• Claire Jordan

"Keep It Up, Boys, Do Not Let Them Get Through!"

Meet Joe Keable.

Born in Quebec in May 1893, he was only about six years old when his Dad died and though his Mum remarried, the union failed, and she moved with her four small children to Sayabec.

The man of the house from an early age, Joe supported his family, working as a driver and mechanic with a forestry company before the War came and changed everything. He enlisted at the start of 1916, probably worried about how his family would cope if he went to War, and was serving in France a year later.

He came through the massive Canadian attack at Vimy Ridge in April 1917 but sustained a gunshot wound to the shoulder two weeks later which put him in hospital at Boulogne for six weeks while he healed.

On 9th June 1918 with the tide finally turning, he was grievously wounded and we know exactly how because of the citation for the Victoria Cross which appeared in the London Gazette that September:

“For most conspicuous bravery and extraordinary devotion to duty when in charge of a Lewis gun section in the front line trenches, in which a strong enemy raid was attempted.

During an intense bombardment Corporal Keable remained at the parapet with his Lewis gun shouldered ready for action, the field of fire being very short.

As soon as the barrage lifted from the front line, about fifty of the enemy advanced towards his post. By this time the whole of his section except one had become casualties.

Corporal Keable jumped over the parapet, and holding his Lewis gun at the hip, emptied one magazine after another into the advancing enemy, and although wounded several times by fragments of shells and bombs, he continued to fire and entirely blocked the enemy by his determined stand.

Finally, firing all the time, he fell backwards into the trench, mortally wounded.

While lying on his back in the trench, he fired his last cartridges over the parapet at the retreating Germans, and before losing consciousness shouted to the wounded about him: ‘Keep it up, boys; do not let them get through! We must stop them!’

The complete repulse of the enemy attack at this point was due to the remarkable personal bravery and self-sacrifice of this gallant Non-Commissioned Officer, who died of his wounds shortly afterwards.”

He is buried in the CWGC’s extension to the village cemetery at Wanquetin, just west of Arras, (below), and standing in front of his grave is really quite something.

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