Pilot Officer Keith Victor Keen
On 23rd November, 1937, Pilot Officers Keith Victor Keen and Montague Percival Richards, of 17 squadron were killed when their Gloster Gauntlets (K5344 and K5348) collided at 6.45pm near Old Coulsdon. They were carrying out a night railway signals detection duty.
Flight controller that evening was Pilot Sergeant Robert Perry, who stated that at 6.30 pm he had seen an aircraft circling the aerodrome for about ten minutes before another plane appeared and tried to overtake it. They both headed off in a westerly direction and he observed their tail lights heading away into the distance. When they were about five miles away, one light wavered and disappeared. Perry assumed the aircraft had gone into a cloud, but then saw the light drop towards the earth and explode in a flash.
Keith Keen’s aircraft (K5348, Mercury engine 110966) had crashed into Figgs wood in Chaldon, but there was no sign of the pilot within the flaming wreck. Local policeman Cyrus Ellis, together with a search party, eventually located Keen’s body at the foot of an oak tree, fifty yards from his plane, at 8.45pm.
Keith Victor Keen was born in Harrow, on 11th July, 1913. His Father, James, was born in Paddington and worked as a clerk before enlisting at the end of 1915. James was mobilised in May 1916 joining the 2/1st Herts Yeomanry. In 1918, he was posted to France and by June 1919, was serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Berks Regiment.
James had married Flora Girvin at Fulham Registry Office in 1909. By the time he enlisted, they were living at 3 Montrose Crescent, Wembley and had 2 children, Evelyn and Keith Victor.
In 1935, Keith and his Mother Flora were living at 24 Dagmar Avenue, Wembley Hill, with Victor Girvin (presumably a member of Flora’s family).
There are few details about Keith Keen’s RAF service, except that he was an Acting Pilot Officer under instruction at No.10 Flying Training School in the early months of 1936. Keith was awarded his ‘wings’ on 19th June, 1936. He was posted to No.17 Squadron from No.10 Flying Training School on 10th August, 1936 and took over the duties of Squadron Adjutant on 12th November.
Pilot Officer Keen was laid to rest with full military honours at St.Lukes, Whyteleafe. He was 24 when he died.
Rest in Peace Sir and thank you for your service.