THE fascinating story of a small village whose men all returned home safely from both world wars has been told.

In his new book Thankful and not so Thankful, author Gerry Lees contrasts the wartime fortunes of three North Lancashire villages - Nether Kellet, Arkholme and Over Kellet.

Nether Kellet is one of only 13 Doubly Thankful Villages to survive both conflicts without losing a single life.

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All 21 servicemen came home from the First World War, and all 16 survived the Second World War.

In a remarkable geographical coincidence, the rural community is just five miles from Arkholme, one of 54 Thankful Villages spared any losses during World War One.

In fact, Arkholme has the greatest number of survivors of any Thankful Village, with 59 names on the village church’s roll of honour.

Retired teacher Mr Lees, who has a holiday caravan at Crook O’ Lune, said any speculation that the villages’ men were posted to ‘pretty peaceful places’ out of harm's way was unfounded.

“I can only say it’s a historical accident,” he told the Gazette. “It’s just amazing.”

In his book, Mr Lees sets out to tell the story of the Great War through the eyes of the villagers who fought at battles such as Passchendaele, the third battle of Ypres, infamous for its heavy casualties and deep mud; and Messines, where the sound of exploding mines was so loud, it was said to have been heard by Prime Minister David Lloyd George at Downing Street.

Mr Lees has spent countless hours carefully researching the servicemen's lives, with help from genealogist Jan Tivey, using historical records such as census returns and The Westmorland Gazette’s archives.

His book also tells the contrasting story of Over Kellet, where ten young men were lost from its tiny population.

“I’ve had a strong interest and feeling for the First World War for many, many years,” said Mr Lees.

“These were people like you and me. Events were simply forced upon them.

“It’s about putting flesh and blood and real lives onto blank names.”

On the centenary of the Great War last month, a slate plaque was added to Nether Kellet's peace stone to mark its status as a Thankful Village. The phrase was first coined in the 1930s by writer Arthur Mee.

The centenary also saw Arkholme unveil a memorial dedicated 'for all who have lived and died in the service of others in war and peace'.

* Thankful and not so Thankful by Gerard Lees is available from Amazon, or by emailing thankfulvillages@hotmail.com