The Keyes Papers, Volume I, 1914-1918

Vol 117 (1972), Professor P.G. Halpern

Roger John Brownlow Keyes, first Baron Keyes (1872-1945). Keyes was a controversial man during his lifetime and has remained so ever since.

His correspondence and papers is a vast collection held at Churchill College, Cambridge, and these volumes are just a selection of them. There has been renewed interest in the period since the publication of Professor Ranft’s The Beatty Papers (NRS Vols 128 & 132) in 1989 and 1993, and Professor Halpern followed these volumes with his Naval History of World War I in 1994.

A full grasp of the participants and the controversies in Keyes’s early naval career (up to 1930) can only be obtained by starting with the 2 volumes of The Jellicoe Papers (NRS Vols 108 & 111) and Beatty Papers. Other relevant NRS volumes are The Cunningham Papers Vols I & II (NRS Vols 140 & 150) and the Somerville Papers (NRS Vol 134).

Volume I, 1914-1918 has a brief introduction which covers Keyes’s life before World War I, culminating in his appointment as Commodore second class and head of the Submarine Service.

He had achieved early promotion for services during the Boxer Rising and was thus one of the rising stars of the Royal Navy. He was present in the confused battle of Heligoland Bight in August 1914 and then Dogger Bank (December 1914).

Keyes was appointed Chief of Staff to Rear-Admiral Carden and travelled to the Dardanelles in February 1915. It was in many ways the high point of his naval career as it was the only occasion in which he had the chance to influence the course of history. The controversy over Gallipoli still runs today and Keyes is an important figure in that controversy. His daily letters to his wife, which acted as a diary, are an essential source for any student of the campaign.

In April 1917 he was promoted Rear-Admiral, and in June he took the position of Second-in-Command of the Fourth battle Squadron. He did not long remain in command as he was soon on his way to the Admiralty as Director of Plans. This was a new section of the Naval Staff, and was concerned with strategic planning. Keyes later took over command of the Dover Straits. The raid on Zeebrugge on 23rd April was undoubtedly one of the most dramatic events of the whole war, and appeared to be a qualified success. Certainly the public adored it, and Keyes was immediately created KCBE.

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About Paul Halpern

Paul Halpern was born in New York 27 January 1937, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1958 with honours in History. He served in the US Army 1958-60, reaching the rank of First Lieutenant. He entered Harvard University in 1960, where he gained an MA in History in 1961 and in 1966 his PhD, with a two volume thesis on The Mediterranean Naval Situation. He spent his entire academic career at Florida State University at Tallahassee, starting as an instructor in 1965, rising to assistant professor in 1966, associate professor in 1970, and professor in 1974. On retiring in 2005 he became emeritus professor. In 1986-87 he served as visiting professor of strategy at the Naval War College in Newport Rhode Island.

He served on the Council of the Navy Records Society 1968-72, 1982-86 and 2010-14. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the American Historical Foundation, the US Naval Institute, the Naval Historical Foundation, Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Eta Sigma

His publications include
• The Mediterranean Naval Situation, 1908-1914 (Harvard University Press, 1971).
• The Naval War in the Mediterranean (Allen and Unwin, 1987).
• The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-18 (Navy Records Society, 1987)
• The Keyes Papers, Volume I (Navy Records Society, 1972).
• The Keyes Papers, Volume II (Navy Records Society, 1980).
• The Keyes Papers, Volume III (Navy Records Society, 1981).
• A Naval History of World War I (Naval Institute Press, 1994).
• Anton Haus: Osterreich-Ungarns Grossadmiral (Graz, 1998).
• The Battle of the Otranto Straits: Controlling the gateway to the Adriatic in World War I (Indiana University Press, 2004).
• The Mediterranean Fleet, 1919-29 (Navy Records Society, 2011).
• The Mediterranean Fleet, 1930-39 (Navy Records Society, 2016).