Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Admiral Sir Roger Keyes

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Roger Keyes was born on 4 October 1872 in India, where he grew up among the blaring bugles and parade ground noises of the North West frontier. As a small boy he told his parents “I am going to be an Admiral”

He joined the Royal Navy in 1885 and in 1900 was promoted to Commander for his bold action during the Boxer Rebellion in China. As Commodore in charge of submarines (1910 -1914) he was partly responsible for the British victory in the Battle of Heligoland Bight in August 1914. In 1915 he was chief of staff for the unsuccessful Dardanelles expedition.

In 1917 he was appointed to the command of the Dover Patrol. Keyes began to prepare operations for the blocking of the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend. On the first attempt, the mission to Zeebrugge was a success but the Ostend blockships ran aground before reaching their objective. Two weeks later Keyes sent HMS ‘Vindictive’ to Ostend, where its volunteer crew sank the ship in the harbour entrance.

Image:  Admiral Sir Roger Keyes.
Admiral Sir Roger Keyes.

After the war Keyes was knighted and was also given the Freedom of Dover. He held a number of commands, including Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean (1925 -29) and Commander, Portsmouth (1929-31), attaining the rank of Admiral of the Fleet in 1930. He was MP for Portsmouth from 1934 until 1943. Briefly, in May 1940, he returned to prominence in an attack on Neville Chamberlain’s conduct of World War 2. He was elevated to the peerage in 1943, taking as his title Baron Keyes of Zeebrugge and Dover.

He died on 26 December 1945 and that night in a radio broadcast to the nation Winston Churchill said:
“We have lost one of the great sailors of the Royal Navy, who embodied its traditions and renewed its glories. It was by men like him, in whom the fire and force of valiance burned, that our island was guarded during perilous centuries. The fame of Zeebrugge will hold its place among our finest naval actions.”
Keyes was given a state funeral in Westminster Abbey and after the ceremony he was taken to St James’ Cemetery, Dover. There, in the reddish glow of a winter’s sunset, he was laid to rest among his fallen comrades of the Zeebrugge Raid.



Image:  Shakespeare Cliff.transparent