KEEN, Henry 
(Service number 24/1701)

First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Private


Date 2 July 1887 Place of Birth St Ronans Cottage, Innerleithen. Peebles-shire, Scotland

Enlistment Information

Date 19 October 1915 Age 28 years
Address at Enlistment 29 St Hill Street, Wanganui
Occupation Tailor
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mr George Wilson KEEN (father), Chester Street, Timaru; later of 61 Le Cren Street, Timaru
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 6 inches. Weight 123 lbs. Chest measurement 31-35 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing & colour vision both normal. Limbs well formed. full & prefect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. heart & lungs normal. Teeth - full dentures. No illnesses. free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. No vaccination mark. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Scar of hare lip & cleft palate operation.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 3rd Reinforcements 2nd Battalion, F Company
Date 8 January 1916
Transport Tahiti
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Auckland Infantry Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Egyptian Expeditionary Force; Western European
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date 23 October 1917 Reason Being no longer physically fit for war service on account of pre-enlistment disability aggravated by Active Service.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

25 May 1916 - admitted to hospital, 4 July transferred to convalescent depot - ear trouble. 23 September 1916 - to Field Ambulance - sick. 10 October 1916 - admitted to stationary hospital - otitis media. 5 December 1916 - admitted to casualty clearing station - slight bronchial catarrh. 1 June 1917 - admitted to NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst - otitis media. 23 July 1919 - embarked for New Zealand - medically unfit.

Post-war Occupations



Date 11 November 1962 Age 75 years
Place of Death Taupo
Memorial or Cemetery Taupo Cemetery
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Henry Keen was the third son of George Wilson Keen and his first wife Jane née Henry. George and his sons were residing at St Ronan's Cottage, Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, Scotland, in 1891 and 1901 (joined by George’s second wife), and came to New Zealand in about 1902. Jane Keen died on 29 November 1890 at Innerleithen, when Henry was just 3 years old. In 1893 his father married Elizabeth Scott, who became Henry’s mother. George Wilson Keen who had worked in the mill at Innerleithen, engaged in similar work at Timaru. Henry Keen was born on 2 July 1887 at St Ronan’s Cottage, Cauldhame, Innerleithen, and was christened on 11 July at Innerleithen. He attended school at Innerleithen and may well have had some secondary education at Timaru. George, Elizabeth and their sons had left for New Zealand in November 1902 by the “Ruapehu”.

It appears that Henry was involved in cycling and football while in Timaru. For the great Timaru to Christchurch cycling road race in July 1903, Henry had a handicap of 45 minutes, while his older brother John had 36 minutes. At the Caledonian sports held on New Year’s Day 1904, his handicap for the half mile bicycle race was 80 yards, and 135 yards for the one mile bicycle handicap, an event in which John also took part, coming second in his heat. In the 1½ mile Caledonian wheel race, he received a handicap and in the two mile bicycle race 200 yards, John participating in both these events. On the second day of the sports both Henry and John were again competing, Henry winning 10 shillings for third place in the Musical Chairs – “A very amusing item, contested by cyclists, and well worthy of repetition next year”, and John meeting with some success. At the Oamaru Cycling Club’s sports on 10 March 1904, Henry came second to his brother John in the one-mile event. Henry was given a handicap of 35 minutes for the Dunlop Timaru-Christchurch cycling road race in July 1904, while his older brother John was given 34 minutes.

At a meeting of the Timaru Association Football Club in early August 1905, a ballot was held for teams to compete in the club’s five-a-side tournament later in the month. Henry was placed in the D team while his younger brother George was in the C team. This was to be a festive occasion, with modified rules, among evenly matched teams. The play was fast, open, and very tiring to the players, who all had to do a lot of running about. Henry’s D team lost very narrowly to the A team, by one goal. In June 1906 both Henry and George (emergencies) were selected to represent the local club in a match against Celtic (Christchurch). The following month both were selected in the forwards for a match between the Timaru Association Football Club and the s.s. Kaikoura.

Henry and George were in opposing teams for a friendly game within the club in September 1906. In October 1906 the Timaru Association Football Club held its third annual 5-a-side tournament, Henry selected for the F team and George for the A team. Henry’s team lost, again by only one goal. By April 1907 Henry and George were playing for the Corinthian Club, both in the forwards for the match against Timaru. The Corinthian Association Football Club had been newly formed in February 1907, with brother George being elected to the committee. Henry and his brother John represented the Corinthian team against a team from R.M.S. Ruapehu in June 1907. “Spectators at the Park on Saturday (mid June 1907) were treated to a fine exposition of the ‘Soccer’ game when the Corinthian team proved their superiority over a Matatua team by 8 goals to nil. The naval team was by no means a poor one.” Henry Keen played his part in the superior team, scoring three goals. Henry, George and John were all selected to play an Otago team at Dunedin on 18 July, for which the players were requested “to get into training at once”. The three brothers were in the Corinthian team to play a match with Timaru on 15 August 1907, and the Ashburton Club later in the month.

On the outbreak of war, the Keen family subscribed to the War Fund, which drew a splendid response from Timaru citizens. Henry’s father and brothers John and George junior each contributed £1, while William gave 5 shillings. Henry had moved away from Timaru, perhaps as early as 1907. He was living at 29 St Hill Street, Wanganui, when he was selected for active service in September 1915. He enlisted on 19 October 1915, aged 28 years. A tailor by profession, single and Presbyterian, he was in good bodily and mental health. With fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair, he was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 123 pounds. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, as were his heart and lungs, his limbs well formed; and he was free of diseases and defects. He wore full dentures; he bore the scar of a hare lip and cleft palate operation. He nominated as his next-of-kin his father, Mr George Wilson Keen, of Chester Street, Timaru; later of 61 Le Cren Street, Timaru. Prior to his departure for Trentham on 19 October, he was presented with a gold wristlet watch by the staff of Messrs Schneideman and Co., tailors, where he was employed.

Rifleman H. Keen embarked on the “Tahiti” with the 3rd Reinforcements on 8 January 1916 at Wellington, destined for Suez, Egypt. He was posted as a Private to the 2nd Battalion of the Auckland Infantry Regiment on 10 March at Moascar. On 8 April he embarked at Alexandria for France, per the “Ascania”. On 25 May 1916, he was admitted to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples, and on 4 July transferred to the 6th Convalescent Depot at Etaples, France, suffering from ear trouble. The advice received on 22 August 1916 was that he was progressing favourably. He had rejoined his unit in the field. About this time Henry Keen was awarded 14 days field punishment and lost 14 days’ pay for a misdemeanour – drunkenness on parade. On 23 September 1916 he was sent to the Field Ambulance, sick. Having rejoined his unit a week later, he was admitted to the No 1 NZ Stationary Hospital on 10 October – otitis media. He was admitted to the No 8 Casualty Clearing Station on 5 December 1916 and a few days later to the Convalescent Depot at Boulogne – slight bronchial catarrh. Two days later he was transferred to the Base Depot in France. From 24 February 1917 Keen was permanently employed at the NZ General Base Depot. In late April he was classified “P.B.”, marched out to England, and was attached to the NZ Command Depot at Codford. But, Private H. Keen was admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst on 1 June 1917, again suffering from otitis media. His case was reported as not severe. Classified as unfit, he was to report to the Discharge Depot at Torquay on 27 June. Not too long after, and after almost two years overseas, he came home, one of 450 invalided cases. He embarked at Plymouth on 23 July 1917, per the “Ionic”, and arrived in New Zealand on 25 September. At the Port of Auckland he was examined by a provisional medical board and recommended for treatment of Otitis Media in both ears. The South Canterbury men were expected at Lyttelton in the morning of 27 September, ready for the express mail train in the afternoon.

The Medical Report of 2 June 1917 for Private H. Keen, reads thus –

Disability – Otitis media, R. & L.

Date of origin of disability – Boyhood.

Place of origin of disability – Scotland.

Essential facts – Congenital cleft palate & hare lip; closed during boyhood. Wears dentures, upper and lower. Both ears have discharged off and on since he was a boy. Spent 13 months in France & has been P.B. since November.

Causation of the disability – Inflamation & infection.

Caused by active service? Not caused by, but aggravated by Active Service.

Present condition – Right ear – old perforation in quiet drum; no discharge; hearing nearly normal; Left ear – perforation with thick purulent discharge; drum thickened; hearing ¼.

Caused on field service.

Recommendation – Discharge as permanently unfit.

Disability was not caused by active service or climate or ordinary military service.

Disability was not aggravated by intemperance or misconduct, but by conditions of active service.

Disability is permanent.

Capacity for earning a full livelihood was lessened by a quarter for three months.

The Board recommended that he be sent to New Zealand as unfit for War Service.

It was also noted that recurrence of otitis media was certain while exposed to changes in weather.

The Medical Board convened at Auckland on 25 September 1917 recorded –

Original disability – Otitis media R & L.

Due to causes existing prior to enlistment & 13 months in France.

Specific cause – infection.

Consequent disabilities – deaf in left ear.

Progress – stationary.

Capacity for earning a full livelihood – lessened by quarter for 3 months.

Private H. Keen was discharged on 23 October 1917, being no longer physically fit for war service on account of pre-enlistment disability aggravated by Active Service. He had served in Egypt and Western Europe, for which he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victoria Medal. After the war Henry Keen returned to his occupation as a tailor. He married Isabella Scott in 1926. He died on 11 November 1962 at Taupo, where he and Isabella had lived for many years. He was 75 years old and predeceased by his wife. Henry and Isabella Keen were buried in the Taupo Cemetery, Henry in the services section. His next-of-kin at death was his only son, George William Scott Keen. Two brothers of Henry Keen also saw service with New Zealand Forces in World War I – William Keen who died of wounds in 1918 in France and George Thorburn Keen. In 1920, their father donated to the furnishing and maintenance fund for St Saviour’s Orphanage, the new home which was constructed in 1917 on Morgans Road and opened in 1918. It was used as a military orthopaedic hospital for returned servicemen for a time (1918-1921). Mr George Wilson Keen died in 1932 and his wife Elizabeth in 1944. They are buried in the Timaru Cemetery, their headstone recording a memorial to their son William.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [06 January 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5541 0062963) [29 July 2016]; Timaru Herald, 18 July 1903, 31 December 1903, , 2 & 4 January 1904, 11 March 1904, 8 July 1904, 9, 23 & 25 August 1905, 4 June 1906, 11 & 12 July 1906, 20 September 1906, 2 & 5 October 1906, 7 February 1907, 26 April 1907, 1, 17 & 28 June 1907, 9 July 1907, 14 & 27 August 1907, 10 August 1914, 18 June 1917, 27 September 1917, 1 April 1920, Wanganui Herald, 15 September 1915, 15 June 1917, Wanganui Chronicle, 19 October 1915, New Zealand Times, 15 June 1917, Star, 25 September 1917 (Papers Past) [12 & 26 August 2019]; ]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [12 August 2019]; Taupo Cemetery headstone image [6 January 2014]; Family History (World Connect Project) [06 January 2014]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, South Canterbury branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to


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