Regiment or Ship: Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment; 19th Bn. Manchester Regiment
Service Number(s): 456
Date of Birth: January 1895
Place of Birth: Bexhill on Sea, Sussex
Date of Death: 27.03.1918
Place of Death: France Place of Burial / Memorials:
Pozieres Memorial, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.
Address: The Lodge, Little Common, Bexhill on Sea
Photos and newspaper articles
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Parents: John Keefe (b. 1859) and Augusta Keefe (1864-1932). John was the Managing Director of a public company dealing in photographic equipment.
Siblings: Dudley, b. 1891; and Roma Augusta (1903-1984).
Raymond’s probate records show that he left £168-2s-0d to his mother, Augusta.
First World War Experience
Raymond enlisted on 24th April 1916 and fought in France. The following article appeared in one of Bexhill’s local newspapers
“Capt. Keefe’s Heroism
How He Fought and Died
We announced in our issue of Saturday last the death of Capt. R. C. M. Keefe, M.C., of the Manchester Regiment (youngest son of Mr John Keefe, formerly of Little Common) who was killed in action on March 27th last, at the age of 27.
The record of Capt. Keefe’s military career is a glorious page of gallantry. The narratives given below tell how he fought and died, how he killed a Hun sentry and escaped capture, of swimming a river holding up his servant who could not swim, and of leaving his trench amid a hail of machine gun fire and bringing back safely a wounded man.
Mr John Keefe has received the following graphic details of Captain Keefe’s last fight from Captain Norman S. Ince, of the …. Manchesters, who is home wounded. He writes:
“Col. Macdonald has written asking me to write and let you know some details of the fight near St. Quentin up to the time I left. First of all I must say how awfully sorry I was to hear that Captain Keefe had been killed. He was a great friend of mine, and we were in the last battle together up till the day I got hit.
You will remember that the battle started on the 21st March.. The … Manchsters were in the front line positions, and to put it briefly most of them are prisoners. Very few got back, and their positions were captured after a hard struggle on the first day. On the second day the Germans came up against our front positions held and B and D Companies. Captain Keefe was then acting second in command and was with headquarters, which were situated in the Redoubt held by my company. B and D Companies held back the Germans for the morning of the 22nd, and I understand that B Company even counter-attacked when they had captured one of their positions and drove them out again. Most of B Company, including all the officers, are prisoners, as far as I know. Of course, many would have been killed, too, I suppose, but very few got back to us. C Company were thus surrounded and captured. During all this day Captain Keefe was in a big tree observing from an observation post that had been made in the tree. He stopped up there observing even when the Germans were shelling the place heavily. Eventually he came back to headquarters, and at about 4 pm we were subjected to a very intense bombardment by heavy guns. This lasted an hour or more, and then we were able to see the Germans coming over, but still some distance away. I went back to headquarters to report this. Capt. Keefe at once came up and joined me, and we saw that all preparations were complete to give the Huns a hot time before they got to our wire. At about 5pm or soon after they attacked us, and came in very strong force. Our men killed a lot of them, but they were too strong, and penetrated into the front trench of the redoubt. I was with Captain Keefe all this time, and we endeavoured to stop our men retreating further than to the back of our redoubt, and we formed our line in the last trench of the redoubt, and then a regular fight started. Capt. Keefe was absolutely wonderful, and showed the greatest bravery, as he always did.
After some ten minutes of a furious duel with rifles and machine-guns, as the Huns did not seem to mind it, Capt. Keefe jumped out on top and walked about telling the men to prepare to counter attack over the top with bayonets and try to drive them back. All this time he was a target for the Boche machine guns and rifles, and by a miracle was not touched. We did a counter attack, led all the way by Capt. Keefe, and we had to advance about 150 yards. We got to within 50 yards of the Huns but they did not retire, and I fear killed and wounded many of my men and the attack fizzled out. We then withdrew to the same trench and carried on firing, and I am glad to say doing a certain amount of damage until our ammunition was nearly exhausted, and then Capt. Keefe and I decided that sooner than be taken prisoners we would retire. We eventually got clear of the redoubt and found that the Germans were right round on the flanks and had penetrated to a distance of two miles on one side, and we found after retiring two miles that a Hun battery was lined up and firing right behind our old position. I did not see Capt. Keefe again that night, as he went off to visit the headquarters of another regiment, and heard when I next saw him that he had a very exciting time that night, and was very nearly captured, but got away by shooting a Hun sentry and running for it. He was a most brave man and a wonderful fellow to be with in action. If everyone was like him the war would be over now. It was a great help to me to have him with me in the redoubt, as it needed a strong man at the head of affairs at that critical time.
On the morning of the 22nd Capt. Keefe went up to visit B and D Companies, which was a very dangerous proceeding, as the shelling all round and between us was very heavy. He was always so cheerful in it all, and laughed at danger. He set a very fine example to all the men and other officers.”
In another letter received from France it says: “Many say that Capt. Keefe earned the V.C. many times. On one occasion he let all go by him and then swam for it, holding up his servant, who, of course, couldn’t swim.”
His chaplain writes that “just before Capt. Keefe was killed by a shell in the trenches he went out of the trench amid a hail of machine gun fire and brought back safely a wounded man.”
Raymond was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal – together with his Military Cross.