World War II Victoria Cross Recipient. He received the award posthumously in June 1942 for his actions as a lieutenant colonel with the No. 11 (Scottish) Commando unit of the British Army on November 18, 1941 at Beda Littoria, Libya during World War II. Born in Aberdour, Fife, Scotland, he was the oldest son of British Fleet Admiral Roger Keyes. He received his education at Kings Mead School in Seaford, Sussex, England and Eton College in Eton Berkshire, England before entering military school at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, Berkshire, England. In 1937 he graduated from the Royal Military College with a commission as a lieutenant in the Royal Scot Greys cavalry regiment of the British Army. When Germany invaded Norway in 1940, following the outbreak of World War II, he saw action at the Battle of Narvik as the British tried to prevent the German Army from overtaking the entire country. In 1941 he joined the No. 11 (Scottish) Commando and was sent to the Middle East as part of Layforce, an ad hoc group of British commando units that participated in raiding operations in an effort to disrupt Axis lines of communication in the Mediterranean. He saw action in Lebanon, Syria, Crete, and Egypt. In November 1941 a plan was devised (codenamed Operation Flipper) to attack targets behind enemy lines in German-held North Africa, including the assassination of German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, commander of the Axis forces in North Africa, who was supposed to be at Beda Littoria, Libya. During the initial stages of the raid, a number of things went wrong and they were hampered by weather conditions. Upon entering the house where Rommel was supposed to be sleeping (it turned out that he was not there, but in Italy at the time), the element of surprise was thwarted when a sentry was shot and the noise aroused the rest of the guards, and he was killed at the age of 24. His Victoria Cross citation reads: "The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to the undermentioned officer: - Major (temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) Geoffrey Charles Tasker Keyes, M.C. (71081), The Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons), Royal Armoured Corps (Buckingham). Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes commanded a detachment of a force which landed some 250 miles behind the enemy lines to attack Headquarters, Base Installations and Communications. From the outset Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes deliberately selected for himself the command of the detachment detailed to attack what was undoubtedly the most hazardous of these objectives-the residence and Headquarters of the General Officer Commanding the German forces in North Africa. This attack, even if initially successful, meant almost certain death for those who took part in it. 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. By his fearless disregard of the great dangers which he ran and of which he was fully aware, and by his magnificent leadership and outstanding gallantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes set an example of supreme self sacrifice and devotion to duty." Additionally, he received the 1939-1945 Star, the Africa Star, the Military Cross, the War Medal (1939-1945), the Defence Medal, and the French Croix de Guerre. His Victoria Cross and other medals are on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum in London, England. (bio by: William Bjornstad)
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Thank you for your military service in World War II and for your courage and valor in time of battle. May you rest in peace. -
William Bjornstad Added: Jul. 23, 2015
What will it be when all the strife is over, And all Thy saints, now scattered far and wide, Shall be without one shade of variation, All like Thee, Lord, united by Thy side! -
David Martin Added: Dec. 26, 2014