RFA West Lancs Bdes
681622 GNR. F. KEELEY. R.F.A.
Fred Keeley was born in Wolverhampton in the second quarter of 1893. His father was Thomas Keeley (b. 1860 in Dumfries), a carriage maker working at the Norton factory in Wolverhampton. His mother was Elizabeth Simpson (b. 1860 in York). Tom was born in Scotland where his mother was staying with relatives, in fact he was brought up in Yorkshire and he and Elizabeth were married in Tadcaster in 1883. They had 11 children but sadly lost 6 in infancy. The survivors were: Arthur (b. 1887), Mabel (b. 1889), then Fred, then Maggie (b. 1897) and Doris (b. 1901). The family moved from Yorkshire to Wolverhampton just before Fred was born and in 1911 they were living at 369 Dudley Road, Wolverhampton. Fred was an enameller in the Norton factory. Tom died in 1911, a couple of months after the Census date.
Fred enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery, probably in 1916, and was assigned service number 681622. He was among a number of men with service numbers from 681595-681625 who all came from Wolverhampton and who were posted to “B” Battery of 286 Brigade, but at some stage Fred was transferred to “A” Battery of 94th Brigade. 94th Brigade came under orders of 21st Division. In 1917, they had fought during the Arras offensive, including the First and Third Battles of the Scarpe, and during the Third Battle of Ypres they had fought at Polygon Wood, Broodseinde and the Second Battle of Passchendaele. In 1918, they were engaged in the First Battle of the Somme (the German Spring Offensive) and Fred died of wounds near Pozières on 22 March 1918. He was 24 years old.
Service No: 681622
Date of Death: 22/03/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “A” Bty, 94th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 7 to 10.
Cemetery/Memorial: POZIERES MEMORIAL
Fred’s brother Arthur also gave his life during the War. He was 33549 PTE. A. KEELEY, of 8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment. Before the War, Arthur was a men’s hairdresser. He originally enlisted in the Gloucester Regiment with service number 4868 and was posted to 3/5 Battalion. I don’t know when he was transferred. 8Bn Devonshires came under orders of 20th Brigade in 7th Division. 7th Division was featured in the famous contemporary film of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and they were very active in 1917: in the pursuit of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line, then in the Arras Offensive and then in the Third Battle of Ypres, at Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and then the Second Battle of Passchendaele. It was here that Arthur was killed, on 26 October 1917. He was 30 years old. (There are some mistakes in the CWGC record: they show his service number as 33594 and his date of death as 20 October, I have corrected them here. At the time, his death was presumed. His body must have been found and identified some time later as he now has a grave).
Service No: 33549
Date of Death: 26/10/1917
Regiment/Service: Devonshire Regiment, 9th Bn.
Cemetery/memorial reference: VIA. K. 18.
Cemetery/Memorial: HOOGE CRATER CEMETERY