ON the wall outside Penketh Library is a plaque to the 12 men of Penketh and Cuerdley who died in the First World War.

It was this plaque that provided the inspiration for a major piece of historical detective work that culminated in the production of a booklet not about 12 men but 41 in total

Susan Morris, Senior Livewire Advisor at Penketh Library enlisted the help of volunteers from Friends of Penketh Library for what was initially envisaged as a small-scale project aiming to 'bring to life' the histories of the Penketh and Cuerdley servicemen as a resource for future generations.

Susan and FoPL volunteers Mary Ross, Phillip Forshaw and Jane Love, planned to research three men each until it was pointed out that the war memorial in St Mary's Cemetery also contained the names of the fallen from Great Sankey, taking the total number of First World War dead from the area to 41.

Undaunted, they set about the painstaking task of tracking down all the histories.

Susan said: "Ancestry.co.uk is free to use in Warrington's libraries and that proved really useful as a starting point but it was the help provided by Phillip Jeffs from Culture Warrington that made the task so much easier."

Mr Jeffs, the town's archives and heritage officer, was able to point the team to the work done by the late David Forrest who had spent hours researching, indexing and cataloguing 'Warrington's Great War Heroes' from the pages of the Warrington Guardian published between August 5, 1914 and August 26, 1919.

That gave the FoPL team access to pictures of the men, stories of how they died and insights into their war records and family lives.

When grant money became available to produce a booklet as part of Culture Warrington's 'Back to the Future' project, the FoPL's work took on a new impetus in order to meet the funding deadline.

The team expanded. A graphic artist, a writer and designer and proof readers were drafted in to make sure the brochure got to the printers on time.

Susan added: "It turned into a community effort and everyone who took part felt it was a really worthwhile thing to do. We hope the booklet will be a lasting legacy and a fitting tribute to those from the area who died as a result of the First World War."

Mary Ross, said: "We were so moved by what we learned when researching the lives of these young men.

"It was heartbreaking at times."

As the project progressed, the researchers were contacted by some of the descendants of the servicemen which added even more detail.

Eventually the history of 40 men was chronicled but one man, Abel Seaman Joseph Fletcher, proved impossible to track down. Mary added: "Of course we still have one to find. I certainly won't forget him."

A copy of the booklet has been given to every school in Penketh and Great Sankey and it is available to borrow from Penketh Library.

The project has also inspired other First World War events.

In April, 41 pebbles – one for each of the servicemen – were painted and hidden around Penketh and there have been First World War-themed class and uniformed group visits to Penketh Library.

A poetry competition with a war theme was held in October for under 12s; the friends group produced a display replicating life in the trenches and groups have been encouraged to make a cross or a poppy which will be displayed outside the library.

The stories of the servicemen have also been posted on Penketh social media sites, one a day for the 41 days leading up to the anniversary of the Armistice.

LiveWire and Culture Warrington are encouraging schools, and community groups to become history detectives and research a local war hero, while also learning the skills of a historian.

Any groups wishing to take part can email Philip Jeffs at Warrington Library, who will help to get them started and will give tips on how to progress with the research.

Email pjeffs@culturewarrington.org.