Francis Edgar (Eddie) KEAST

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KEAST, Francis Edgar

Service Number: 6822
Enlisted: 8 March 1917, Cairns, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 25th Infantry Battalion
Born: Charters Towers, Queensland, 22 July 1890
Home Town: Cooktown, Cook, Queensland
Schooling: Charters Towers School
Occupation: Miner
Died: Killed in Action, France, 10 June 1918, aged 27 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Most probably one of 10 graves marked "A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR 25TH BN. AUSTRALIA INF"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

8 Mar 1917: Enlisted AIF WW1, Cairns, Queensland
14 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 6822, 25th Infantry Battalion
14 Jun 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 6822, 25th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Sydney

ln search of my grandfather

As a boy during the 1960's l fondly remember my father's participation at various remembrance services in the cold and often foggy April mornings in Canberra. He was a one of the "Rats of Tobruk", an original member of the 2/15th Battalion
2nd AlF. Every year we, as a family, watched on as this group of local men held their annual service at the Australian War Memorial (AWM). A week later and we were again there for Anzac Day.

I especially enjoyed Tobruk Sunday as afterwards we would wander the halls of the memorial without the crowds of Anzac Day. Eventually we would always alight onto the upper levels and the Roll Of Honour. We would pass along the
wall of bronze panels stopping at the section displaying members of the 2/151h Battalion 2nd AlF. My father always stopped, and looked on quietly at some of the names he knew. Next we moved across to the WWI section where he
would reach out and touch the panel of the 25th Battalion 1st AlF, it read F.E. Keast, his father. A father he never knew.

As is often the case, it was the passing of my much loved father in 1990 that awakened a desire in me to discover the farther he never knew, my grandfather. With the advent of the internet and its support by the Australian War Memorial
and the National Archives I was soon in possession of the war service records for No. 6822 Francis Edgar Keast and also the War Diary of the 25th Battalion 1st AlF. I found reference to my grandfather in the embarkation list as part of the 20th Reinforcements departing Sydney, HMAT - A20 Hororata on the 14 June 1917. He was listed Killed in Action on the 10th June 1918 at a place called Morlancourt.

I was quite disappointed to find there was no grave site mentioned and suddenly my search appeared to end. Through film I had learnt of the horror that is war and realised that the demise of my grandfather was part of it. I took solace in
knowing that his name is forever brazened on the panel at the AWM and I also discovered, it is on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France. In 1995 on a trip to Cooktown where my father was born, we visited the James Cook Museum and I was pleasantly surprised to find F.E. Keast on the WWI Roll Of Honour.

In 2008 I was starting to plan the proverbial holiday of a lifetime, a trip to the UK and Europe. It was suggested that I included a battlefield tour of France to perhaps give some closure to my search. This reignited my search.

I revisited my grandfather's war service record to determine where he may have served in France. I unearthed a small entry that I had previously missed which referenced the British Beacon Cemetery, Sailly-Laurette, France. Would it be
possible to visit?

The 25th Btln war diary listed 41 men killed in the action of the 10th June 1918. I found further information about the event from a recent book by Bob Doneley, Black Over Blue, The 25th Battalion AlF at War 1915-1918. l used Google Map
to find and even view the cemetery online. Through more searching I was able to locate on the internet a list of all those interned at the British Beacon Cemetery including dates of death and military unit. There were 31 members of the 25th
Btln whose names were listed and 10 other burials attributed to a possible member of the Battalion but with no name, all with the same date, the l0th June 1918. While I could never be 100% sure, I felt that I had probably found my
grandfather's resting place and certainly those of his comrades.

All that remained was to sign up with one of the many tour companies which specialise in tours of the battlefields. We selected Cobbers Battlefield Tours, operated by Colin Gillard, as it advertised small tour groups. We were delighted to be in a group of just five people. Their service includes tailor-made tours, so I asked to visit British Beacon Cemetery, Sailly-Laurette. In every region we visited Colin gave us a very precise commentary of the events. On day two as we were driving down a country lane, my viewing of Google Maps proved successful as I recognised the cemetery. The others in our group happily shared with me a sombre moment as I wandered along the neatly manicured rows of headstones,
stopping to read and photograph some. Afterwards we visited the large Australian cemetery at Villers Brettoneux, a must for all Australians visiting France. Like my father before me, I reached out and touch the engraved lettering which read - KEAST F.E. For me it was a very moving experience and the end of my journey to find my grandfather, my father's unknown father.

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Biography

Francis Edgar Keast - "Eddie" was born to a minig family. His parents were Francis Albert Keast and Angelina Snell of Charters Towers, Queensland.

He married 22 Dec 1914 to Emma Welsh and they had a son Francis Lawrence born 17 Jan 1916. They moved to Cooktown, Queensland to Emma's mothers house while Eddie was off mining at Charters Towers and also Duchess near Mt Isa.

He enlisted in 1917 departing for England in June and then to France in 1918. He was KIA on 10th June 1918.

British Beacon Cemetery, Sailly-Laurette, France.  Most probably one of 10 graves marked  "A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR  25TH BN. AUSTRALIA INF"

ROLL OF HONOR.

KEAST.- In loving memory of my  dear husband and daddy, Private F. E. Keast (Eddie) killed in action somewhere in France, 10th June, 1918. Greater love hath no man than this, That he laid down his life for his friends. (Inserted by his loving wife and little son, Lawrence).

ROLL OF HONOR.

KEAST.- In loving memory of our dear son and brother, Private Francis Edgar (Eddie), killed in action somewhere in France, June
10th, 1918. "His duty nobly done." (Inserted by his loving father, mother, sisters and only brother, Corporal Percy Keast (on active service))

ROLL OF HONOR.

KEAST.- In loving memory of my dear son-in-law and brother-in-law, Private Francis Edgar Keast, killed in action 10th June, 1918. Nobly he did his duty, Bravely he fought and fell, But the sorrow of those who mourn him, Only aching hearts can tell. (Inserted by A. Welsh And family, Cooktown).

ROLL OF HONOR.

KEAST.- In loving memory of my dear friend, Private Edgar Keast, killed in action somewhere in France on June 10th, 1918. May his soul rest in peace. (Inserted by his loving friend, Jack Hayes)." - from the Charters Towers Northern Miner 10 Jun 1919 (nla.gov.au)

 

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