Philip Keightley (1895 - 1919):
Philip Keightley was an officer during the First World War whose letters home to Ulster detailing life in the trenches were published after his death and are a valuable primary historical source.
Captain Philip Charles Russell Keightley was a son of Sir Samuel Keightley, the noted lawyer, public servant and novelist. He attended the University of Dublin where joined the Officers’ Training Corps, eventual gaining a commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He shipped to the Front in 1916 after a period in coastal defence in southern England, and was a front-line soldier for the rest of the conflict. He survived the war itself, only to die in 1919 of a respiratory illness, which was thought to have been caused by his having been exposed to poison gas; his name appears on the memorial window in Railway Street Presbyterian Church, Lisburn, as one of those “who laid down their lives in the Great War”.
After his death, his father edited and published with a lengthy introduction Among the Guns: Intimate Letters from Ypres and the Somme, a collection of his letters home from the front, detailing life at the front, which was not all horror though there was plenty of it, especially at Ypres; everyday mundane details are included. His father acknowledged that his son had not intended to publish these letters, which were written to one person at home (“intended only for one beloved and cherished correspondent”), in their raw form but was intending to prepare them for publication; “they reflect the mind of the writer at the moment. They are the instant picture of the scene painted in living colours while the mighty drama was slowly evolving... They are a chapter, however insignificant, in the history of the Great War which the formal historian does not touch.”
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