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Born 10 November, 1922, Sheffield, Tasmania, Australia

Rowan Keep's oldest known ancestor is Stephen Keep of Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, England, who was baptized there on 3 February, 1771.


During World War II, Rowan was working on the family farm with his father Burt at Nook, an area a little to the north of Sheffield, and about 35 km south of Davonport.  The area is located in the northern part of Tasmania..


They had been growing flax which was harvested and sent to a nearby factory at Latrobe for processing--mainly for rope in those days.  When it was harvested, it was just stacked on the back of the dray not in stooks (as wheat is) as the heads of the flax would stick together.



Rowan was conscripted by the Australian Army early 1942 and he went to army camp at Brighton, Tasmania.   Without Rowan's assistance, his father was not able to grow flax anymore as he had a bad ankle and relied on farm help.  The timing of Rowan's departure to camp coincided with the flax planting season.


After a short while Burt received correspondence from the authorities asking why he was not growing flax that year.   His response was "you took my right hand man away from me."  Next thing the family knew, Rowan was discharged and sent back home, and they got on with growing flax until they sold the farm in 1945.



Jimmy Aitken, neighbor, driving the binder - Rowan in the light coloured hat.

Flax loaded on the truck ready to transport to factory

(Neighbors Cliff Cornelius and Duncan Aitken)

From about 1906, Rowan’s father, Burt, was a member of the Tasmanian Light Horse and Mounted Infantry, which began as the Campbell Town Volunteers in 1844.  The unit was disbanded in 1943. 


In 1909, Burt was a member of No. 3 Squadron, winner of the Cameron Cup that year.  It involved competition in rifle marksmanship and hurdles.  The Troup Team, of which Burt was a member, consisted of one officer, one non-commissioned officer, and 12 men.  The course of the competition was 1 3/4 miles in length, three obstacles to negotiate, consisting of flights of hurdles 3 feet 6 inches in height.  Targets were located at three firing points approximately 400, 600, and 800 yards, firing at each distance dismounted.  Teams were judged on shooting, style, time, and turnout.

Winning No. 3 Squadron showing member Burt Keep, Rowan's father, bottom row left.  Also shown are Burt's cousins Sydney Smith, middle row center, and Alec Carey to his left.

Australia's part in WW2 was quite vast and suffered heavy losses, and many things have only just come to light.  For instance - I had no idea until recent years that Japanese planes were flying over Bass Strait, which is the bit of water between Tasmania and the southern part of the Australian mainland.  My father was in the Air Force and was based in Bowen, north Queensland, for the last 3 years of the war.  These planes would patrol the Coral Sea and they suffered a heavy loss in the Coral Sea Battle.  We discovered in more recent times that mustard gas experiments were conducted in Bowen.  Even if the men were not aware of this, they certainly would have been in close contact with the gas. Dad never spoke of this though.  One of his brothers was in Papua New Guinea and then Darwin in Northern Territory when they were both bombed.   His other brother would never divulge what he did and where he was based, and his war records are classified.  His family are unable to obtain all but the records from the first year of the war.  All three returned home and never spoke of their experiences, although a year or two before dad died he did tell us a few things.  The brother whose records are classified came home in a very emaciated state, and although he lived to 93 he was a sickly man. (His son was conscripted into the Vietnam War and at age 66 was suffering horribly from the effects of agent orange.)  War of any sort is just such a shocking waste of life.                                                                         

                                                                                                 Betty Keep

                                                                                                 Wife of Rowan Keep 


Photo included in Tasmanian Light Horse, 1844 - 1943 by Doug Wyatt, OAM, RFD www.