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John Howard Keesey

Servicenumber : 199991
Rank : Captain
Regiment : Royal Army Medical Corps
Unit : Attached to 1st Airborne Division
Date of Death : 02-10-1944
Age : 28
Grave : Plot 8. Row C. Grave 1.
John Howard Keesey was a son of George Ernest Howard and Violet Marian Keesey. He was married to Susette Keesey (nee Harvey), of Glasshouse, Waterford, Irish Republic. His father was a Captain with the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade and he was killed in action on 24 August 1916 at the age of 30. He is buried in the Serre Road Cemeter No. 2 at the Somme, France.
John Howard Keesey was educated at Cambridge University and St Thomas' Hospital from 1937 till 1940.
On 4 September 1941 Keesey was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps.
According to the Roll of Honour published by the Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum (Jan Hey 2011) Keesey was shot by a German sentry while attempting to escape from an ambulance train at Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. He died of his wounds in Stalag IXB at Soltau. He was given a field burial in the local POW cemetery.
The author of the book Red Berets and Red Crosses, Niall Cherry, wrote about Captain Keesey. On pages 23 and 24 he wrote: "Two Companies of the 3rd Battalion, together with No 3 Section of the 16 Parachute Field Ambulance commanded by Captain J.H. Keesey left Bulford on Salisbury Plain where they were based at the end of October 1942 for Hurn Airfield in Dorset whilst the rest of the brigade travelled by train to Greenock in Scotland to sail under 'sealed orders'.
Meanwhile on the evening of 9 November the company group of the 3rd Battalion flew through the night to arrive at Gibraltar at dawn the next day. While the men rested at the airfield, the CO reported to the Garrison Headquarters where he was told that his small force was to leave immediately and seize the airfield at Bone.
The Dakotas in which this group were travelling were hastily refuelled and the men sorted into tactical sticks. On 11 November at 0430 hrs the first of the Dakotas took off for Maison Blanche airfield near Algiers. Upon arrival at this airfield at 0800 hrs it was found that one aircraft was missing and had crashed into the sea. Aboard the aircraft were Captain Keesey and two other RAMC soldiers. The men from this crashed aircraft were picked up by an American ship and rejoined their unit two months later, travelling via New York."
On pages 48 and 49 Cherry wrote about the deployment on Sicily: "Whilst the 1st Airborne Division was preparing for the invasion of Sicily, it was realised that 16 Parachute Field Ambulance was short of a few people for the envisaged tasks in mind. Consequently, on a parade, volunteers were asked for to temporarily join 16 Parachute Field Ambulance from 133 Parachute Field Ambulance. Corporal F.J. Pimperton remembers this parade and recalls that every single man on parade volunteered. Fred's two friends were chosen: Wally Smithson and Bob Baldwin but he was not. Unfortunately Wally Smithson never came back but Bob Baldwin did.
Each 'medical' stick comprised seventeen men. The personnel involved included No 3 Section under Captain J. Keesey with sixteen men.". On 12 July 1943 the Brigade took off and flew to Sicily: "No 3 Section were dropped either side of the River Simeto, about five miles west of the objective. Staff Sergeant Stevens and four men landed on the south side of the river, while Captain Keesey and the remained of the section landed on the north where the equipment containers also landed. The party were joined by some 'lost' members of the 3rd Battalion and they made their way along the bank of the river, but as they did not meet any other troops they were forced to hide up as a nearby bridge was in enemy hands. They were not able to report into Brigade HQ until the night of the 15th."
During Market Garden Captain Keesey was attached to 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment. On page 106 Cherry wrote about the St Elizabeth's Hospital in Arnhem: "The reception was run by Captain Lawson of 133 Parachute Field Ambulance and the wards were supervised by Captain Keesey (Section Officer 16 Parachute Field Ambulance attached to 3rd Battalion) who had both managed to slip into the hospital on Tuesday 19 September."
The website marketgarden.com published the memories of Captain Redman of 133 Parachute Field Ambulance. He mentions Captain Keesey in his memories: "During the second week, on 2nd October, the Germans ordered us to prepare 250 wounded for evacuation to Germany by train. Despite delaying tactics and Martin's protests about sending wounded in cattle trucks the train eventually departed with medical officers Captains Keesey, Lawson ad Simmons and dental officer Captain Ridler on board. I learnt later that instead of being allowed to circulate through the train as Colonel Zingerlin had promised the medical and dental officer were locked in their own wagon. Accordinly, as they would not be able to attend the wounded they decided that they would escape, drawing lots for one to stay behind: this lot fell to Captain Simmons and the other three jumped the train. Captain Keesey was shot dead by one of the guards but Captains Lawson and Ridler made good their escape."
 Picture: 29-10-2016
At the going down
Of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them
Sources: Website CWGC, Red Berets and Red Crosses, website www.kingscollections.org, website www.unithistories.com , website www.marketgarden.com and Roll of Honour


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