The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. M Keymer
Michael Keymer was born at Eastleigh Vicarage on 21st May 1916. His father, the vicar, was at the time serving in France with the Leicestershire Regiment.
Keymer was educated as a boarder in Westlake House of Blundells School at Tiverton in Devon. He represented his house at rugby and was a cadet in the Officer Training Corps. One brother, John Gilbert, had attended Westlake and another brother, Philip Nathaniel, was in the house for some of Michael's time there. After leaving school he worked on a chicken farm in Sussex while learning to fly with the Civil Air Guard at Hamble.
He was awarded Aero certificate 17706 at
Bournemouth Flying Club on
7th April 1939, his licence photo below.
In 1939 he was a car salesman at Bournemouth and a member of the Auxiliary Air Force.
Above (L to R): Mr.Bernard Keymer, John (with pipe), Philip and Michael (also below)
Called up on 1st September 1939, he was posted to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch on 7th August 1940. A week later he was credited with a share in the destruction of a Me109. On the morning of 22nd August Michael wrote to his sister, referring to the dangers he was now facing and asked her not to worry their mother with his comments. Later that day he was shot down in Spitfire K9909 YT-O and it had been assumed until 2004 that he came down in the sea, his body being washed ashore and buried in Bazinghen churchyard, NE of Ambleteuse. However it now seems that Keymer had engaged Me109’s in fighting over the convoy 'Totem', the battle drifting inland over Ambleteuse.
In 2004 Jacques Mahieu bought a home in Bazinghen. He was intrigued to find a wooden memorial to Michael Keymer nearby.
He met Mme. Colette Dorer who had been an eye-witness of the loss of Keymer and who gave him in 2006 the following account (translated from French):
"On the 22nd August 1940 at about 5 or 6pm, I had gone to milk the cows with my mother and Mme Noel when suddenly we saw two aircraft quite close together. They were flying in circles at low altitude, firing their guns. They were so low that for a moment I could see the helmeted head of the British pilot with his thick goggles. The German aircraft was a little higher and in the end had the upper hand on his opponent. Within seconds the British plane disintegrated. We saw a part of it go down by the river in a marsh that we called ‘Ledquent meadows’. We sheltered under a tree. Once it was quiet again we did not run straight home but towards the river where we saw the propeller. Then we went home to find the aircraft tail 50 metres away from our house".
A part of the engine had fallen a little further down the meadow on a path to the Grande Maison. The main wreckage and wings were further on in the same direction followed by the pilot who came down close to the farm of Mme. Caron. The spot was very close to the camouflaged railway used to bring ammuntion to the big cross-Channel guns on the coast. The main part of the engine came down near the village of Colincthun. Keymer had been seen to bale out but his parachute was only partially developed, due to the low altitude, when he hit the ground.
"The house of my grandparents had been requisitioned by the Germans to set up a hospital. The German commander, an officer by the name of Damberger, had set off with other men to find the pilot. I saw him come back with a string of bullets (presumably a belt of ammunition from the Spitfire’s wings). He then tied up his dog and shot him. He was a strange man, an evil man, I was scared of him since he had tried to lock me in a cupboard when I was 7 years old, I had failed to salute him in the street. My father saw that the unfortunate pilot was still alive but with two broken legs, his parachute lay opened around him. Damberger shot and killed him. My father and other men wrapped the pilot in his parachute and buried him on the spot. A few days later my father made a coffin and the pilot was exhumed and then reburied in it. A fence was made to keep animals away and I would go back often to lay flowers".
The following year, 1941, Keymer was reburied in the churchyard.
John Gilbert Keymer also joined the RAF and flew Wellingtons as a Sergeant with 149 Squadron. On the night of 10/11th May 1941 his aircraft was lost without trace on a raid to Hamburg. One of the gunners who died was Sgt. Thomas Nathan Menage who had flown in Blenheims with 29 Squadron in the Battle of Britain.
Philip Keymer served in the Army and was awarded a Military Cross for actions at Tobruk.
There is speculation that the combat may have been observed by Goering, who was then attending a Luftwaffe conference at the nearby Chateau Ledquent. This has not been proved along with the idea that his special train 'Asia' had conveyed him there via the railway previously mentioned.
Additional research and photos courtesy of Edward Keymer