The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. F J KEAST
Francis John Keast, from Swalecliffe, Whitstable was born on 18th November 1908 in Uxbridge and joined 601 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force around April 1936.
On 5th May 1939 he married Ruth Alexandra Elliott at St. Faith's Church, Lee-on-Solent.
He was called up on 24th August 1939 and started training as an Air Gunner at 5 BGS Jurby.
On returning to 601 at Tangmere Keast and the other gunners found that the squadron had exchanged its Blenheims for Hurricanes and they were posted to another Auxiliary Air Force Blenheim squadron, 600 at Manston, to replace losses sustained in the raid on Waalhaven airfield near Rotterdam on 10th May 1940.
Keast was a member of the crew of Blenheim L8665 which was
shot down by a Me109 of JG26 on 8th August. The pilot, F/O DN Grice, stayed at the controls to guide the burning aircraft away from Ramsgate, it crashed in flames into the sea off the town. All three aboard were killed, the other crewmember being AC1 JBW Warren.
Keast was 32 and is buried in Whitstable cemetery.
In 2006 John Rowe, a Regional Volunteer for the war memorial charity War Memorials Trust, felt that the town of Ramsgate owed this crew a debt of gratitude. He proposed that a new memorial be created in the town to commemorate this crew's sacrifice. With local support from the Ramsgate Society, the Ramsgate Charter Trustees and the local branch of the Royal Air Force Association fund raising was commenced and efforts initiated to trace members of the crew's families. Unfortunately, in the event, only relatives of the air gunner Sgt Francis John Keast were traced and on the day of the unveiling 16 members of his family were in attendance.
The site of the former Ramsgate Hospital, which was being redeveloped into luxury apartments, was identified as an appropriate site.
The memorial plaque was designed by a local artist, Mr Denys le Fevre FRSA, and made at a local stonemasons in black slate with gold lettering. On the 3rd March 2006 Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, former leader of Kent County Council, unveiled the new Blenheim memorial as a part of an overall ceremony at which the refurbished Peace Memorial was handed back formally to the people of Ramsgate. Members of Sgt Keast’s family laid 3 wreaths, 1 for each of the crew members.