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  • Christina Drummond

Captain Cecil Alexander Headlam Keenlyside, 1st Battalion, the Cambridgeshire Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Captain Cecil Alexander Headlam Keenlyside, 1st Battalion, the Cambridgeshire Regiment, was killed in action near Armentieres in France.

The son of a barrister, he attended Charterhouse and Trinity College, Oxford, playing cricket for his school and also for Cambridge county.

He joined the Oxfordshire Light Infantry and served in the South African War – the regiment was formed in the year of Captain Keenlyside’s birth, 1881, and in 1908 it became the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. In 1913 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Cambridgeshire Regiment, which was an infantry regiment, part of the Territorial Army, and had originated in units of rifle volunteers formed in 1860. His battalion was originally known as the 1st (Imperial Service) Battalion. In August of 1914 he was promoted to Lieutenant, and in September to Captain. His regiment arrived in France in February of 1915, and he was killed during the fighting near Armentieres by a splinter of a shell which struck him in the throat.

Captain Keenlyside’s commanding officer, Colonel Charles Copeman ( wrote to his widow: “You ought to be told that his death is the most grievous blow that has yet befallen the battalion. That he was at all times an inspiration and help to us all and his loss is irreparable.” He is buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, at Armentieres in France.

Cecil, from Surbiton, was 33 years old and married with two children, his daughter being only three months old.

Those with an interest in the Cambridgeshire Regiment might appreciate this poem, found scrawled on the wall of a ruined house in Belgium in June of 1915:

We are the Cambridge boys.

We relieved the Frenches

To man the trenches,

And England’s honour to hold,

Right up the Hooge road,

Where we march so bold,

To meet the Germans, Carl and Fritz,

And to beat the lot to bits;

Jolly good fun it is to see

The Cambridge Boys that make them flee;

The German Huns they cannot stand

The Cambridge Boys from the dear old land;

Out of Belgium to the Fatherland –

That will be their very last stand.

The Cambridge Boys are bold and true,

And sure they have earned the Cambridge Blue.

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