Michael Sullivan Keogh GC OBE (AM exchanger)

b. 06/04/1889 Gortamora, County Cork, Ireland. d. 22/07/1983 Swale, Kent.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 19/08/1915 Imbros, Turkey.

Michael Sullivan “Micky” Keogh (1889-1983) was born on 6th April 1889 (sometimes seen as 15th May 1889) in Gortamora, Bere Island, County Cork, Ireland. He was the 5th of 9 children of John and Honora (known as Nora) Sullivan (nee Holland). All the children attended the Bere Island National School. His eldest three brothers all emigrated to Butte, Montana, and his fourth brother became a policeman in Southampton. The sixth child, also a boy, became a miner and also emigrated to Butte. The youngest three children, two girls and a boy stayed in Ireland. Little else is known of his early life.

Michael S Keogh GC OBE

On 23rd April 1910, he decided to join the Royal Naval Air Service as a Petty Officer, carpenter’s crew, for 12 years’ service. He was subsequently promoted to Chief Petty Officer, though the date of the promotion is not known. On 1st July 1914, he was rated as a Leading Mechanic, followed by a promotion to Temporary Warrant Officer Class Two for carpenter’s duties on 7th May 1917. He had qualified as a pilot in 1913 and by 1915, he was serving in the Mediterranean, where he would be involved in the incident which lead to the Albert Medal.

On the 19th August 1915, an aeroplane, piloted by Captain Collett DSO, was ascending from the island of Imbros aerodrome, and had reached a height of 150 feet when the engine stopped. The machine was upset by a powerful air current from the cliffs, and fell vertically to the ground, while the petrol carried burst into flames which immediately enveloped the aeroplane and pilot. Chief Petty Officer Keogh, of HMS Ark Royal, at once attempted to save Captain Collett by dashing into the midst of the wreckage, which was a mass of flames. He had succeeded in dragging the fatally injured officer nearly clear of the flames when he himself was overcome by the burns which he had received from the blazing petrol.

Keogh was gazetted for the award of the Albert Medal on 12th January 1916. Between 1917 and 1918, Warrant Officer Keogh served at Crystal Palace and Tregantle on carpenter’s duties. However, on 1st April 1918, he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as a Second Lieutenant, Technical Officer. After his commissioning, he went to RAF Halton, where he appears to have remained until 1924, when he went to Henlow for a 12 month course, then to Karachi.

Returning to RAF Uxbridge in 1938, by which time he was a Flight Lieutenant, where various postings followed in the UK and he then spent three years in Singapore, from 1936 to 1939. He had been promoted to Squadron Leader in 1937. Placed on the Retired List in May 1939, he was appointed to a Short Service Commission in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in June 1939, where he stayed until 1947, retiring as a Group Captain with the OBE. He returned to the UK, living in Kent after retirement, where he died, aged 94, on 22nd July 1983. He was cremated at Vintners Crematorium, Maidstone, and his ashes were scattered. He had chosen to exchange his Albert Medal for a George Cross following the Royal Warrant of 1971. He donated the Albert Medal to the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon. His GC, and other medals, are not publicly held.