- 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
- 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
- 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