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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Admiral Sir Roger Keyes

Roger Keyes was born on 4 October 1872 in India, where he  grew up among the blaring bugles and parade ground noises  of the North West frontier. As a small boy he told his parents  “I am going to be an Admiral.”   He joined the Royal Navy in 1885 and in 1900 was promoted  to Commander for his bold action during the Boxer Rebellion  in China. As Commodore in charge of submarines (1910 -  1914) he was partly responsible for the British victory in the  Battle of Heligoland Bight in August 1914. In 1915 he was  chief of staff for the unsuccessful Dardanelles expedition. In 1917 Keyes was appointed commander of the Dover Patrol.  He began to prepare operations for the blocking of the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend. On the first attempt, the mission to  Zeebrugge was a success but the Ostend blockships ran  aground before reaching their objective. Two weeks later  Keyes sent HMS ‘Vindictive’ to Ostend, where its volunteer  crew sank the ship in the harbour entrance. After the war Keyes was knighted and was also given the  Freedom of Dover. He held a number of commands, including  Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean (1925 -29) and  Commander, Portsmouth (1929-31), attaining the rank of  Admiral of the Fleet in 1930. He was MP for Portsmouth from  1934 until 1943. Briefly, in May 1940, he returned to  prominence in an attack on Neville Chamberlain’s conduct of  World War 2. He was elevated to the peerage in 1943, taking  as his title Baron Keyes of Zeebrugge and Dover. He died on 26 December 1945 and that night in a radio  broadcast to the nation Winston Churchill said: We have lost one of the great sailors of the Royal Navy, who  embodied its traditions and renewed its glories. It was by  men like him, in whom the fire and force of valiance burned,  that our island was guarded during perilous centuries. The  fame of Zeebrugge will hold its place among our finest naval  actions. Keyes was given a state funeral in Westminster Abbey and  after the ceremony he was taken to St James’ Cemetery,  Dover. There, in the reddish glow of a winter’s sunset, he was  laid to rest among his fallen comrades of the Zeebrugge Raid.  
Keyes's Grave in the Zeebrugge Plot, St James's Cemetery. The Zeebrugge Plot, St James's Cemetery. Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, 1918.