Images and information courtesy of Nick.
Born: 1897, Ipswich.
Died: 20th August 1915; age 18; Died of Wounds.
Enlistment Location: Colchester, Essex.
Rank: Private; Service Number: 2483
Regiment: Suffolk Regiment, 1st/5th Battalion.
Medals Awarded: Victory & British War & 1915 Star.
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of Robert Charles & Elizabeth Ellen Louisa Keeler, of 285, Bramford Road, Ipswich.
Brother to FREDERICK JAMES KEELER.
1901 47, Elliott Street, Ipswich.
Ernest was 4 years old and living with his parents & brothers.
Robert Charles Keeler, 38, a Postman, born Wood Dalling, Norfolk.
Elizabeth Louisa Ellen Keeler (nee Richards), 36, born Ipswich.
Frederick James Keeler, 12, born Ipswich.
Alfred Keeler, 9, born Ipswich.
1911 285, Bramford Road, Ipswich.
Ernest was 14 years old, a Boy Clerk – Solicitors Office.
Robert, 48, a Town Postman – Post Office.
Frederick, 22, a Postman – Post Office.
Alfred, 19, a Shop Assistant – Grocer.
Stanley William Keeler, 9, born Ipswich.
left to right back row Ernest, Frederick, Alfred, front row Elizabeth, Stanley (my grand father too young to participate) Robert. (my Great Grand Father) Alfred survived the war but I have the following information on him:
“Alfred was the second of four Sons of Robert Charles and Elizabeth (Richards) Keeler. He was born on September 5, 1891. In the 1911 Census he was a Shop Assistant in a grocers and was living with his parents at 285 Bramford Road. He married May Alice Moore on April 29, 1915, and they had a daughter. May was born on May 18, 1891 (ref June 1891 Ipswich 4a/911). Alfred served in the First World War in the 5th Provisional Cyclist Company (part of the Suffolk Battalion). His number was 2001 and he reached the rank of Lieutenant Corporal. He discharged from the colours on 20th April 1916 and his discharge papers state that he was ‘No longer physically fit for war service’. His discharge papers also state that he was a Grocers Assistant on enlistment and describes him as 5 feet 10 inches of sallow complexion with blue eyes, fair hair and a mole on right lower eyelid. They also state that ‘has served with the colours in the 5th Provisional Cyclist Company for after one and a half years during which time he was found to be :- Honest sober and trustworthy of a quiet disposition charm and intelligent. Tactful and of great discretionary powers’.
Ernest Robert Keeler was my Great Uncle and I have pulled together the following information which I hope you find useful in providing context:
“Ernest Robert Keeler was born 23rd January 1897 in Ipswich, Suffolk, the third son of Robert Charles and Elizabeth (Richards) Keeler. In the 1911 Census he was a boy clerk in a solicitors office aged 14. He enlisted as Private 2483 in the 1/5th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment at the beginning of the First World War, in Colchester according to Army records. (The 1/5th Battalion Territorial Force was part of the Suffolk Regiment, which also included the 1/4th Battalion and was part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade which comprised the 54th (East Anglian) Division. The 1/5th Suffolk’s together with the 1/5th Norfolk’s and the 1/8th Hampshires formed the 163rd Infantry Brigade).
He was involved in the Gallipoli campaign and the 1/5th Battalion embarked on to the S.S. Aquitania (one of the largest Liners afloat built in 1914 at Clydebank for the Cunard line, she was almost 45,000 tons and 866 feet in length), at Liverpool on the 29/30th July 1915, they sailed at 11 p.m. Previously they had been training at Watford. They passed Gibraltar on August 2nd at about 4.30pm, they arrived at Mudros Harbour on the Island of Lemnos at 8 a.m on the morning of 6 August. They stayed in the port there for three days, then transferred to the vessel H.M.S Fauvette and sailed at 3.40 p.m on the 9th August to Imbros Harbour where they spent the night. They arrived at Sulva Bay on the 10th August and landed at “A” beach, and received orders to move forward to prolong the right flank of the Lancashire Fusiliers, who’s trenches were on the south face of Karakol Dagh.
Between the landing place and the Kuchak Anafarta Ova (Ova = plain) lay a very difficult and intricate country in which it would be almost impossible to avoid intermixture of units and confusion before the final attack on the morning of the 13th. Accordingly, it was decided to send the 163rd brigade forward on the afternoon of the 12th to clear this area of any enemy detachments in it, and to establish itself about the Kuchak Anafarta Ova, thus enabling the main attacking force next morning to get so far on its way to the ridge without the confusion which must result from having to fight its way through a country of small fields surrounded by deep ditches and high hedges, with forest in the background. To add to the difficulties of the 163rd brigade, its orders were generally to clear the country, and no definite objective was assigned to each unit. The orders were to clear snipers out of the scrub, advance to the alignment of the 53rd division, and fill up the gap between it on the right and the 10th division on the left, and dig in for the night. Picks and shovels were issued before moving off. The 54th was ordered to advance a mile to the foot hills of the Tekke Tepe and on the afternoon of the 12th of August at 4 p.m., the naval bombardment covering it having started slightly earlier, the 163rd Brigade started towards its objective some huts a mile ahead of its outpost line. The order of battle was 1/8th Hampshire (centre) 1/5th Norfolk (right) 1/5th Suffolk (left) with the 1/4th Norfolk behind left in support. Also in support an 18 pounder battery, 2 mountain batteries, and naval guns. As the brigade advanced it at once encountered serious resistance, and came under heavy machine-gun fire enfilading it from the left, and shrapnel on the right. The machine-gun fire was the more effective in stopping the British advance, and the 5th Norfolk battalion on the right began to get forward quicker than the left and lost touch with the front line many penetrating deep into Turkish positions and were overwhelmed. (This unit is perhaps better known as ‘The Vanished Battalion’, as most of them perished in this ill-conceived attack on 12th August 1915 at Suvla Bay). The battalion had now advanced some 1,500 yards from the jumping off point and held this position for an hour before retiring some 200 yards to a more defendable position. At the end of the main action the 1/5th Suffolks had suffered heavy casualties with 11 officers and 178 NCO/ soldiers either killed or wounded and 6 officers and a large number of N.C.O’s and men were evacuated to hospital (20). It is presumed that Ernest was wounded in this action.
After he was wounded it appears that he was shipped out to Malta to received medical treatment (his army records state that he died of wounds). According to Nigel McCrery in ‘The Vanished Battalion’(20a) “the day following the battle, 13th August, a hospital ship containing about 40 wounded Norfolks sailed first to Imbros and then on to Malta, arriving on the 17th. Major Purdy, anxious for news of the battalion, searched the ship for his men. From number one platoon he found Coleman, Bullock, Strong, Keeler and Bircham. After arriving in Malta the men were transferred to St Andrews Hospital. The hospital stood on top of a hill north-west of Schliema”. Ernest died on the 19th August 1915 and was buried the following day in Plot 268 of the Capuccini Naval Cemetery, near Valetta, Malta. His parents were living at 285 Bramford Road, Ipswich at the time. “
Ernest is also remembered on SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL ww1 Memorial, Ipswich.
Suffolk Regiment, 1st/5th Battalion:
10.08.1915 Landed at Suvla Bay and engaged in various actions against the Ottoman Empire. 07.12.1915 Evacuated to Mudros due heavy casualties from combat, disease and severe weather.
Suffolk Regiment, 1st/5th Battalion