THE grave of three Bolton brothers who died in World War One was accidentally uncovered when a handyman cleaned the wrong headstone — on the same day war started 100 years ago.

Bradshaw grandmother Margaret Gillard employed handyman Raymond Lord to clean and restore the graves of her parents and her sister in Tonge Cemetery.

Mr Lord set about his task last Monday — the day of the World War One centenary commemorations — and after cleaning Mrs Gillard’s parent’s grave, he accidentally identified the wrong headstone when moving on to clean her sister’s grave.

In a poignant coincidence, Mr Lord realised he had restored the headstone of three young Bolton brothers who all gave their lives fighting in the conflict which began in 1914.

The grave belongs to the Blackledge family, including father Miles, who died in 1934 aged 68, and mother Maria, who died in 1942 at the age of 79.

Tragically the couple outlived their three sons who according to the grave, all lost their lives fighting in World War One.

Thomas Blackledge was killed in 1915 at the age of 22, brother Miles died in 1917 at the same age and the youngest brother Robert was killed in 1918 at just 19 years old.

An inscription on the headstone describes the youngsters as “beloved sons — who were all killed in action in the Great War.”

Mrs Gillard, aged 77, who lives in Bradshaw Hall Fold in Bradshaw, said: “I wanted to get my family’s graves sorted because it had been a good few years since they were tidied.

“I got Mr Lord to do it and he did a brilliant job on my parents’ grave, but then he accidentally did the wrong one when he went to do my sister’s headstone — which is located in a different area of Tonge Cemetery.

“When I saw the grave he had cleaned had the names of three young men who died in World War One, I couldn’t believe it — and he had done it on the day of the 100th year anniversary.

“I have three grandsons who are similar ages to those boys and I just keep crying every time I think of those poor boys; it’s terrible what happened.”

Mr Lord, who is aged 57 and lives in Harwood, said he was “very pleased” that he made the mistake.

He said: “I’m glad that this grave has been restored, although it was an accident. Those lads deserve proper recognition and its really poignant that it was that day that I did it.”

“I realised pretty quickly that it was the wrong grave but I felt that as I had started it, I should finish — and I’m very pleased that I did.

“Maybe someone with a connection to the family may see it.”