Thomas Henry (Tommy) KEILLOR

KEILLOR, Thomas Henry

Service Number: 6558
Enlisted: 3 November 1916, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 26th Infantry Battalion
Born: Caboolture, Queensland, Australia, 14 June 1890
Home Town: Caboolture, Moreton Bay, Queensland
Schooling: Camp Flat State School, Rocksberg School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Wounds, France, 9 August 1918, aged 28 years
Cemetery: Vignacourt British Cemetery
V A 7,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Caboolture District WW1 Roll of Honour, Caboolture War Memorial, Holland Park Mount Gravatt Roll of Honour, Ipswich Soldier's Memorial Hall Great War, Upper Caboolture Rocksberg School Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

3 Nov 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 6558, 26th Infantry Battalion, Brisbane, Queensland
7 Feb 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 6558, 26th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
7 Feb 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 6558, 26th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Wiltshire, Sydney
24 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 6558, 26th Infantry Battalion, Menin Road
5 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 6558, 26th Infantry Battalion, German Spring Offensive 1918

Help us honour Thomas Henry Keillor's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Ian Lang

 
KEILLOR  Thomas Henry  #6558  26th Battalion
 
Tom Keillor, like his younger brother Robert (see above) was a farmer from Caboolture. At the time of his enlistment on 3rd November 1917; Tom was 26 years old, married to Dorothy. Tom spent some time in a depot battalion at Enoggera before being allocated as a reinforcement for the 26th Battalion. He boarded the “Wiltshire” in Sydney on 7th February 1917, setting aside 3/- of his daily pay to his wife.
 
Upon arrival in England Tom, as was the fate of many of the Australian reinforcements, spent some time in hospital with mumps. Training continued in the 7th Training Battalion at Sutton Veney until October when Tom was posted to his battalion.
 
The 26th Battalion, part of the 7th brigade of the 2nd Division AIF, had been in action in the Ypres sector for three months and with the closing down of the front for winter of 1917/18, was enjoying a period of rest and reorganisation. Tom would have been a welcome addition to the numbers of the 26th which had taken a battering at Passchendaele. The winter sojourn for the Australians lasted until the 21st March 1918.
 
When the German spring offensive began in March 1918, the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions remained in the Messines / Ploegsteert area to meet any offensive operations in Flanders while the other three divisions were sent hastily to the Somme and the defence of Amiens. As the situation around Amiens grew more serious, the 1st and 2nd Division were also sent south to defend Amiens and halt the German advance. The 26th Battalion arrived on the outskirts of Amiens at the beginning of April and was moved around considerably as part of the divisional reserve to meet expected attacks. The German advance was finally halted on 25th April at Villers Brettonneux by two battalions from the 13th and 15th Australian Brigades.
 
In order to give his brigades time to consolidate their positions, Monash ordered a period of “peaceful penetration” during May and June. Battalion raiding parties patrolled aggressively at night taking prisoners and capturing weapons. Sniping was also encouraged during the daylight hours. Small scale operations were undertaken to straighten the line or eliminate opportunities for the Germans to overlook the Australian positions.
 
One such operation would cement Monash’s reputation as an outstanding battle field commander. On 4thJuly, two brigades of Australian infantry which included the 7th brigade and the 26th, supported by tanks, artillery, aircraft and a company of the Illinois National Guard successfully attacked and held the high ground at Hamel, just to the north of Villers Brettoneux. Monash had planned for the entire operation to take 90 minutes; it in fact took 93 to take as much ground as would have cost tens of thousands of casualties over several months back in 1916.
On 14th July, during a routine “peaceful penetration” operation, troops from the 26th Battalion came across an abandoned A7V German Tank. The tank, named Mephisto, had been abandoned after it fell into a shell hole. A large operation was launched to tow Mephisto back behind the Australian lines. In recognition of the efforts of the 26th Battalion Queenslanders who rescued the tank, Mephisto was shipped to Queensland in 1919 and has become the Queensland Museum’s premier attraction.
 
By the end of July 1918, it was obvious to the British Field Commanders that the German offensive had run out of steam and was floundering to maintain a dominant position. The time to drive home the advantage had arrived. On 8th August, a massive British attack was launched over a wide front. The attack utilised most of the tactics that Monash had deployed at Hamel a month earlier and succeeded in driving the German defenders back some 15 kilometres into open country. All five Australian Divisions spearheaded the attack which would be come to be known as the “Blackest Day” of the German Army.
 
As the men of the 26th Battalion walked with bayonets fixed behind the creeping barrage, the mist cleared and the sun shone on a rare sight, an entire army moving forward. Unfortunately, such victories come at a cost. For Tom Keillor, the cost was a severe shrapnel wound to his side. He was transported to a Field Ambulance by stretcher bearers and from there was taken in a motor ambulance (Monash used the model of a taxi rank in Melbourne to organise his ambulances) to the 61st Casualty Clearing Station. Tom Keillor died of his wounds the following day, 9th August. He was buried at the Vignacourt Military Cemetery with a clergyman in attendance.

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Thomas Henry Keillor was the son on John Campbell Keillor and Emily Frances Sampson. He married Dorothy Gwendoline Thacker Riddell the day after he enlisted in November 1916. Thomas was raised in the Rocksberg area and farmed at Caboolture, Queensland when he enlisted in November 1916. He died of wounds from shrapnel received while fighting at the Somme. His younger brother, Robert Errick [2832] had been killed earlier in Belgium.

Biography

Father John Campbell Keillor (b. 1861 - d. 1936) and
Mother Emily Francis Keillor (nee ________)  lived on a farm outside (Upper) Caboolture.

One of five sons.

Siblings:
Sister:     Helen Campbell Gibbings (nee Keillor) (b. 9/9/1886 - d. 7/5/1976 - Mt Thompson Memorial Gdns)
               m. Richard Saxon Gibbings (b.1879 - d. 1948)
Brother:   Robert Errick Keillor (b. 1896 - kia 31/7/1917)
Brother:   George Francis Keillor (b. 1905 - d. 1998)
               m. Evelyn May Devantier Keillor  (b. 1910 - d. 2006)

Married to Mrs Dorothy Guendoline Thacker Keillor
                living c/o F Riddell, Simpson Street, Ipswich, Queensland.

Next of kin in service:
Brother:  2832  Robert Errick Keillor
              19 years old, enlisted 29/12/1916.  Killed in action (KIA) 31/7/1917

Prevously served in:  3rd Infantry.

Described on enlisting as 26 years 5 months old; married (no children); 5' 7 1/2" tall;
138 lbs; fresh complexion; grey eyes; brown hair; Church of England.

3/11/1916    Enlisted in Brisbane
                   completed medical - fit for service

30/1/1917    Commanding Officer appointed Thomas to 19th reinforcements,
                   26th Battalion, Rifle Range

7/2/1917      Embarked on board HMAT Wiltshire A18, departed from Sydney
                   as a Private in the 26th Infantry, 19th reinforcements

11/4/1917    disembarked into Devonport, England

15/6/1917    Sick to hospital (mumps) - Parkhouse  (to 5/7/1917)

17/10/1917  proceeded overseas to France, ex Southampton, England

24/10/1917  taken on strength into 26th Battalion, Belgium

The 26th battalion fought in the battle of Menin Road, and participated in the capture of Broodseinde Ridge on 4/10/1917.

Like most AIF battalions, the 26th fought to turn back the German spring offensive in April 1918, and in the lull that followed mounted “peaceful penetration” operations to snatch portions of the German front line. In one such operation in Monument Wood on 14/7/1918 the 26th Battalion captured the first German tank to fall into Allied hands - No. 506 “Mephisto”.

Later in the year the 26th participated in the great offensive that began on 8/8/1918.

8/8/1918     Wounded with Allied howitzer shell - injuries to both legs and left Axilla
                  (stated by OC of 61st Casualty Clearing Station)
                  admitted to 61st Casualty Clearing Station

9/8/1918     7.10am died of wounds   (28 years old)
buried by:    Reverend G A B Boycott (from 61st C.C.Stn)
buried in:     Plot 5, Row A, Grave 7
                   Vignacourt British Cemetery, Vignacourt, Picardie, France

Medals:
British War medal (55936); Victory medal (55056); Memorial Plaque and
Memorial Scroll (348907).

On behalf of Thomas's great-niece Leigh E Chester-Master (nee Keillor).

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan.  28/1/2015.  Lest we forget.

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