OVER the weeks leading up to the commemoration of the "war to end all wars" Craven people have been delving into their collective past , exploring how great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers, their extended families and communities coped with the horrors and sadness of the First World War.

The anniversary of the start of the Great War in Britain , August 4, 1914, has seen people digging out documents handed down through families which had been left to gather dust, often untouched for more than half a century. It has even led to families learning for the first time of the full involvement of their relatives in the conflict.

It has spurred people on to make visits to the killing fields of Flanders and to the graves of the hundreds of thousands of young men who perished, many looking for the grave of their kinfolk or for their name chiselled on one of the many monuments of the soldiers whose bodies were never found. Many are making these pilgrimages for the first time ever.

Craven folk have taken on the commemoration with great enthusiasm and there has been a plethora of exhibitions looking at how the small communities coped with living throughout the war years and dealing with the tragedies.

A typical example of the thoroughness and commitment made to remember a community's involvement was the exhibition held in Hebden in the village institute.

Small population Hebden lost five of its sons - Benjamin Beaumont, aged 24; Arthur Newbould, 23; Robert Clement Perks, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and was also 23; Timothy Holmes Simpson, 20; and 25-year-old Thomas Whitehead.

They were among the 48 men who were killed in the conflict from the wider Craven area, including Skipton.

The exhibition was launched by recently ordained curate Heather Houlton, who made an introductory speech followed by a minute's silence.

It was followed by the reading out of the names of the other men from the village who had served in the war by Pat Hodgkin, chairman of the institute committee and her sister Heather.

On show was a christening gown worn by the four Longthorne brothers who became soldiers, were all wounded but survived the war.

The exhibition explored the lives of young men before they became soldiers, taking part in Primitive Methodist teas and concerts, in school concerts and it included a copy of a record kept by the late Claudine Buckman of Grassington, showing the dates of local men who died in France and a poignant note which read "Willie Oldfield blinded in France, April 1918".

She also noted that German prisoners of war came to work the land in September 1918, leaving for Catterick Camp a month later.

The organisers also used the opportunity of the exhibition to explore the contribution by Hebden people in the 1939-45 war, acknowledging the names of the three Hebden young man who died in that conflict; John Hammond Harker, Frederic Longthorne and John Brian Sturgeon.

On a larger scale was War Beckons, an exhibition at The Folly in Settle, which launched the district's commemoration of the start of the conflict.

It focuses on the early stages of the war and the effect it had on wider Craven such as in agriculture, industry and village life.

It has also looked at how the war impacted on local people, using research carried out by families and pupils at Settle College.

One student, Sophie Armitage, is now planning a visit to the grave of her great uncle in France on the 100th anniversary of his death.

She said: “Wearing a poppy means a lot more now having researched our own First World War family history. Knowing about someone who was involved makes it feel much more real.”

Folly curator Anne Read said they have been delighted with the very positive response to the War Beckons exhibition.

"We've already received additional information and promises of further material, which is exactly what we'd hoped for. It is very exciting to think there are still plenty of local stories to discover," she said.