Research into a First World War hero who won the Victoria Cross has brought together his two remaining relatives for the first time almost a century after his death.

South Ribble Borough Council’s publicity team researched Bamber Bridge mill worker, Corporal John McNamara who was awarded the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry during the conflict.

They traced his 89-year-old nephew, also called John McNamara who was living in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley.

It came as a complete shock to McNamara’s granddaughter, Stella Holmes who read the article believing she was his only surviving relative.

Now, the pair have been reunited for the first time at a special First World War production organised by the council called ‘Our Lives’.

Speaking of her surprise, great-grandmother Stella, from Leyland, said: “It came completely out of the blue.

“I received my copy of South Ribble magazine Forward through the door and when I opened it I was shocked to see my grandfather’s picture inside and a full story about his heroics.

“I couldn’t quite believe it when I then read about his nephew John – it’s strange to think we live so close to each other but yet never even knew each other existed.

“I was so excited to meet him. It was incredibly emotional.”

Stella had spent more than 20 years living in Africa with her family and had been researching her grandfather so she could pass down the information to her children and grandchildren.

She added: “My mother was only nine when my grandfather was killed in the war. She was one of his four daughters, but sadly only two of them survived.

“My grandmother would tell us that granddad had won the Victoria Cross.

“In fact, I only found out that he had a brother and sister when I went on a trip to France to visit his grave. To have now met John is just wonderful.”

Second World War veteran John said the reunion had also come as a complete surprise to him.

He added: “I haven’t lived in this part of the world since I joined the Royal Marines in 1942. I met my wife during the war and we settled in Bournemouth.

“I couldn’t believe it when they rang me to tell me about Stella. I had absolutely no idea about her or her family.

“It was so nice to meet her for the first time and we have exchanged telephone numbers so we can stay in touch.”

Leader of South Ribble Borough Council, Coun Margaret Smith added: “It is fantastic that our story has been able to bring these two together for the first time.

“We are working hard to ensure that the tremendous efforts of our residents both on the frontline and at home here in South Ribble are never forgotten.”