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Biographical entry Keogh, Sir Alfred Henry (1857 - 1936)

GCB 1917; KCB 1906; CB 1900; GCVO 1918; CH 1918; Hon FRCS 26 July 1917; MRCP 1910; FRCP 1914; LM MD MCh RUI 1878; DSc RUI; Hon MD Dublin; Hon FRCS Edinburgh 1905; Hon FRCSI 1906; Hon LLD Aberdeen and Edinburgh; Hon DSc Oxford and Leeds.

3 July 1857
30 July 1936
General surgeon


Born in Dublin 3 July 1857 of Catholic ancestry, he was the son of Henry Keogh, a member of the Irish Bar and resident magistrate of Roscommon. He was educated at Queen's College, Galway, and graduated MD at the Royal University of Ireland in 1878. He then came to London, was house physician at the Brompton Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, and served as clinical assistant at the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital in King William Street, Charing Cross, under Henry Power. On 2 March 1880 he received a commission as surgeon-captain in the Army Medical Service, passing in second on the list. He gained the Herbert prize at Netley and won the Martin memorial gold medal. He served as surgeon to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, and was promoted surgeon-major in 1892. During the South African war 1899-1902 he was commandant of a general hospital with the acting rank of colonel, and took part in operations in Cape Colony, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal. He was mentioned in despatches, was promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1900, and was specially selected for increased pay for his services. On 10 April 1901 he received the Queen's medal with four clasps, and was decorated CB in the previous year. During 1902-05 he was Deputy Director-General of Army Medical Services, was promoted colonel on 2 December 1904 and on the following day was gazetted surgeon-general, becoming Director-General, Army Medical Services, with the rank of lieutenant-general on 1 January 1905. He held the post until March 1910 when he retired but was reappointed Director-General in October 1914 and remained in office until 1918. It was his duty on reappointment to organize and administer the medical services at home, Sir Arthur Sloggett, who had succeeded him as Director-General in 1910, being charged with similar duties for the British Expeditionary Force in France. For a few weeks in the interval between the two appointments Keogh acted as chief commissioner in France for the British Red Cross Society. After the conclusion of the war Keogh was colonel-commandant of the Army Medical Service, 1921-27. In 1910 he became rector of the Imperial College of Science in South Kensington, retaining office until 1922, when he resigned and received the gold medal of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy.

He married twice: (1) in 1880 Elizabeth (d 1887), daughter of Surgeon-Major H St George Williams, MD IMS, by whom he had a son; and (2) in 1888 Camilla, daughter of Captain W Hamilton Hart, 105th Regiment, who survived him with two married daughters. He died at 10 Warwick Square, SW1, on 30 July 1936 and was buried in the Marylebone Cemetery, Finchley, after a requiem mass at Westminster Cathedral.

Keogh has many claims to remembrance. He was a great organizer and a great administrator. He had a wide outlook and had general interests in many matters outside his army duties. Throughout his life he desired to make civilian practitioners work with the army branch, and in this he was successful to the great advantage of the wounded in the world war. When the Territorial Force was called into existence in 1908, mainly at the instigation of his personal friend Lord Haldane, Keogh undertook to organize the medical side. He visited personally the various medical schools in the metropolis and in the provinces, called the staff together in each case, addressed them, and undertook to give the members commissions à la suite as captains, majors, and lieutenant-colonels according to their seniority. As Director-General of the Army Medical Service he introduced several desirable reforms. He arranged that the sanitation of the army should be placed under the control of the command¬ing officer of each unit, instead of under the medical officer. He reorganized the system of army hospitals by closing the small depot hospitals and replacing them with larger and better equipped institutions. He improved the status of junior medical officers by allowing them study leave and by giving postgraduate teaching for the examination at promotion from captain to major. These desirable reforms he brought about without undue friction by his personality and evident desire to advance the interests of the service. In 1937 the Army Council named the new barracks of the RAMC Depot and Army School of Hygiene at Aldershot "Keogh Barracks" in his memory (Lancet, 1937, 1, 822). On 18 February 1938 Lady Keogh unveiled in the library of the Royal Army Medical College the banner and crest of a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath, bequeathed by Sir A Keogh, which had hung during his life in Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey (Brit med J 1938, 1, 546).

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 31 July 1936, p 16b, with portrait, 5 August p 14c, and 11 August p 14b; Brit med J 1936, 2, 317, with portrait; Lancet, 1936, 2, 349, with portrait, and p 464; J Roy Army med Cps, 1936, 67, 145, with portrait in uniform; information given by Lady Keogh; personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England