Corporal John Henry Keys


John Henry Keys was born on 18 January 1888 at Cullen, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, the first of six children of herd Thomas Keys and his wife Margaret (née Gott). At the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Roosky, Rahaltown, County Fermanagh, with his uncle, farmer James Keys, and two aunts, and working as a general labourer.

Keys enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron between 19 and 26 October 1914 (No. UD/59). On 6 October 1915 he embarked for France with his squadron, which was then serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

On 18 November 1915 he was promoted to lance corporal, and on 10 April 1916 to corporal.

According to the squadron war diary, on 6 March 1916 Keys was sent to the 36th Division Anti-Gas School for a course of instruction, later giving a 'good lecture' on the subject in the sergeants' mess.

On 20 July 1916 the Belfast News-Letter reported that he had been wounded. This probably occurred during June.

In June 1916 the Inniskilling squadron joined with C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps. In August-September 1917 the Regiment was disbanded and its men, following training at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur, were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including Keys, were transferred on 20 September and posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt. Keys was issued regimental number 41502 and was posted to C Company.

He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

Keys was captured, unwounded, on 27 March 1918 at Erches, near Roye, at the end of the 9th (NIH) Battalion's fighting withdrawal from St Quentin during the German spring offensive, when much of the battalion was overwhelmed by the fast-moving German advance. He remained a prisoner until the end of the war, held at camps in Cassel and Münster in Germany. He was repatriated in late December 1918 or early January 1919.

On 1 April 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.


This page last updated 10 February 2023.