Sidney Keyes

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Sidney Keyes
BornSidney Arthur Kilworth Keyes
(1922-05-27)27 May 1922
Died29 April 1943(1943-04-29) (aged 20)
Cause of deathKilled in action
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
Notable awardsHawthornden Prize

Sidney Arthur Kilworth Keyes (27 May 1922 – 29 April 1943) was an English poet of World War II.


Early years and education[edit]

Keyes was born on 27 May 1922.[1] His mother died shortly afterwards and he was raised by his paternal grandparents.[2] Keyes started writing poetry when still very young, with Wordsworth, Rilke and Jung among his main influences.[2] He attended Dartford Grammar School and then boarded at Tonbridge School (Hillside, 1935-1940) during his secondary education, after which he won a history scholarship to Queen's College, Oxford.[2][3] While at college, Keyes wrote the only two books of his lifetime, The Cruel Solstice and The Iron Laurel.[4] During his time in Oxford, Keyes fell in love with the young German artist Milein Cosman, but his love was not returned. He also befriended fellow poets John Heath-Stubbs and Michael Meyer, edited The Cherwell magazine, and formed a dramatic society.[2]

The Iron Laurel was published in 1942, when Keyes was 20 years old. His poetry was also published in the New Statesman, The Listener and other poetry journals.[2]

Military service[edit]

Keyes left Oxford and joined the army in April 1942,[5] entering active service that same year.[6] He was sent with the Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment to fight in the Tunisia Campaign of World War II in March 1943.[2][7] Prior to his service, Keyes had already written more than half of the 110 poems that would later be gathered in The Collected Poems of Sidney Keyes.[5] During combat, he was reported to have continued writing poetry. However, these works have not survived.[8]


Keyes fought and died in action on 29 April 1943, covering his platoon's retreat during a counter-attack,[2] shortly before his 21st birthday.[7] It has also been stated that he died at the hands of the enemy, following his capture.[9]


In 1943, Keyes was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for The Cruel Solstice and The Iron Laurel.[10] He has been described as one of the outstanding poets of the Second World War.[2]


  1. ^ Kendall 2009, p. 398
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Sidney Keyes (1922-1943)". The War Poet Association. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  3. ^ Berryman 1947, p. 510
  4. ^ Dickey 2004, p. 256
  5. ^ a b Hynes 1990, p. 298
  6. ^ Dickey 2004, p. 259
  7. ^ a b Kendall 2006, p. 185
  8. ^ Kendall 2009, p. 401
  9. ^ Michael L. Meyer, introduction to Keyes, Collected Poems Routledge (1945).
  10. ^ Moseley, Merritt. "The Hawthornden Prize". University of North Carolina. Archived from the original on 9 April 2011. Retrieved 16 May 2010.


External links[edit]