STUDENTS and staff have collected the stories of soldiers who fought for their country in a new book.

Bedford High School has produced the lasting tribute which tells each individual history of past students who fought in the two World Wars to make the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The school’s war memorial contains the names of all those who fought in both wars and family historian John Medling has spent years painstakingly researching each of the names and has collated their often remarkable stories on behalf of the school.

“Family history has been a hobby of mine for 30 years now. When I retired I went to teach it to beginners in the adult learning centre at Bedford,” said John.

“I then helped in a project initiated by history teacher Helen Ball to research some of the former students.”

The production of the new book coincides with work current students at Bedford have completed about the First World War, some of which is on display in the entrance and hall.

John and Janet Evans, the relative of a former student who features in the book, were guests of honour at the school’s Armistice Day event and were both presented with a copy of the book.

Janet’s relative, Reginald Norman Trafford, kept a diary while fighting in France with the Northamptonshire Regiment in 1918.

His writings, which lay unread in a box in Janet’s loft for many years, give a valuable insight into the harrowing life of troops in the trenches.

The former Leigh Boys Grammar School (now Bedford) student was killed in action aged 19 close to the French town of Arras, after being severely wounded by an exploding shell in August 1918.

Other stories in the book include that of Leigh’s only Victoria Cross winner, Albert Wilkinson.

John said: “This feels like the end of a long journey but a very worthwhile one. I hope that when people read the stories, it will bring life to the names on the plaques as it did with me.”