KEEN, George Henry
(Service number 871335)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 23 October 1883 Place of Birth Waimate, South Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand

Enlistment Information

Date (1) 1 March 1916; (2) 27 February 1918 Age (1) 32 years 7 months; (2) 34 years 4 months
Address at Enlistment (1) 259 Fountain Street, Winnipeg; (2) St James Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status (1) Single; (2) Widower
Next of Kin Frederick Keen (father), Waimate, New Zealand. (2) Frederick Keen (father), 20 Edward Street, Waimate, New Zealand.
Religion Church of England
Medical Information (1) Height 5 feet 7½ inches. Weight 145 pounds. Chest minimum measurement 33 inches; range of expansion 4 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair flaxen. Vaccinated (infancy). (2) Height 5 feet 7½ inches. Weight 150 lbs. Chest measurement 34-37½ inches. Physical development normal. Vaccinated. No marks or scars. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair flaxen. Vision – both eyes 20/20. Hearing normal.

Military Service

Served with Canadian Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With (1) 183rd Battalion; (2) 10th Battalion, C.G.R. (No. 10 Special Service Company).

Military Awards

Service Medals
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 (1) 7 October 1916; (2) 8 October 1918. Reason (1) In consequence of his being medically unfit for Military Service. (2) By reason of being medically unfit.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations



Date 21 November 1962 Age 79 years
Place of Death Christchurch
Memorial or Cemetery Memorial Park Cemetery, Christchurch
Memorial Reference Block 6, Plot 276
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

George Henry Keen was born on 23 October 1883 at Waimate, the son of Frederick and Annie (née Tofield) Keen. Frederick and Annie, who married in 1871 at Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, England, came to New Zealand with at least one child, Albert Keen. Albert was born in 1872. Six sons and one daughter were born to Frederick and Annie at Waimate, South Canterbury, from 1877 till 1889. Sadly, some died young – Lilly Louisa (1881-1882; 1 year), Edward Thomas (1882-1883, 6 months), Guy Thomas (1889-1889, 16 days). Mr Frederick Keen was the county ranger for Waimate and the collector of dog tax for many years. George was probably educated at Waimate District High School, like his older brothers. In early January 1889, when Mr F. Keen and his family were returning by dray to Waimate from the bush, an accident happened. The bolt holding the shafts became loose, causing the shafts to fall on the horse’s heels. The horse took fright and bolted, Mr Keen being thrown from the trap. The rest of the occupants were safely removed from trap after the horse had rushed through a picket fence and was caught. Mr Keen was fortunate to suffer only minor injuries. There were two women and six children with him.

In 1900, F. Keen contributed to the War Fund. Albert Keen, the eldest son, married in 1897 at Timaru. Albert worked in the saddlery department of the Canterbury Farmers’ Co-operative Association and was very active in the Waimate Acclimatisation Society, being a keen fisherman, in the Waimate Brass Band, where he was the bandmaster for some years, and with St Augustine’s Church. He was also a member of the Waimate Defence Rifle Club. On the outbreak of war, Mrs A. Keen contributed to the Patriotic Fund, and in December A. Keen donated to the Patriotic Sports Committee of Wellington fund to provide a Christmas Gift for the Belgians. In 1900, Albert had contributed to the Byrne Memorial Fund. Mrs Annie Keen died at her Waimate residence on 18 January 1910. In 1916 Frederick married Jessie Champion (née Burridge). Jessie died at their Timaru residence on 5 April 1927. Annie and Jessie are buried together at Waimate. After Jessie’s death, Frederick Keen moved to Christchurch and lived with his son. He died on 28 August 1930 at the Christchurch residence of his second son, William Frederick Keen. He was buried at Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch.

It appears that George Henry Keen may have left New Zealand when a young man. G. H. Keen, 21 years old, born in New Zealand, and a labourer, arrived at Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on 6 July 1904, having sailed from Liverpool, England, by the “Bavarian”. In February 1910, George Henry Keen – 26 years old, born in New Zealand, a labourer, resident of Canada – crossed over to Portal, North Dakota, USA, from Canada. G. H. Keen – 27 years old, born in New Zealand, holding American citizenship, a farm labourer – crossed from the USA to Canada, arriving at Emerson, Manitoba, on 1 August 1911.

George Henry Keen attested with the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on 1 March 1916 at Winnipeg, for the duration of the War. Born on 23 October 1883 at Waimate, New Zealand, single and a labourer, he named his father as next-of-kin – Frederick Keen, Waimate, New Zealand. His address was 259 Fountain St, Winnipeg. George was 5 feet 7½ inches tall, weighed 145 pounds and had a minimum chest measurement of 33 inches, with a 4-inch range of expansion. His complexion was fair, his eyes blue and his hair flaxen. He had been vaccinated in infancy. Private Keen was posted to the 183rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. In September 1916, he was transferred to the Clearing Depot, Camp Hughes, Manitoba. There he was discharged, in consequence of his being medically unfit for Military Service, on 7 October 1916. His disability, which was permanent, was scarred feet from an operation in 1911 at Winnipeg. All the toes of his left foot had been amputated, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd toes of his right foot. His left foot was painful on prolonged use. He was temperate, is conduct and habits were good. His last pay certificate was dated from 1 October 1916 to 7 October 1916. His conduct and character while in the service were good.

George Henry Keen enlisted for a second time with the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force - on 27 February 1918 at Winnipeg. Now a widower, he again named his father as next-of-kin – Frederick Keen, 20 Edward Street, Waimate, New Zealand. His address was St James Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His height was unchanged at 5 feet 7½ inches. He weighed 150 pounds and had a chest measurement of 34-37½ inches. His physical development was normal and he had been vaccinated. His complexion was fair, his eyes blue and his hair flaxen. His vision and hearing were normal. He had, earlier, served for 7 months with the 183rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, before being discharged as medically unfit. His disability? Toes amputated on right foot. On enlistment, he joined the 10th Battalion, C.G.R. (No. 10 Special Service Company).

He was discharged on 8 October 1918 as medically unfit, after a medical examination had been carried out on 30 September 1918. His disability pre-existed enlistment, was not aggravated by service, and was permanent. All toes were missing on his left foot and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd toes were missing on his right foot, resulting in partial loss of function of both feet. He had lost his toes after exposure to frost in 1911 in Canada. His nervous, digestive, respiratory and cardiac systems were all normal. All his service had been in Canada, in two seven-month stints. His address on Discharge was C/o Y.T.P. Elevator Co., Fort William, Ontario. Again, his conduct and character while in the service were, according to the records, good.

In the space of two years and seven months, George Henry Keen had twice enlisted for war service, had been discharged twice on medical grounds, had married and had a daughter, and had been widowed. From May 1916, the name G. H. Keen (Canadian Engineers) featured in the Roll of Honour, under Answered the Call, published regularly in the Waimate Daily Advertiser. In July-August 1917, both Mrs F. Keen, senior, and Mrs F. Keen, junior, contributed to the War Fund at Waimate. They were George’s father’s second wife and his sister-in-law.

Back in New Zealand (possibly by 1919), George Henry Keen married Rachel Dodd in 1924. For many years they lived at Woodbury where George was a bootmaker. Rachel, who was considerably older than George, died on 20 October 1949 at Timaru and was buried at the Timaru Cemetery. Rachel Keen, who died on 20 October 1949 at Timaru, had made a monetary bequest to two grand-nieces and left the remainder to her husband, George Henry Keen, a bootmaker of Woodbury. After Rachel’s death, George retired to Christchurch. In 1951, he married Wilhelmina Wilder (Minnie, née Christianson), a widow with children. Minnie died on 25 October 1958 at Christchurch and was cremated, her ashes being interred at Waimairi Cemetery with her first husband.

George Henry Keen died on 21 November 1962 at Christchurch, aged 79. He was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery, Christchurch. His headstone bears this inscription – “In loving memory of Daddy. George H. Keen died 21 November 1962 aged 79 years.” A retired bootmaker, he left £50 to his wife Wilhelmina Wilder Keen. He left the remainder of his estate, after the payment of funeral and testamentary expenses and debts and converting into money, to his daughter, Jennet Ann La France, of 311 Belvedere Street, St James Winnipeg. This will was signed on 18 March 1958. By the first codicil to his will, such being signed on 11 November 1958, he left the £50 to Noeleen Milner, a married woman of Christchurch. (Noeleen Milner was a daughter of Wilhelmina by a former marriage.) Wilhelmina had died on 25 October 1958. Jennet Ann La France swore an affidavit in respect of George Henry Keen’s death. Jennet Ann La France, of Winnipeg, a married woman, stated that she was the only daughter of George Henry Keen and she could verify his death “from having seen him die”. She duly signed on 28 November 1958 at Christchurch.

A lovely thought that Jennet had come from Canada and was in Christchurch when her beloved father, George Henry Keen, died. So, who was Jennet Ann La France? She was born Jennet Ann Keen in 1917 in Canada, to George Henry and Mary née Jeffreys. George and Mary married on 22 September 1916 at Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. Mary was born in 1885 in Wales and had gone to Canada with her family in 1900. Sadly, Mary Keen died on 21 July 1917 at Brandon. She was buried at Rapid City Cemetery, Rapid City, Manitoba. Their little daughter, Jennet Ann, would have been only an infant, perhaps new-born. Jennet married Emile Francois La France. She died in 2002 and was cremated. Her ashes are interred with Emile’s in the Scattering Garden at Oliver Cemetery, Oliver, British Columbia.

George’s brother, Arthur John Keen, signed up for service with the American Forces. Another brother, Frederick William Keen, who was a storekeeper in Christchurch, was a reservist and had been medically classified C2. His appeal in September 1918 was adjourned sine die.


Canadian Personal Records of the First World War - Attestation Papers (; [21 September 2021]; Canadian Personnel File (; [21 September 2021]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [21 September 2021]; Timaru Herald, 7 January 1889, 19 March 1897, 6 April 1927, South Canterbury Times, 7 January 1889, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 19 January 1910, 6 May 1916, 9 January 1919, Sun, 3 September 1918, Star, 28 August 1930, Press, 28 August 1930, 21 October 1949, 27 & 28 October 1958 (Papers Past) [21, 23, 27 & 28 September 2021]; Probate record (Archives NZ/Family Search) [23 September 2021]; Memorial Park Cemetery, Christchurch, headstone transcription [21 September 2021]; Memorial Park Cemetery burial record (Christchurch City Council) [27 September 2021]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [25 September 2021]; Waimate Cemetery records; Bromley Cemetery record; New Zealand Electoral Rolls (ancestry/ [25 September 2021]; Canadian marriage index ( [27 September 2021]; Rapid City Cemetery record (Find A Grave) [27 September 2021]; Oliver Cemetery record & plaque image (Find A Grave) [25 September 2021]; Passenger shipping lists ( [23 & 27 September 2021]

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