SGT. L.J. KEELY
FIRST NAMES: Louis John
NUMBER: R67507 (SC-89729)
RANK: Sergeant (P/O)
UNIT: 429 Squadron RAF
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 1942
STATUS: Killed in Action
DATE OF DEATH: 23/24th March 1944
WHERE BURIED: Heerstrasse, Berlin
MEDALS: Aircrew Europe, 1939-45 Star, Victory Medal, Defence Medal, Canadian Memorial Cross
Louis Keely was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, in 1923 and was the son of Mrs. H. Steward. When Louis was old enough, just like thousands of his countrymen he came to the aid of Great Britain by volunteering for the armed services.
Louis joined the RCAF and immediately applied for training as pilot but then opted for training as an air gunner. He was posted to No 429 (Bison) Squadron at RAF Leeming. Louis was a expert ice hockey player and often played for the Canadians at Durham Ice Rink. It was while he was stationed at Leeming that he met Kathleen Stevens, daughter of Frank and Mrs Stevens of Bullamoor Road, Northallerton. They were married in October 1943 and had a daughter Margaret Rose.
No 429 (Bison) Squadron was formed in Four Group Bomber Command in 1942 and transferred to 6 Group on April 1st 1943. It operated Wellingtons, Halifaxes and Lancasters. By the end of the war it had flown a total of 3,175 sorties and during it's time was based at Eastmoor and Leeming.
On the night of 24/25th March 1944, aircraft from 429 Squadron formed part of a force of 811 bombers comprising of 576 Lancasters 235 Halifaxes detailed to attack the German capital, Berlin, known to the bomber crews as the 'Big City'. This night was to become known as the night of the strong winds. A powerful wind carried the bomber force south at every stage of the flight. As a result, the bomber stream became scattered and was detected by radar-predicted flak, with many aircraft being lost, some straying over the formidable Rhur defences. A total of 72 bombers were shot down by night fighters. The heaviest damage done to the target was to the south western area of Berlin, where more than 2,000 people were bombed out of their homes. Five military establishments were badly damaged including the depot of the Waffen SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division in Lichterfelde. A total of 3,493 tons of bombs was dropped. This was to be last major raid on Berlin, although the 'Big City' would be attacked many more times by small forces of Mosquito bombers.
Of the Halifaxes lost that night, LK 805-H, the one which Louis Keely was flying, was one of those shot down. Of the seven man crew, three became prisoners of war. W/O H. Glendenning, W/O S. Bousted and Sgt R. Kift all being held in Stalag Luft I. Four men went down with the aircraft; P/O.S. Wick, F/O. J. Warkentin, W/O. H. Hull and Sgt Louis Keely. It's ironic that the day before Louis took off on that fateful sortie, his commission to the rank of Pilot Officer had just been promulgated by the Canadian Air Staff.
Louis is featured in the book 'Bombers Over Berlin'
Louis Keely lies buried with his fellow crewmen in Grave No.14, Row L, Plot No.1, in Heerstrasse Berlin. He is also remembered in the Central Church of the Royal Air Force St Clement Danes London,the Northallerton War Memorial and the Memorial in All Saints Parish Church.
Louis was aged 22 years.