Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Representatives of the Great Cause: Roger C. Keedwell

Roger Charles Keedwell
Private, Company K, 23d Infantry, 2d Division, United States Army

On October 21, 1915, Keedwell enlisted in the Canadian Over-seas Expeditionary Force. He was just 15 and a half. Having falsified the year of his birth in order to enlist, Keedwell served ten months with the Canadian Grenadier Guards before his father secured his discharge due to his extreme youth. Undeterred, Keedwell enlisted in the American Army on April 1, 1917, and served on the Mexican border with Troop C, 17th Cavalry before sailing overseas for France. He served with Company A, 2d Military Police from October 2, 1917, through June 15, 1918, following which he transferred to Company K, 23d Infantry.

At the time of his posting to France, Keedwell sent the Middleboro Gazette a letter from Douglas, Arizona, full of optimism. “There are 300 men going to France out of my regiment and I am one of them and I can assure you that I appreciate leaving this part of the country very much. We leave here Saturday morning for Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, where we will be instructed in the French language for three or four weeks and then we will continue our journey to France, which I hope will be a very pleasant journey. We will go there to be military police in Paris. I hope that while in Georgia I will be able to get a furlough to go home to see my folks and friends before leaving for France….As for me I think the cavalry is about the best branch of the service and I regret leaving it, but the trip to France looks good to me. I hope that when we arrive there I will be able to scout up some of the Middleboro fellows because it would certainly seem good to see some of them.”

In mid-December 1918 Keedwell’s father received notice from the War Department that his son was listed as missing in action. On Christmas night the family was informed that Roger had been located in a hospital, having been wounded on Hallowe’en. The information, in fact, was wrong. Mr. Keedwell contacted the American Red Cross for further information, and the family received the following letter on January 20, 1919.

The American Red Cross National Headquarters Washington, D. C. Jan. 14, 1919

My Dear Mrs. Keedwell:

You have only received a notification that Private Roger Charles Keedwell, Company K, 23d Infantry, American E. F., was reported missing in action, as that was the extent of the information first reported. We have just received word, dated October 31, 1918, that he died of wounds. He was cared for in American Red Cross Hospital No. 110, where you may feel sure that everything possible was done to save his life, but he passed away on October 31, 1918. Any personal belongings he may have had at the time of his death will be forwarded to Major John A. Nelson, Effects Quartermaster, Pier 3, Hoboken, N. J., and if you do not hear anything concerning them in a reasonable length of time, we would advise you to write to Major Nelson. Private Keedwell died in service for the glorious cause of justice and liberty, and you will ever have the greatest pride in his memory. His name will be placed among the heroes of America’s Roll of Honor. The Red Cross extends to you heartfelt sympathy and assures you that we are ever ready to render you any service possible.

Sincerely yours, W. R. CASTLE, Director Bureau of Communications

Roger Keedwell died less than two weeks before the Armistice. He was not yet 19.


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