Home Search Index of men A-Z

The E.J. Boys Archive

Latest edits, with additional material, 28.4.14, 15.5.14.

Portrait of John keen, 13th Light Dragoons. Click to enlarge.

(Click on image to enlarge)

1529, Private John KEEN — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Born in Pimlico, London, on the 27th of July 1834. Said to be the son of George Keen and his first wife (name unknown).

A brother of 1522 Joseph Keen — 13th Light Dragoons.


Enlisted into the 3rd Light Dragoons at London on the 28th of June 1848. Regtl. No. 2082.

Age: 14.

Height: 5' 4".

Trade: None.

Attained "Man's service" on the 28th of July 1852.

Features: Fresh complexion. Hazel eyes. Brown hair.


Transferred to the 13th Light Dragoons on the 1st of July 1853.

Embarked for the Crimea aboard the H.T. "Negociator" on the 8th of May 1854.

Wounded in action at Balaclava and sent to Scutari on the 27th of October 1854.

Invalided to England on the 23rd of February 1855.

(See record of 1471 George Gibson, 13th Light Dragoons for the story of his assisting John Keen.)

Sent to Malta on the 16th of December 1854 and was invalided to England in February of 1855.

Discharge & pension

Discharged from Cahir on the 18th of October 1856, as:

"Unfit for further service. This man suffers from gun-shot wounds of the right leg sustained in action at Balaclava on the 25th of October 1854 — from the nature of the wounds, a canister-shot entered the lower and outer part of the leg, winding around the leg and coming out at the upper third of the leg and in its course injuring the fibula. He is liable to have them re-opened and pieces of bone come away. Consequently his ability of earning a living is greatly impaired."

Served 4 years 253 days, to count. In Turkey and the Crimea, 1 year. In India, 1 year 6 months.

Conduct: "good". Not in possession of any Good Conduct badges.

Aged 24 years on discharge.

He was awarded a pension of 9d per day, but he attended a Medical Board at Woolwich on the 22nd of August 1907 and his pension was increased to 18d. per day from the 5th of September 1907.

A letter relating to this increase was sent from the Secretary's Office at the Royal Hospital Chelsea to T. H. Roberts at his London officeL

19th September 1907.

Sir, I am directed by the Lords and others, Commissioners of this Hospital, to inform you that the pension of the Crimean Veteran named in the margin, who took part in the Balaclava Charge, has been increased from 9 pence to 18 pence a day from the 5th September 1907.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

W.T. Hughes.

Now in a private collection, this letter was pasted in the back of his personal copy of the 1879 Balaclava Commemoration Society Rule and Membership Book as well as studio portraits of him and his wife, and a number of annotations had been made to names of other members relating to dates of death, etc.)


Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Sebastopol and the Turkish medal.

He was presented with his Crimean medal by Queen Victoria at a ceremony on the Horse Guards Parade on the 18th of May 1855. His name appears on the Nominal Return of those present now in the National Archive, also on a similar roll which appeared in the United Services Magazine for June of 1855 and on that which appeared in the Illustrated London News of the 26th of May 1855.

Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, having been recommended for it on the 10th of February 1855, and received it with a gratuity of £5, but it is not known under what circumstances.

Further detailed medal information archived.


Member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1877 and 1879.

648 Edwin Leaney wrote to him on Society business in 1879.

Signed the Loyal Address to the Queen in 1887.


Studio portraits of JK and his wife (in private collection, see above),

Life after service

To live in Dalston, London on discharge.

1871 Census

161, Moxey Road, Plumstead.

John Keen, 36, Timekeeper Arsenal, Born Pimlico.

Mary A Keen, 36, born Baldock.

Alice Keen, 11, Scholar, born Plumstead.

Thomas Keen, 7, Scholar, born Plumstead.

Edwin Keen, 1, born Plumstead.

Births registered

Alice Keen [daughter], December Quarter 1859, Lewisham.

Thomas Keen [son], March Quarter 1864, Greenwich.

Edwin Keen [son], June Quarter 1869, Woolwich.

1881 Census

167, Moxey Road, Plumstead.

John Keen, 46, Timekeeper, born Pimlico.

Mary A Keen, 46, born Baldock.

Thomas Keen, 17, Apprentice, born Plumstead.

Edwin Keen, 11, Scholar, born Plumstead.

Alice Norton, widowed daughter, Dressmaker, born Plumstead.

Wallace Norton, 1, grandson, born Sevenoaks.

Death registered

Wallace Norton [grandson], aged 2, March Quarter 1882, Woolwich.

Marriage registered

Edwin Keen [son], to Emily Esther Russell, September Quarter 1889, Woolwich.

Alice Norton [formerly Keen][daughter] to Harry Beadle Boyten, March Quarter 1884, Woolwich.

Births registered to Edwin Keen [son]

All children of Edwin Keen [son], i.e. all are John Keen's grandchildren.

Nellie Keen [granddaughter], December Quarter 1890, Woolwich.

Ethel Alice Keen [granddaughter], June Quarter 1891, Woolwich.

Arthur Edwin Keen [grandson], December Quarter 1898, Woolwich.

George Keen [grandson], June Quarter 1900, Woolwich.

Olive Harris [sic — probably "Alice"] Keen [granddaughter], March Quarter 1906, Woolwich.

Florence Lily Keen [granddaughter], March Quarter 1908, Woolwich.

Edith M. Keen [granddaughter], March Quarter 1911, Woolwich.

Death registered

Ethel Alice Keen [granddaughter], December Quarter 1894, aged 3, Greenwich.

1891 Census

222 Moxey Road, Plumstead.

John Keen, 56, Timekeeper Arsenal, born Pimlico.

Mary A Keen, 56, born Baldock.

Thomas Keen, 27, single, Engineer Turner, born Plumstead.

Edwin Keen, 21, Metal Turner, born Plumstead.

Emily Keen, 19, wife, born Erith.

Nellie, Keen, 1, granddaughter, born Plumstead.

Ethel A Keen, 2 weeks, granddaughter, born Plumstead.


224, Moxey Road, Plumstead.

Harry B Boyten, 32, Writer, Insurance Agent, born Bishop Stortford.

Alice Boyten [daughter], 31, Plumstead.

Walter E Boyten, 6, Plumstead.

Arthur T Boyten, 3, Plumstead.

Births registered

All children of 2nd marriage of Alice [daughter], i.e. all are John Keen's grandchildren.

Walter Edwin Boyten, March Quarter 1885, Woolwich.

Arthur Thomas Boyten, June Quarter 1887, Woolwich.

Daisy Alice Boyten, June Quarter 1892, Woolwich.

Hilda Ethel Boyten, December Quarter 1894, Woolwich.

Herbert John Boyten, March Quarter 1897, Woolwich.

Doris Kathleen Boyten, September Quarter 1903, Woolwich.

By 1901, John Keen was living only a few doors away from his son Edwin.

1901 Census

222, Moxey Road Plumstead.

John Keen, 66, Retired Timekeeper, born London.

Mary A Keen, 66, born Baldock.

Thomas Keen, 37, son, single, General machinery [?] — out of employment, born Plumstead.


165, Moxey Road, Plumstead.

Edwin Keen [son], 31, Gauger tubes [sp?] — R. Lab [Royal Laboratory?], born Plumstead.

Emily E Keen, 29, Crossness.

Nellie Keen, 11, Plumstead.

Arthur Keen, 2, Plumstead.

George Keen, 9 months, Plumstead.


36, Heathwood Gardens, Greenwich.

Harry B Boyten [son-in-law], 42, Office writer, born Bishop Stortford.

Alice Boyten [daughter], 41, Plumstead.

Walter E Boyten, 16, Cable Telegraph operator.

Arthur T Boyten, 13; Daisy A, 8; Hilda E, 6; Herbert J, 4; all born Plumstead.

One boarder is also shown.

Death registered

Thomas Keen [son], aged 47, December Quarter 1910, Woolwich.

1911 Census

222, Moxey Road, Plumstead.

[A six-room house].

John Keen, widowed, 76, Pensioner Army and Civil, born London.

Note: 54 years married — 5 children born; 2 still alive.

Edwin Keen, 41, son, Royal lab dept., Plumstead.

Emily Esther Keen, 39, daughter-in-law, Plumstead.

Note: 22 years married, 8 children born; 6 still living.

Arthur Edwin Keen, 12, Plumstead.

George Keen, 10, Plumstead.

Olive Alice Keen, 5, Plumstead.

Florence Lily Keen, 3, Plumstead.

Edith May Keen, 1, Plumstead.


Casa Malita [Melita?], Eaglesfield Road, Plumstead.

Harry Beadle Boyten, 52, Government Clerk, born Bishop Stortford.

Alice Boyten, 51, Plumstead.

Arthur Thomas Boyten, 23, Civil Service Clerk, Plumstead.

Hilda Ethel Boyten, 16, School, Plumstead.

Doris Kathleen Boyten, 7, Plumstead.

n.b. married 27 years; 8 children born alive, 7 still living.

Deaths registered

Mary Ann Keen [wife], aged 74, June Quarter 1909, Woolwich.

John Keen, aged 77, September Quarter 1911, Woolwich.

Alice Boyten [daughter], aged 87, December Quarter 1945, Lewisham.

Death & burial

Died, from "Cancer of the liver", at "Casa Melita", Eaglesfield Road, Plumstead, London, on the 23rd of August 1911.

Death registered

John Keen, aged 77, September Quarter 1911, Woolwich.

John Keen was buried (from 222 Moxey Road) in Plumstead Cemetery on the 25th of August, being then 77 years of age. He was buried in Grave No, 1762, Section "K". His wife, Mary Ann, was also buried in the same grave space on the 23rd of June 1909, also from 222 Moxey Road.

A memorial stone was erected over the grave, and was very much weathered, only the names of his wife and himself being legible.

This gravestone was eventually removed in 1981 because it was broken, following the "landscaping" of the area.

John Keen funeral notice

Further information

Death registered

Alice Boyten [daughter], aged 87, December Quarter 1945, Lewisham.

A relation has compiled an exceptional family tree of the Keen family from the 1770s onwards.

John Keen's father was born on the 4th of June 1810, also the son of a George Keen, born in 1774, the former dying on the 6th of October 1880 at the age of 70 years. He is believed to have been buried in Hammersmith Cemetery. A Joseph Keen was also from a first marriage. George Keen at the time of his second marriage was described as a "Coffee House Keeper" living in Brook Street, London, and later as a "Gentleman".

John Keen and his wife, Mary Ann, had two surviving children: Alice, born in 1872, and Edwin. [CP: The 1891 Census says five children, but only two still alive.]

In his last will and testament, made on the 3rd of February 1910 when he was living at 222, Moxey Road, Plumstead, London, he described himself as a "Retired Pensioner of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich".

He left "All my Savings Bank Account and money on my person, or owing to me", to his daughter, Alice, the wife of Henry Beadle Boynton [CP, 2014: Boyten], and "The leasehold of No. 222 Moxey Road, Plumstead, to my only son, Edwin". His daughter was the sole executrix of the will and it was witnessed by George Bede, a brass-finisher, of No. 263 Moxey Road, and Charles F. Newman, of No. 182 Moxey Road, L.C.C. School-keeper.

Extract from the Kentish Independent for Saturday the 12th July 1879:

"The Balaclava Charge — The Countess of Cardigan has just presented to Mr. John Keen, a timekeeper in the Royal Laboratory who rode in the famous Charge at Balaclava, a steel engraving representing the Earl of Cardigan leading the Light Brigade on that memorable occasion."

References & acknowledgements

Additional marriage, birth and death registrations, and Census information for 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911 kindly provided by Chris Poole.

New on the site Search Index of men K
For further information, or to express an interest in the project, please email the editors, Philip Boys & Roy Mills, via info@chargeofthelightbrigade.com