Research into war journals by Keighley writer

Keighley News: Sue Oakley, left, and Keighley Library customer support assistant, Angela Speight, with some of the First World War items unearthed at the library Sue Oakley, left, and Keighley Library customer support assistant, Angela Speight, with some of the First World War items unearthed at the library

A local historian is transcribing a Keighley News journalist’s First World War diaries so they can be read by all.

Hours of painstaking work by Sue Oakley will allow amateur historians and other local people to access a wealth of information.

The journals were written by Herbert France, a sub-editor and reporter on the Keighley News in the early part of the past century.

Mr France wrote a day-by-day chronology of the First World War, as well as detailed chapters about various aspects of life in Keighley.

In the collection – which numbers more than ten volumes – he also gathered photographs, newspaper cuttings and meeting agendas.

Miss Oakley came across the archives at Keighley Library as part of her work as the Bradford Council officer overseeing the Keighley Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).

She was seeking original photographs and blueprints of Victorian and Edwardian buildings that are being restored with THI funding.

Miss Oakley decided to transcribe Herbert France’s handwriting as a personal project. She said: “It’s quite difficult to read, but I thought it would be nice to write it up for people to see.

“Reading about the First World War is fascinating. It’s very moving when you start relating things to where you’re living. I recognise a lot of places and people in these journals.”

The journals relate events such as Belgian refugees arriving in Keighley, attacks on German butchers shops in the town, fundraising to build hospitals and the effects of rationing.

Miss Oakley added: “Herbert picked up everything. There’s a lot of local history in there.”

Once the journals have been transcribed, a typewritten copy will be available to the public in Keighley Library’s local history department, and the work may be put online or published.

Andy Wade, from the Men of Worth Project that preserves the names of First Worth War soldiers from Keighley, said Herbert France’s archives offered a little-known treasure trove of information.

He added: “We will be researching them to glean valuable information about Keighley and the local area, around the Great War period.”

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