Volunteers from Keighley rallied to defend their homes

Volunteers from Keighley rallied to defend their homes

A captured German gun being paraded through Keighley by the 6th West Riding Volunteers

Lord Harewood, Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding, comes to Riddlesden to inspect the Keighley and District Volunteer Training Corps

A tableaux illustrating artillery shell makers at work is paraded through Keighley as part of a procession organised by the 6th West Riding Volunteers.

First published in Keighley by

WHILE the activities of Britain's Second World War Home Guard are well known, the units formed to guard British territory in the the First World War have gained less recognition.

From late 1914 onwards the Keighley area had its own volunteer defence unit, set up

The Keighley and District Volunteer Training Corps was formally established at a public gathering attended by the town's mayor.

The unit's first drill session took place in Keighley Drill Hall on November 23, and on December 17 the corps staged its first route march, with 250 men marching to Steeton and back in pouring rain.

In June 1915, 400 men from the corps were inspected in Riddlesden, by Lord Harewood, who was then Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding.

It wasn't until February 1916 that the Government decided to give formal recognition and status to the volunteers.

Until then, much of the cash needed to fund the Keighley Volunteers had been raised locally. By March 1916 the Keighley Volunteers had spent more than £700 on uniforms, and had even managed to equip themselves with their own field ambulance.

More than £200 had also been spent on Martini-Henri rifles, and at least 13,000 rounds of ammunition were fired in training.

In March 1916 the unit's name changed to the 6th West Riding Volunteers. When they were inspected by a brigadier in April of that year, their strength totalled 444 officers and men.

In September 1916 the volunteers continued their efforts to drum up public support, by holding a successful military procession and demonstration, watched by thousands of local people.

As well as the 500 volunteers and cadets, the procession also included a German gun captured at Loos – the first war trophy exhibited in Keighley – and a tableaux illustrating girl shell makers at work. In Keighley Town Hall Square appeals were made to young men to join the volunteers.

The battalion continued its training, fundraising and recruitment right up to the end of the war, despite difficulties in keeping up its membership with increasing numbers of men being conscripted into the overseas armies.

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