An amateur diver who unearthed a ring which had been buried for nearly a century has amazed a war hero by reuniting him with the priceless family heirloom.

Retired Brigadier Malcolm Cubiss, 78, from Tockwith, near York, was astounded to receive a call from diver Peter Brady telling him that he had found a gold engagement ring while diving off the Orkney islands - which belonged to his uncle, Ernest Stanley Cubiss.

Tragic Ernest had been given the ring as a token of love from his sweetheart, Florence, before the First World War.

But the brave Navy man died in January 1918, aged just 25.

His craft, HMS Opal, ran aground along with HMS Narborough off the coast of Orkney in a fierce snowstorm, with the loss of 188 men.

On a routine dive in September, company director Peter initially thought he had found a part of the doomed ship's machinery - but on further inspection found the gold ring, which was inscribed: "To Stanley from Flo, March 1916."

Together with engineer pal Bob Hamilton, who was also in the water that day, the pair eventually tracked down Malcolm, after trawling the internet and travelled to York with the precious ring.

Grandad Malcolm, who lives in Tockwith with his wife Wendy, 61, said: "I received a call out of the blue telling me that divers had found this ring which had been salvaged from the wreck of HMS Opal. The second they mentioned the Opal I knew what they were talking about, because I knew my uncle had died on that ship.

"Although I was born 12 years after my uncle died, he is often spoken of in the family and I know the tragedy of the Opal very well. They came to show me the ring and I was astonished. It's a million to one chance.

"Florence gave it to my uncle in 1916 and they were married the following year, but of course you would assume it had been lost forever when the ship went down. It's a wonderful link to my past."

Peter, 51, said: "I saw something half-buried beneath the sand and thought it may have been an olive' - part of the ship's plumbing.

"But when I got to the surface I realised it was a ring and it was perfectly preserved."

Bob, 61, said: "The only person with eyes sharp enough to read the ring's inscription was my wife, Sue. We then knew we had some physical contact with someone who had died on one of the ships, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

"We decided we had to locate the descendants of the ring. We scoured the internet and found a casualty list for the HMS Opal. There were two Stanleys on the list, but one - Ernest Stanley Cubiss - was described as the husband of Florence Cubiss, so we knew it had to be his ring.

"The list mentioned that he was the son of a couple in Keighley, but we could find no trace of the Cubiss family there so widened the search to the whole of Yorkshire, and there was Malcolm Cubiss near York."

Malcolm has now decided to donate the ring, along with family photographs of Ernest and Florence and their wedding certificate, to a naval museum in the Orkneys which commemorates the tragedy.