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Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon died in the front lines of WWI

By Phil Boucher
Updated November 06, 2015 04:50 PM
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Credit: Richard Pohle/WPA Pool/Getty

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Queen Elizabeth II has spoken for the first time about the 100-year search for the final resting place of her uncle, Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon.

Touring the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) unit based at Innsworth, Gloucestershire, on Thursday, the Queen paid tribute to the small team of military researchers who helped pinpoint her uncle’s grave in Vermelles, northern France, following extensive sleuthing from Bowes-Lyon’s grandson, James Voicey-Cecil, 59.

The seven-person team helps U.K. service families trace the final resting place of their missing loved ones and is currently handling 60 cases stretching back to WWI.

“Well yes, I think some of their work led to the discovery of where my mother’s brother fell,” the Queen told JCCC officials, reports the Daily Express.

Captain Bowes-Lyon was killed leading a 100-man charge on a heavily fortified German position known as the Hohenzollern Redoubt during the Battle of Loos in 1915. Tragically, the body of the Queen Mother’s elder brother was never found, causing considerable pain for the royal family.

Thanks to the historical detective work of grandson Voicey-Cecil – aided by second cousin Prince Charles and historian Christopher Bailey – Bowes-Lyon’s final resting place was recently tracked down to a mass grave in Vermelles through the help of a local villager.

Voicey-Cecil passed on these findings to The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the JCCC in 2011. A headstone carrying Bowes-Lyon’s name has since been erected on the site alongside the words “Buried near this spot.”

Yet this was just one of the historical surprises for the Queen during her visit. Dressed in a magenta and fuchsia dress by Stewart Parvin and a hat by Rachel Trevor-Morgan, the Queen was also reminded of Prince Philip‘s military service when she was handed the ship’s log of battleship HMS Valiant during the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941.

Philip, who was a midshipman on the British warship during WWII, was mentioned in dispatches during the battle for lighting up four Italian warships with the Valiant‘s searchlights. The warships – two cruisers and two destroyers – were later sunk by Allied forces.