by ehistoryadmin on April 12, 2014

Lance Corporal Joseph Keating, 6505, 1st Battalion Irish Guards. 

An Unfortunate Son

By Julie O’Donoghue

Joseph Keating was born in November 1896, the third son of farmers Garrett and Margaret Keating in Usk County Kildare.  Margaret Keating died in 1900 leaving a young family and the 1901 census finds Joseph living with his maternal grandparents Richard and Kate Whittle in Brewel East (Usk).  In the 1911 census he is back in the family home with his father, brothers Patrick and Richard, and sister Catherine. 

Joseph Keating was one of the 50,000 recruits raised in Ireland for the war between 4th August 1914 and February 1915.  According to his Service Record he joined the Irish Guards in the Curragh Camp on the 12th January 1915 for the ‘duration of the war’ and on his Attestation Form he describes himself as a ‘labourer’.  On January 13th, he was shipped to England to the Guards’ Depot in Caterham, Surrey.  He completed his sixteen weeks basic training in the old barracks at Warley, once used by the Honourable East India Company, and condemned as unfit to live in fifty years earlier.  The story is told of the Commanding Officer, asking about the offensive smell in the barracks, being told that it couldn’t possibly be drains because there weren’t any!  During his training period Joseph wrote several letters home to his sister Catherine enquiring about family members, friends and acquaintances from the district.  He tells her that should anyone be killed their parents will receive fifteen pounds according to his “Regimental paper”.  In the only letter addressed to his father he tells him that he is “listed in the Irish Guards and getting on pretty well … training for the front” and signs it “your Unfortunate Son, Joe Keating”.  A photograph taken in March 1915 shows him as a member of Corporal D. J. William’s Squad, Irish Guards.

Joseph joined the British Expeditionary forces to France on the 16th August 1915 and was wounded in action on the 27th September.  He arrived back in England on the 2nd October 1915 on the hospital ship the HMS Brighton to recover from a gunshot wound to the head and to be “fattened at Warley” for the front again.  While on leave he received fourteen days confined to barracks for the offence “Gambling in barracks” and another fourteen days on the 13th January 1917 for being “Drunk in the streets of Dublin when on leave”.  According to his Service Record he returned to France on the 23rd January 1917 and was appointed “unpaid Lance Corporal” 6th October 1917.  He was killed in action on the 5th December 1917, the penultimate day of the Battle of Cambrai.  He is mentioned as one of five Irish Guards killed on that date in Rudyard Kipling’s second volume of the history of the Irish Guards, ‘The Irish Guards in the Great War’.  His campaign medals include the 1914–1915 Star; British War Medal 1914–1918 and the Victory Medal.

In the aftermath of Cambrai the British gained some territory around Flesquieres but lost approximately the same amount to the south of the town.  British losses included 44,207 men killed, wounded and missing and German casualties have been estimated at 45,000.  Joseph Keating is remembered on the Cambrai Memorial, Louverval Military Cemetery in northern France.



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