Sidney Keyes was born in Dartford, Kent on 27th May 1922 and educated at Tonbridge School and Queen’s College, Oxford. His mother died of peritonitis a few weeks after he was born and Sidney was entrusted to the care of his father’s parents. He had begun to write poetry at an early age: John Lucas describes his Elegy for his grandfather, written at the age of 16, as ‘of a quite astonishing precocity’, (Second World War Poetry in English, 34).
At Oxford Keyes edited The Cherwell magazine and, with fellow poet Michael Meyer, edited the volume Eight Oxford Poets. He became close friends with fellow-poets John Heath-Stubbs and Drummond Allison. His first volume of poetry, The Iron Laurel, was published in 1942, his second, The Cruel Solstice, was published posthumously in 1944. He left Oxford and joined the army in April 1942 seeing active service later that year. In March 1943 he was sent to fight in the Tunisia campaign and was killed on April 29th during a dawn patrol near Sidi Abdulla. Although he was reported to have continued to write poetry during combat none of these works have survived.
Sidney Keyes’ Poems:
- Time Will Not Grant
- For M.C., Written in the Train
- Poem for May the First
- Europe’s Prisoners
- Remember Your Lovers
- Two Offices of a Sentry
- War Poet
Resources for Sidney Keyes
The Collected Poems of Sidney Keyes, edited by Michael Meyer, Routledge, 1945
Sidney Keyes: A Biographical Inquiry, by John Guenther, London Magazine Editions, 1967
Collected Poems, Sidney Keyes, Carcanet, 2000