THE story of the Bolton Wanderers footballers who went away to war is part of the town's folklore.

The hardback book which tells the story rapidly sold out a few years ago.

Now it is being published in paperback and BEN feature writer Frank Elson dips into it

Click HERE for nostalgic pictures from the war years

We'll play with our boots off!

IN 1943 an Iraqi football team due to play against a British Army team in Persia turned up without boots.

After a quick discussion the British Army team decided that, rather than risk injuring their opponents by tackling while wearing their boots, they would play in bare feet as well!

Naturally, with a team consisting mostly of former Bolton Wanderers players, despite their handicap, the British won.

That is just one of the extraordinary stories contained in the book "Wartime Wanderers" which chronicles the story of the 15 Bolton players who joined the Army en masse just before the start of the Second World War.

It is a story of bravery, of patriotism and of football.

And it is also the story of how, when faced with a morning dash across a frozen field for a shave and a wash, the fitter former Wanderers always won!

Now, five years after the publication of the hardback book written by Tom Purcell and Mike Gething, "Wartime Wanderers" is being relaunched as a paperback tomorrow -- the day before Armistice Day.

In early 1939 anyone with any sense could see that a war with Germany was almost inevitable. Britain was preparing for war, albeit a little late.

On Monday afternoon, April 10 1939, Sergeant Bill Killan was on duty at the Territorial Army recruitment office in Bradshawgate when the entire Bolton Wanderers first team, led by captain Harry Goslin, walked in and signed up for the 53rd Field Regiment of the Bolton Artillery.

It was a patriotic and brave move of course, but tempered with some common sense as the players were well aware that, if they waited for conscription, they could have been split up and sent wherever the War Office decided.

By joining together they virtually ensured that they would stay together in the same unit.

This they did. The 15 players who signed that day went through the war in the same unit -- although only 14 returned.

Written from first hand accounts, Army diaries and contemporary reports in the Bolton Evening News, "Wartime Wanderers" is a completely factual book that tells the story as it happened.

It is also the story of the younger Wanderers and club officials who were left behind, and of the pain and problems of trying to run a football league of sorts in wartime conditions.

It includes the story of a 14-year-old Nat Lofthouse who on Saturday was climbing a drainpipe at Burnden Park to catch a glimpse of his heroes and, the following Monday, was signing apprenticeship forms for the club.

The young man's confusion would be apparent to anyone. On the day he signed to play for the Wanderers, the entire team left to join the Army!

Dunkirk, El Alamein and the bloody fighting up the eastern coast of Italy are, to many of today's Wanderers fans, tales from the history books.

The Wartime Wanderers were there -- in the thick of the fighting, often covered in mud, baked by the desert sun but always, whenever and wherever conditions allowed, digging those football boots out of their kitbags and playing a game.

From a desert kickabout to an almost fully-fledged international match against the Polish Army, one thing is certain, never before, and almost certainly never again, has one British Army Unit been able to field such a strong Regimental Team!

The authors have also written a screenplay based on the book. Tom Clegg -- who directed the "Sharpe" films and the new "Uncle Silas" TV series with Albert Finney -- wants to direct. And actors Sean Maguire, Bradley Walsh and Tony Hadley have all said they would like to appear in the film.

The authors will be signing copies of the book at the Club Shop, Reebok Stadium at noon on Saturday, November 24. And Nat Lofthouse will also be present to sign copies

"Wartime Wanderers -- A Football Team At War" is published by Mainstream Publishing at £7.99, ISBN 1-84018-583-X.

Visit the Wartime Wanderers website by clicking HERE