The family of Bombardier Robert Key never talked about his death in Annezin, France on 5th September 1944. It was an uncomfortable subject for them as they had been told he had been killed whilst showing off with a hand grenade.
But the real and truly heroic and heart warming story has emerged after the family of the Bombardier were approached by the town’s mayor, Daniel Delomez, to inform them that a road was being named in his honour.
It turns out that, on the day after Liberation Day, in a small town 50 miles to the South of Calais, the Bombardier whilst on a lone patrol spotted a young child pick up a hand grenade and pull out the pin. He rushed over, grabbed the device and putting it inside his jacket ran away as fast as he could. The grenade exploded instantly killing the brave soldier. According to the mayor this single act had saved the lives of several children, maybe as many as twenty.
The military inquiry seemed to have been a pretty cursory affair as it had taken gestures from locals of the pulling of the pin out of a grenade as indications that he had been playing with it and it had gone off. But we must also not forget that this was a very confusing time for everyone and to fully investigate every death would have been an overly onerous task for the War Office to undertake.
It is though a pity that the MOD has stated that his service record cannot be amended to record this act, but they will allow a letter to be placed in it to reflect his actions.
I would go one further and say a posthumous award is definitely due to this soldier. It takes a very, very brave man indeed to cradle certain death to his body to save the lives of others, especially when there is no personal attachment.
After all the elapsed time this must be a marvellous Christmas present to the family and we wish them well on their trip to the scene of Bombardier Key’s heroics next year.