Keighley News man safeguarded history of town's wartime role

First published in Keighley by

THE survival of material documenting the Keighley area's role during the war owes a huge debt to the meticulous, unsung efforts of one man.

Herbert Arthur France was a sub-editor and reporter at the Keighley News in the early 1900s who clung onto a mass of pictures and memorabilia detailing the district's experiences of 1914 to 1918.

The archive he assembled over the years features a wealth of pictures showing soldiers, civic dignitaries and other residents of the town.

It also included items such as ration books, censor's stamps and postcards.

Praising Mr France's contribution, Andy Wade, of the Men of Worth military history project, said that he seemed to have never thrown anything away, and had preserved even the most minor of items to help give future generations an idea of what Keighley went through during the war.

As well as keeping hold of the pictures, Mr France composed a journal and put together scrapbooks, which contain dozens of meeting reports and newspaper cuttings from the war years.

He was born in 1872 and joined the Keighley News in 1905 following a stint at the old Keighley Herald newspaper.

He was a keen cricketer, a founding member of the town's branch of the National Union of Journalists, and was also interested in gardening, photography and stamp-collecting.

Even after he retired from the Keighley News in 1939 he continued to write a weekly column for the paper, drawing on his immense store of knowledge of the town's history and its personalities.

He died in 1941, and at his funeral service he was praised for his "True Christian missionary spirit."

His archive of material from the First World War was stashed away in boxes at Keighley Library, until unearthed by conservation expert, Sue Oakley, as part of her research into Keighley's historic buildings.

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