Introducing Roger Keyes, a character from my forthcoming novel
The character, Roger Keyes, features throughout my first novel and existed in real life. He was a man of action who, in his early career as a Lieutenant, served with distinction in China during the Boxer rebellion. It is likely we will find him serving alongside William Miller in a prequel to the series on which I am currently embarked.
In The Trade we first meet Keyes in his appointment as Inspecting Captain of Submarines, a title that was later changed to Commodore Submarines. Keyes was not a submariner and lacked both intellectual and technical capabilities. For these latter reasons he fell foul of the First Sea Lord, Jackie Fisher. Even so, he made an important contribution to the development of the submarine flotilla. He abolished out of date tactics and helped define the role of the submarine. He also recognised that the monopoly given to Vickers meant that insufficient submarines could be built in time to meet the submarine service’s likely demands in the event of war. In 1913 he began to award contracts to private yards, to the benefit of my fictional heroine, Elizabeth Miller.
The outbreak of war offered Keyes the chance to play to his strengths as a man of daring. He took command of the Eight Submarine Flotilla and personally led his submarines into action from his flagship, HMS Lurcher. This included the successful Battle of the Heligoland Bight. The following year he was appointed to the Mediterranean where we meet him again in the novel, serving on the staff planning the Dardanelles campaign. He considered his Commander-in-Chief too timid and was fully in agreement with Churchill that every opportunity should be taken to knock the Turks out of the war. The plan to send submarines into the Sea of Marmara was his and it proved to be an extraordinary success with three submarine commanding officers winning the VC.
Later in the war, as Commander-in-Chief Dover, Keyes increased the aggressiveness and tempo of the Dover Patrol with great success. He also planned the famous and successful Zeebrugge and Ostend raids in which ships were sunk to block the German submarines in their pens (and in which the grandfather of my friend and fellow submariner, John Drummond, won the VC). At the end of the war Keyes was knighted and later made a baronet. He was to achieve further distinction during WW2 as the first Director of Combined Operations.