight Lieutenant) John Harrison, Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

Louise Dorr, JCCC said: "It is thanks to research by members of the families of the crew that this grave has been identified after all these years.

"We’re delighted to have so many of them with us today from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand as well as the UK.

"It’s wonderful to have met them and been able to learn about their families and what it means to them to finally know what happened to their relatives and where they are buried.”

Reverend doctor (Flight Lieutenant) John Harrison said: "A true privilege. Three families brought together after 77 years of searching and loss. A very moving ceremony in a quiet sunlit space. A real honour for me as an RAF Chaplain”

JCCC understand that the aircraft crashed at Neerwinden in Belgium and local records shown that the crew’s initial burial site was in a field at Kempinberg on the day they died.

They were re-interred on 3 July 1941 in Neerwinden and later transferred to the new Neerwinden church in 1952/53. In 1954, they were moved again and finally buried in Hotton War Cemetery where they have lain as unknown airmen since.

A statement on behalf of the families said:"To have the opportunity to be present and lay a wreath together on behalf of all family members present was very moving. This is the final chapter of our brave boys’ story and a fitting tribute”

Almost 77 years to the day after they died, their collective grave has been rededicated and a new headstone bearing their names has been provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.