Airborne Engineers Association

Keith King

 

 

Keith King - 4th July 1947 to 16th September 2016 - Eulogy by Chris O'Donovan

 

Keith King

The death has occurred of the much-loved 9 Sqn veteran, Keith King, at the age of sixty-nine. He had enjoyed a varied, exciting and adventurous life of which he repeatedly said that his most enjoyable years were those that he spent in The Squadron and his best friends are those that he made there. He was a loyal, generous friend who was always fun to be with and probably his only fault was that he rarely took anything too seriously – unless, of course, it was really serious.

Keith was born on the 4th of July 1947 in Salisbury, Rhodesia where his father was an officer in the Rhodesian Army. The family moved back to England via the Seychelles Islands in the early nineteen-sixties and set up home in York Road, Woking where he attended St Thomas’s RC School, Chertsey, followed by Brooklands Tech in Weybridge. Brooklands could be interpreted as being where his journey to the Squadron began. It was there that he met Chris O’Donovan, a potential Sqn member; the two were to remain lifelong close friends. College life at Brooklands provided too many distractions for Keith to concentrate on a conventional career so his name was not to appear in academic lights when he left. He spent a fun-filled year enjoying a series of jobs and doing as much travel as he could. One of his journeys was meant to be a short camping trip to Spain (with neither tent nor kit), he ended up being away for several months on a grand tour which took him from Southern Spain, through France and the Low Countries, eventually finishing up in Denmark. This was all without, as far as I know, any financial means of support.

By 1966 the King family had moved from Woking to the seaside town of Exmouth. Keith decided that it was time for a complete change in his lifestyle so much to everyone’s surprise he decided to join the Army. On the 16th October 1966 he, and his mate Chris, signed on at Exeter Recruiting office. His original plan had been to do a six year engagement with the Parachute Regiment but the recruiting staff were doing a hard sell on the Royal Engineers, they were keen to point out that with his educational grading he could earn really good trade pay, if he signed on for nine rather than six years he could buy himself out after six at a handsome profit and if he really thought that he’d look good in a red beret he could go and join The 9 Indep Para Sqn RE. A no-brainer. On completion of basic training, which he thoroughly enjoyed, he was posted to 23 Amphibious Engineer Sqn working with M2 bridging rigs and heavy ferries on the River Weser and loving every minute of it. Being Keith he also loved the opportunity to have an insight into German life and culture.

He volunteered for 9 Squadron in 1967 and on successful completion of selection through P Coy and parachute training at Abingdon he was posted to 3 Troop, a couple of years later he took over as squadron draughtsman in HQ Troop. During his time in the Sqn he served in Libya, Kenya, Denmark, Northern Ireland (multiple tours) and Malaya. He was much liked by all members of the Sqn regardless of rank, the early assignation of his nickname “Humba Luppa” is evidence of this. It always seemed that the tougher the conditions the better he liked it. That smile never left his face. He was always a key part of any social event, usually in the centre of any singsong with his exotic auto-harp. He left the Sqn in 1977 and was posted back to Germany where, among other things, he was a squadron despatch rider on their old BSA
350.

He initially trained and qualified in 12 RSME as a Draughtsman (Mechanical Engineering), which was a good move because it resulted in him earning very high ‘T’ trade pay for his entire military career. It would be clear to anybody who knew Keith that sitting at a drawing board all day would not be for him so he changed horses and qualified as a crane operator, something for which he had a natural flair. He was able to use this talent to good effect in his final posting with 33 EOD Regiment, one area where a steady hand would be much appreciated.
Keith left the Army in 1985 and continued to work as a civilian crane operator.

He was much sought after for his unique skills. One of his jobs was to be the site operator at Windsor Castle after the tragic great fire there. Most importantly, he was able to provide well for his large family. Eventually Parkinson’s disease prevented him from being able work.
On the third weekend of May each year a large group of us from the Sqn goes to North Wales for an adventurous weekend in the mountains of Snowdonia. Keith with his wife Sue were constantly core members of the party until the onset of Parkinson’s with the effects of its related medication meant that it was just no longer feasible for Sue to bring him up there. It was a tribute to his courage and determination to see him ride a mountain bike along rough trails or sail a dinghy in the Menai Straits, bearing in mind that by that stage he could hardly walk. He was a founder member of the Airborne Engineers Association Chatham Branch.

He married firstly Lynn in 1975 (later annulled), with whom he had six children Allan, Sharon, Hyron, Emma, Joel and Helen. He later married Sue who brought her three children Kathryn, Heather and Ian into his family.

Eventually Keith’s illness gained the upper hand and he passed away from us on Friday 16th September surrounded by his family. He is survived by his beloved wife Sue as well as all of his children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.

He would have had satisfaction in the knowledge that, as an organ donor, by the time of his funeral he had given the opportunity of life to one woman and two men. He could ask for no better commemoration.

 

 

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