b. 18/05/1917 Aberdour, Fife, Scotland. d. 18/11/1941 Beda Littoria, Libya.
Keyes was the oldest son of Admiral of the Fleet Roger John Brownlow Keyes, 1st Baron Keyes, a British naval hero in World War I and the first Director of Combined Operations during World War II. He attended Kingsmead School in Seaford, Sussex, Eton and the Royal Military College.
Keyes was a member of the MCC. Geoffrey Keyes was commissioned into the Royal Scots Greys. He saw action at Narvik and was later attached to No. 11 (Scottish) Commando, which was sent to the Middle East as part of Layforce.
Following the allied invasion of Syria on 8 June 1941, No.11 Commando were sent to successfully lead the crossing of the Litani River in Lebanon, fighting against troops of the French Vichy régime, during which Keyes played a leading part. In this operation, Keyes earned the Military Cross.
He led his detachment without guides, in dangerous and precipitous country and in pitch darkness, and maintained by his stolid determination and powers of leadership the morale of the detachment. He then found himself forced to modify his original plans in the light of fresh information elicited from neighbouring Arabs, and was left with only one officer and an N.C.O. with whom to break into General Rommel's residence and deal with the guards and Headquarters Staff. At zero hour on the night of 17th-18th November, 1941, having despatched the covering party to block the approaches to the house, he himself with the two others crawled forward past the guards, through the surrounding fence and so up to the house itself. Without hesitation, he boldly led his party up to the front door, beat on the door and demanded entrance.
Unfortunately, when the door was opened, it was found impossible to overcome the sentry silently, and it was necessary to shoot him. The noise of the shot naturally aroused the inmates of the house and Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes, appreciating that speed was now of the utmost importance, posted the N.C.O. at the foot of the stairs to prevent interference from the floor above. Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes, who instinctively took the lead, emptied his revolver with great success into the first room and was followed by the other officer who threw a grenade. Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes with great daring then entered the second room on the ground floor but was shot almost immediately on flinging open the door and fell back into the passage mortally wounded. On being carried outside by his companions he died within a few minutes.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: BENGHAZI WAR CEMETERY, BENGHAZI, LIBYA.
Geoffrey Keyes' medals including VC and MC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT VII, ROW D, GRAVE 5
National War Museum of Scotland
St Filians Church, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland
National Memorial Arboretum
Princess Street, Edinburgh
The House of Lords (Thomas Stewart)