Born 4th October 1872 at Tundiani, India. Keyes entered the Royal Navy in 1885, passing out from naval college in, 1887. His first seagoing appointment was as Midshipman on HMS Raleigh, flagship of the Cape Station, returning to England in 1890. In 1893, he was promoted to Lieutenant and in 1900, commanded the destroyer HMS Fame on the China Station during the Boxer Rebellion. During this period,he captured four Chinese destroyers at Tongku, and was at the head of the landing party which secured the key for the fort on the river route to Tientsin, resulting in his promotion to Commander.
In 1904, at the age of thirty-two, Keyes became the youngest Captain in the navy. Between 1905-1908, he served as Naval Attaché in Rome, following which, he commanded HMS Venus and in 1910 was appointed Inspecting Captain of Submarines, being made Commodore in 1912. At the beginning of the First World War, he was the senior naval officer at Harwich in the North Sea. He proposed the successful Heligoland Bight operation in August 1914, the result of which was four German ships were sunk and three damaged. In January 1915, he was appointed Chief of Staff to Admiral Carden at the Dardanelles, and played a prominent role in the planning of naval operations and army landings. In 1916, he commanded the battleship HMS Centurion in the Grand Fleet, and was promoted Rear-Admiral in 1917. Later that year, he was appointed Director of Plans in the Admiralty. In 1918, with promotion to Vice-Admiral, he commanded the Dover Patrol, and planned the unsuccessful raids of Zeebrugge and Ostend in April 1918, with the intention to sink blockships in these ports to prevent German U-boats leaving.
At the end of the war he was made a baronet, as well as Knight Commander of the Bath, and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO). In 1921 Keyes served as Deputy Chief of Naval Staff until 1925, when he was appointed Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. In 1926, he was promoted Admiral, and became Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth in 1929. He rose to Admiral of the Fleet and Knight Grand Cross of the Bath in 1930. He became MP for North Portsmouth from 1934 until 1943.With the outbreak of WWII, he asked to be given active employment but was unsuccessful at first. He then used his friendship with Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord and Winston Churchill to urge more offensive action in the Norwegian campaign and resulted in being appointed Director of Combined Operations in July 1940 which he held until October 1941. In January 1943, he was created Baron Keyes of Zeebrugge and of Dover. He undertook a goodwill mission to Australasia and the South-West pacific in 1944 and died in 1945.
© Royal Naval Museum Library, 2000
The information contained in this fact sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available.