The Keep Family 
The Keep Family
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Joseph Henry and George William Keep


When Joseph Henry Keep answered the call to enlist and fight for his country in the First World War, the Recruiting Sergeant asked him what his occupation was, Joseph replied that he was a shoe maker.  the Sergeant then produced some spring nails from his pocket and asked Joseph to show him how he would make a boot.  Instinctively Joseph threw the nails into his mouth, and the Sergeant stopped him straight away, and announced that he was now a member of the Royal Army Ordnance Corp.  Many other recruits were claiming to be shoe makers to avoid going to the front, so the small test was devised to see who was telling the truth.  A shoemaker always holds his nails in his mouth to free both hands to use them.  So Joseph spent the War Years doing his day job wearing a uniform provided for him. His brother, George William Keep, was a Lance Corporal in the Northamptonshire regiment. The photograph shows brother George on the left and Joseph on the right.

Lance Corporal George William Keep of the Northamptonshire Regiment (Left) and Private Joseph Henry Keep of the Royal Army Ordnance: 1914 - 1918

Brothers in Arms

George, whose letter home in 1945 is to the right, was a Surgical Technician and Medical NCO, S/Sgt, with the 115th General Hospital in England, France, and Germany and worked in wards of injured soldiers.  His duties as Surgical Technician included caring for these men by administering medicines, injections, and plasma and keeping medical records.  As Medical NCO, he interviewed technicians for placement and kept detailed personnel records.  His letter indicates that he was also an M. P. in Germany.  During the war, he attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., where he studied engineering, mathematics, and science as well as history and English.  His active service was from Feb.27,1943 to April 16, 1946.

Captain Douglas Scrivener Howard Keep


An account of the action of Douglas Scrivener Howard Keep, who was awarded the Military Cross MC, July, 1917, in WW I:


Captain, 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. Killed in action 14th July 1917 in France and Flanders. Age 24. Awarded the Military Cross MC.  Son of the late John Howard Keep and Mrs. Keep of Abbots Langley, Herts.  B.A.,Oxford. Royal Humane Society's Medal for life-saving.


 Buried in Reninghelst New Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen,Belgium. Grave III. F. 26   He joined the battalion at the outbreak of war and was gazetted a 2/Lt 16th September 1914.Douglas’ MC citation (issue 29837 of the London Gazette, dated 24th November 1916) reads: “For conspicuous gallantry in action.  He organised and led repeated bombing attacks on the enemy strong points.  On one occasion, with only three men and no bombs, he remained in close proximity to the enemy for one and a half hours.”  Douglas became the acting Captain of A Company on the 4th November 1916 and was later confirmed as full Captain from 28th October.  Having survived the 1st July 1916 and the Scwaben Redoubt assaults as well as the Ancre operations and the Arras battles, he was killed by a shell whilst his party of men buried cables on the West edge of Zillebeke Lake near Ypres.  His body was recovered, and he was buried on the 16th July with full military honours, which is recorded in the war diary.


Douglas' Obituary:


Douglas Scrivener Howard Keep of Broomfield Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, born 17 Jun 1893 in St. Leonards, Sydney Colony, and registered in 1893 in St Leonards, died 14 Jul 1917 in Belgium aged 24 during active service in WW I.   


Probate London 3 May to Agnes Rosa Keep widow. Effects 307 pounds 0s 8d.  The Langleybury War Memorial, situated in front of the Church of St Paul in Langleybury, is inscribed  “To the honoured memory of those brave men of this parish who gave their lives for their country and for the cause of freedom and justice in The Great War 1914 – 1918.  Their names liveth for evermore.”

Major Leslie Howard Keep


An account of the action of Major Leslie Howard Keep, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part in the action of September 21, 1918, at Ronssoy, France:


KEEP, Leslie Howard, M.C., Temporary Major, 7th Battn. Bedfordshire Regt. attached 2nd Battn.


At Ronssoy, on 21 Sept. 1918, he commanded the 2nd Battn. Bedfordshire Regt. with marked success.  His skill, energy and determination enabled his battalion to hold the ground they won under great difficulties, and to improve their position during the following night.  He made personal reconnaissance of the ground under constant machine-gun fire, resulting in the clearing up of a very involved situation.  Leslie won the D.S.O. for his part in the 28th September 1916 assault on the Schwaben Redoubt, the same battle in which his brother Douglas won his Military Cross. 


War Diary of The Bedfordshire Regiment 2nd Battalion in France 1918: "21 Jun 1918 Captain L. H. Keep M.C. granted rank of Major.  7 Jul 1918 Major L. H. Keep MC took over command of the Battalion.  Aug 1918 Bosche attacked our Line & penetrated into several positions. Major L. H. Keep MC in command of Battalion in the Line.  14 Aug 1918 Major L. H. Keep MC proceeded to Brigade as Acting Brigade Major.  17 Aug 1918 Battalion in same dispositions.  Major L. H. Keep MC returned from Brigade 7 Sep 1918.  Major L. H. Keep M.C. took over command of Battalion vice Lt. Colonel A. E. Percival DSO, MC to leave. Major L .H. Keep MC wounded & at duty.  Major L. H. Keep MC awarded D.S.O.


His death in 1922:


KEEP, Major Leslie Howard, D.S.O. M.C., son of the late John Howard Keep; b. 1886; ed. at Malvern; Major Bedfordshire Regt.; European War 1914-18 (dispatches, M.C., D.S.O.,; cr. D.S.O. 1919). Royal Automobile and Alpine Clubs. London Gazette 30 Jul 1919.


Born 05 Oct 1886 in Auckland New Zealand and died 20 Jan 1922 in Piz Muraigl Samedan near Pontresina Switzerland aged 35.  The cause of his death was a fall into a crevasse.  He and Bert Nathan both fell into a crevasse; but only Bert survived.  Probate London 20 July to Norman Howard Keep undergraduate and Basil Binyon company director.  Effects 31,500 pounds 11s 7d.  Debretts Peerage 1920 and 1921 Companionage.

Leslie Howard Keep and Douglas Scrivener Howard Keep
George Edward and James Derril Keep
Brothers George Edward and James Derril Keep
The military is noted for not always making the right connection between capability and assignment, but in Phil's case, they ultimately got it right.  In Britain, he would probably have been called a Boffin, a scientist or engineer who in World War II developed and worked on new military inventions or technology.   After receiving his commission in the  U. S. Navy, "I had expected to be assigned as a deck officer, but evidently the Navy saw that I had studied aerodynamics and thermodynamics and decided that aviation was a better fit."  He was assigned to Panama at an air station as a staff engineer working with aircraft being used to hunt for German submarines.


After 2 months of that, he and two friends requested a transfer to carrier duty, which was granted to the two friends but not to Phil.  Phil was assigned to another air facility in Brazil, again in connection with searching for German ships and submarines.  "The initial plan was to establish an overhaul and maintenance facility there for the planes, and I was to be assigned to that operation but the plan never developed.  Realizing that my potentials were not being utilized there, the Navy transferred me to the Power Division, Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, in Washington, D. C.  The Power Division was responsible for the development and procurement of aircraft engines, both turbojet and piston engines, for Navy military aircraft.  My most significant task was related to the last large scale piston engine developed in this country.  It was a Pratt and Whitney radial configuration design using 28 cylinders--4 banks of seven and rated a maximum of 3360 horsepower!" In addition, he was assigned as project engineer for several engines that were under development at engine manufacturing companies. By this time he had been promoted to Lieutenant JG and then Lieutenant.


After the war, Phil remained in the active reserves until retirement in 1962, during which time he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and then Commander.

Philip Keep, Naval Aeronautical Engineer

Arthur Joseph Keep served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.  He was a pilot in Bomber Command, 114 Squadron, and flew the Bristol Blenheim. The photograph shows him, third from the left with his flight crew and ground support staff.  When he went to enlist he stated that he wanted to join the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, but the Officer from Royal Air Force, talked him into joining them.  After completing his training and a few flights over Germany to drop propaganda leaflets, his squadron was posted to North Africa to give air support to the First Army fighting against the Afrikakorps.  In 1942 he had taken off for another bombing raid when one of his engines gave up. Faced with returning to base, he first had to jettison his bombs, and so he selected a road bridge as a suitable strategic target.  Once he had dropped his bombs he flew back to the airfield, but when in sight of it, his other engine gave out and he was forced to crash the plane. He was pulled from the wreckage by a local Arab, and another member of his crew was saved.  He was severly injured, with broken bones, burns, and bullet wounds from their ammunition.  As a result of the crash, he had to have a leg amputated.  After a long period of hospitalisation he was able to return home and adapted to his life, as did so many others.

Arthur Joseph and Frank Keep
Arthur Keep, who didn't smoke, shown holding cigarette third from left because the photographer thought it would look better.   The plane is his British Blenheim bomber.
The Blenheim Bomber
Brother Frank Keep, also in the RAF, was an armourer.

(Islington Gazette)


Holloway is Proud of Them


Every few days at No 146 George’s Road, Holloway, a party is being held by Mr. and Mrs. Keep to celebrate the return home of a member of their family. The reason is that there are about a dozen sons, son-in-laws, grandsons in the Forces.


Mr. Keep served in the last war, and so did his eldest son.


Arthur Keep, 41, is in the RAF, stationed in England. His brother Wally, 34, is in the Royal Artillery and recently came home for a few days leave. He is also stationed in England. The next brother is Gunner Edward Keep, 25, who came home a few weeks ago after five years in a German prison camp. He was captured at Dunkirk. When he arrived home he was greeted with an extra special party. 


Another prisoner of war now home is Sgt. William Speller, 28. He was taken prisoner at Anzio, and now has the chance to chat with Edward about his period of imprisonment in Germany


Driver Charles Lowe has seen action in France, where he was awarded the Croix de Guerre, but since returning from Dunkirk, has been in England.


This weekend another member of the family is expected to arrive home and arrangements are being made for further celebrates. He is Dvr. Walter Heine who has been in Italy for some years.


Flt-Sgt Harold Thear, 25, has been in the RAF for three years, and is now on flying operations in the Far East.


The Sailor


The sea-going member of the family is Royal Marine Fred Keep, grandson of Mr. Keep. He is 23, and came back from the Indian Ocean a few days ago. He has been in action at Malta, Russia, Norway, and Sumatra, and expects to add further honours to his list when he returns to his unit shortly.


Sgt. Mike Keep, another grandson, will probably be home within the next two weeks from Germany. Before going to Germany he was at Dunkirk, Italy, and Sicily.


Emmie Keep, Mr. Keep’s grand-daughter, is a corporal in the WAAF, and has seen four years service. She completes the family of fighting Keeps of whom Holloway is justly proud. 

Frederick George and Emily Keep, parents of this military family
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