Keeling, Frederic Hillersdon

Sergeant / Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry

1886 - 1916

Frederic Hillersdon Keeling was born 23 March 1886, the eldest son of Frederick John Keeling, a solicitor, of Colchester and Alice Keeling, nee Chapman. His younger brother, Guy William Keeling was also a Wykehamist, B 1903-1906.

Frederic came to Winchester College from Mr FE Rowe's school at Wokingham in September 1899 and was in B House, Moberly's. He spent three years in Sixth Book and became Commoner Prefect and Head of the House his last year, 1904.

In 1904 he was elected to a Minor Scholarship in History at Trinity College, Cambridge, which, two years later, was advanced to a Major Scholarship.

Although he was a committed socialist from an early age, it was at Cambridge that many of his more radical views were formed. He was a member of the Cambridge Union and formed the Cambridge University Fabian Society. On leaving Cambridge he took an active part in social work of many kinds and he was appointed manager of the Leeds Labour Exchange in 1910 and assistant editor of the New Statesman in 1913. He wrote several small books and pamphlets on social and employment reform and industrial regulation.

On the outbreak of war, Frederic enlisted in the 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He was several times offered a commission, but declined to take it. He was wounded at Hooge, on the Ypres Salient, on 29 July 1915, sustaining cuts around his head and neck and spent a week recuperating at a hospital in Boulogne. Shortly after this he was given the responsibility of running grenade courses, but was still finding time to write articles for the New Statesman opposing conscription. By the middle of December Keeling was acting as Sergeant-Major of a special grenadier company formed in his battalion.

He was killed in action on 18 August 1916 during the final stages of the fighting in and around Delville Wood, during the Battle of the Somme.  He jumped up on to the parapet of the trench to make sure the Germans were ahead and was caught by a bullet, dying instantly. His body could not be retrieved.

Frederic married Rachel Susanna Townsend in May 1909 and had a daughter, Joan, born later that year and a son, Bernard, in 1912, who later came to Winchester as a War Scholar (College 1925-1931).

Source:  Keeling: Letters and Recollections, edited by E.T., with an Introduction by H G Wells, was published by Messrs. Allen & Unwin. A copy is in Moberly Library.

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