Leonard Keen was born in neighbouring Stewkley in September 1882. Initially he took up the area’s traditional job of agricultural labourer, but later moved to Essex and was working as a bricklayer’s labourer in November 1904 when he joined the Rifle Brigade aged 22. In early 1905 he was transferred to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers of the Army and at the time of the 1911 census was serving with them in Transvaal, South Africa.
The battalion stayed in South Africa on garrison duties until early 1914 when they returned home to Gosport in Hampshire. Leonard promptly married a Stewkley girl, Daisy Elizabeth Keen (there are a LOT of Keens in Stewkley, not to mention Keens marrying Keens, so I’m not sure exactly how Leonard and Daisy might have been related), prior to the outbreak of war. The battalion mobilised quickly when war broke out and 8456 Lance Corporal Keen arrived in Le Havre, France, on 14 August. He took part in the retreat from Mons and battles of Le Cateau, Marne, Aisne, La Bassée, Messines and Ypres where he was killed in action on 11 November 1914 (presumably in the battle of Nonne Bosschen). He was three days short of 10 years’ service with the Army. In his will, dated the day he arrived in France, he left everything to his wife, then of Chapel Lane in Stewkley. According to the report of his death in the Bucks Herald, he also had one child.
Leonard is commemorated on the war memorials (there are two, one outside at the intersection of High Street and Soulbury Road and one inside St Michael’s Church) in Stewkley and on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in France. And his connection to Wing? His mother-in-law, Sarah Ann Keen nee Syrett, was born in Burcott and after Leonard’s death his wife Daisy moved to Littleworth. The contact address given for his entry in the National Roll of the Great War is therefore Littleworth.
- 1891 census – RG12 piece 1148 enumeration district 19 folio 167 page 3 household 16 (Leonard) and RG 12 piece 1148 enumeration district 19 folio 176 page 22 household 143 (Daisy)
- 1901 census – RG13 piece 1358 enumeration district 13 folio 123 page 1 household 2
- 1911 census – RG14PN34977 RG78PN34977 RD641 SD2 ED7 SN9999
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1617137/KEEN,%20LEONARD
- WO96 Militia Attestation Papers
- WO372 Medal Roll Index card (as W Keen)
- De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour
- National Roll of the Great War, Section V Luton page 202 (as G.L. Keen)
- Soldiers Died in the Great War
- The Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum – http://www.rhf.org.uk/
- WO 95/1432/1 war diaries of 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers for Aug 1914 to Mar 1916 at https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7352090 are available for purchase, but I haven’t viewed them.