Private 799488 Alfred Charles Keay

Keay Alfred 96 675x450
Keay Alfred Zivy Crater 96
The commemoration plaques are on both sides of the Cross of Remembrance.

Killed in Action on Monday, 9th April 1917, age 19.
Commemorated on Panel 5. Col. 1. at Zivy Crater, Thelus, Pas De Calais, France.

18th Bn., Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario Regiment).

Son of Henry and Emma Keay, of 14, Malaga St., London Rd., Manchester, England. Born at Ocker Hill, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Ocker Hill, Enlisted: Toronto, Resident: Toronto.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on Commonwealth War Graves site.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/4013915/

Genealogical Data

Alfred Keay was born 18th October 1896.

1901 Census
6 Leabrook Road, Ocker Hill, Tipton, Staffs.
Henry Keay (42, Puddler, born Dudley), his wife Emma (37, Greengrocer at home, born Dudley), and their 5 children: Elizabeth (14, born Tipton), Joseph H. (12, born Tipton), Thomas (10, born Tipton), Alfred C. (4, born Tipton), and Emma (1 month, born Tipton).

1911 Census
10 Leabrook Road, Ocker Hill, Tipton, Staffs.
Henry Keay (52, Puddler, born Dudley), his wife Emma (46, born Dudley), and their 7 children: Elizabeth (24, born Tipton - she may have gone to Canada as she was next of kin in 1915), Joseph Henry (22, Electrical Apprentice, born Tipton), Thomas (20, Labourer, born Tipton), Alfred (14, General Labourer in Tubeworks, born Tipton), Emma (10, born Tipton), Edward (8, born Tipton), and William (8, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Alfred Keay first attested on September 1st 1915 in Toronto, Canada. He gave his next-of-kin as his sister Elizabeth Keay, living at 61 Hatherley Road, Earls Court, Toronto. Alfred was 18 years and 10 months old, 5 feet 7 inches tall with a 37½-inch chest, had blue eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion, and described his religion as Church of England. His occupation was stated as Labourer, and had not served in the army before, however he was an active member of the Militia.

Alfred attested again January 20th 1916 in the 134th Overseas Battalion (48th Highlanders). The reason his re-attestation is uncertain, but it is possible he had been discharged. This time he gave his own address as 61 Hatherley Road, Earls Court, Toronto, but next-of-kin was his mother Emma Keay, living at 10 Leabrook Road, Tipton. His occupation was now stated as Crane Driver, he was not an active member of the Militia, but had served 3 months in the in 84th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force – presumably following his previous attestation. Alfred was now 5 feet 7¾ inches tall with a 38-inch chest.

According to the Nominal Roll of the 124th (Canadian) Battalion, Alfred embarked on the S.S. 'Cameronia' from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on August 7th 1916.

Action resulting in his death

April 9th 1917 was the opening day of the Battle of Arras, this was the British and her empire’s northern contribution to the French attack in the Aisne sector. The day was an exceptional success at Arras, but the French attack was not the promised war-winning thrust, but a costly disaster which led to French mutinies.

At the northern end of the Arras attack, the Canadian Corps had a staggering success in capturing Vimy Ridge. This was the first time that all 4 Divisions of the Canadian Corps went into action together, and is celebrated as a defining moment in Canadian history.

However, the success of the opening day of the Battle of Arras did not lead to an allied breakthrough; later advances diminished until the battle drew to a costly conclusion in May 1917.

Alfred Keay was a Private in the Canadian 18th Battalion (Western Ontario Regiment). The 18th Battalion attacked south of Vimy Ridge, about 1.75miles from the Vimy Memorial, and mid-way between Neuville-Saint-Vaast and Thélus. Their start point was just about at today’s Zivy Crater where Alfred Keay is buried.

The following is extracted and summarised from the 18th Battalion War Diary.
Zero-hour was 5.30am. The Canadian artillery barrage commenced and the Battalion began their attack. The final Battalion Objective was a line of trenches approximately ½-mile east of the starting point.

Very little opposition was met in capturing the intermediate objectives. The enemy barraged ‘No Man’s Land’ for about 15 minutes, after which his artillery fire became very indiscriminate. At 6.05am, a message was received at Battalion HQ saying that the final objective had been captured and was being consolidated, the consolidation was complete by 10.50am.

Sergeant E.E. Sifton of the 18th Battalion won the Victoria Cross during the attack. A Machine Gun was holding up his Company and doing considerable damage. He single-handedly attacked the gun crew and bayoneted every man, but was fatally wounded during the act. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The 18th Battalion had approximately 2 Officers and 40 Other Ranks killed on April 9th. Amongst them was Alfred Keay who is recorded as having been "killed by a shell during an attack at Vimy Ridge". He was buried in Zivy Crater which is essentially a mass grave with 53 Canadian burials. It was a mine crater used for the burial of bodies found on the Vimy battlefield. The names of the men buried in the crater are inscribed on panels fixed to the boundary wall.

Newspaper Cuttings