DNA testing is set to start on the bodies of soldiers uncovered in a mass grave in northern France, which is thought to include the brother of a former Mayor of High Wycombe.

Scientists started digging up the grave near the town of Fromelles, thought to contain between 250-300 soldiers from Britain and Australia, in May.

It is thought many of the fallen who were buried after the battle of Fromelles in July 1916 are from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

Preliminary tests show scientists can get enough DNA from teeth and bones to match them to their living relatives, and group testing has been organised for people over the next few months.

Peter Lance, the great-nephew of Frederick Lance whose brother Charles was mayor in 1946, has offered to give his DNA to help identify his uncle's body.

He said: “It's great news they are able to get DNA from these bodies. I'm planning on taking a trip over to see the graves and the museum they have there soon.

“I'm very hopeful they will be able to identify him. It will be good to be able to bury him in a proper grave with his own name on it.”

The project is the largest to identify people killed in combat ever undertaken.

Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said: “This is an important step forward in the process of trying to identify the WW1 soldiers buried at Fromelles.  “DNA is just one part of the identity puzzle and our experts will be examining all available evidence in their attempts to confirm the identities of these men.  “Each one of these soldiers will be laid to rest with the dignity they deserve and we owe it to them to do all we can to identify them.”

A panel is being convened in March 2010 to look at the DNA results and piece together the identity of the soldiers.

A full list of soldiers declared missing after the battle is available at http://www.cwgc.org/fromelles/. Anyone who thinks their relative may be in the grave can contact the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre by calling 01452 712612, extension 6303, or by emailing Fromelles@spva.mod.uk.