Private Charles Frederick Keen (14787)

9th Bn, The Worcestershire Regiment, 39th Brigade, 13th Division, M.E.F.

Malvern Commemoration: Holy Trinity North Malvern,

Burial/Commemoration: Helles Memorial Turkey

Nature of Death: Killed in action Gallipoli 7/8/1915

Age: 20

Next of Kin: Son of Frederick John and Louisa Keen of Thornloe Cottage, Belvoir Bank, North Malvern

Previous Employment: Employed at Messrs W&J Burrow on Belle Vue Terrace

Capbadge of the Worcestershire Regiment

Early years

Charles Frederick Keen was born in 1895, the first child of Frederick Keen, a painter and his wife Louisa.  He was christened at St Peter’s Church, Cowleigh on 22nd September 1895. 

In March 1901 the Keen family were living at Kemmerston Cottages, North Malvern Road, Charles had been joined by a younger sister Lydia and two-week old Henry.  With the formation of the Boy Scouts in 1908, Charles became a prominent member of the 1st Malvern Troop. 

Ten years later, the family had moved a few doors down to Rock Cottage on North Malvern Road.  Charles had left school and was employed as a grocer’s errand boy.  By the outbreak of the war, Charles was employed at Messrs W & J Burrow on Belle Vue Terrace, bottling Malvern Water from St Ann’s Well.  

An advertisement form Messrs W & J Burrow's Malvern Water.

An advertisement form Messrs W & J Burrow’s Malvern Water.

First World War

In the early months of the war, Charles Keen joined the Worcestershire Regiment.  After training, he was posted to the 9th Battalion, a Kitchener Battalion.  They formed part of the 13th (Western) Division and were sent to the Dardanelles.  The Division landed at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula on 4th July 1915, Charles among them, in preparation for the Battle of Sari Bair (The August Offensive) beginning on 6 August.  

The Battle of Sari Bair

The Sari Bair is a great mountain-mass rising from the sea coast to a height of nearly a thousand feet.  Seen from the sea its crest line is formed by a ridge which rises into three distinct summits.  The main (north-eastern) peak was known by Allied troops as Hill 971.  At the south-west is a lower peak, Chanuk Bair.  Midway between these two peeks is a third peak, known to the British as “Hill Q”.

A John Player's cigarette card illustrating the 13th (Western) Division.

A John Player’s cigarette card illustrating the 13th (Western) Division.

The plan was for Anzac troops to outflank positions Sari Bair over Chanuk Bair and for 13th Division, as part of a composite force with other troops, including Gurkhas of the 29th Indian Brigade, to capture Hill Q.  

The 9th Worcestershire were part of the left support column intended to to ascend the mountain by way of a feature known as the Aghyl Dere, which opened at the coast.  At 11pm on 6th August the battalion moved off, but quickly were held up by a mass of Indian troops in on the sea coast path.  This fatally delayed the advance, and robbed the Worcestershire’s brigade of the cover of darkness to climb the hill.  In the daylight the troops witnessed the Suvla Bay landings further north.

At 7am on 7th August the 9th Worcestershire along with the 7th Gloucestershire moved forward to reinforce the Indian troops fighting further up the Aghyl Dere, however a little while later this order was countermanded.  By 7pm orders were once again issued to attack, with a moving off time of 9pm.  Officers and men were tired out, having been under arms for sixteen hours and had made great exertions under a blazing sun. A number of casualties were sustained by shrapnel and long-range bullets.

Aghyl Dere in which General Baldwin's British Brigade, including the 9th Worcestershire Regiment suffered heavily. Photograph taken under the direction of Captain C E W Bean, the Australian official historian in February and March, 1919.

Aghyl Dere in which General Baldwin’s British Brigade, including the 9th Worcestershire Regiment suffered heavily. Photograph taken under the direction of Captain C E W Bean, the Australian official historian in February and March, 1919. (c) AWM G02002

The advance in the early hours of 8th August was slow and arduous.  However by this time, Charles had already been killed, probably by a shrapnel burst of a sniper’s bullet.  Estimated losses, killed or wounded, for the battalion between 7th – 9th August 1915 were three officers and 180 other ranks.


Charles Keen’s body was not recovered after the battle and today he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial.  This memorial serves the dual function of Commonwealth battle memorial for the whole Gallipoli campaign and place of commemoration for many of those Commonwealth servicemen who died there and have no known grave.

Cowleigh Parish Registers: Baptisms 1866-1898
1901 Census
1911 Census
Malvern News
Medal Index Card
Stacke, H FitzM (1928) "The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War"
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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