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Okanagan Military Museum

MILITARY BIOGRAPHIES

MAJOR-GENERAL RODNEY F. L. KELLER

1939-45 Star
Commander Order of the British Empire (CBE)

The challenge and turmoil of command in war -

Command in war is one of the most intense crucibles of leadership and tests human endurance both physically and psychologically to the maximum. This was the challenge that Major-General Keller faced leading the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division during the invasion of Normandy and subsequent bitter fighting inland against some of Hitler's most fanatical troops.

Major-General Rod Keller began his military career at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario,at the end of the First World War. He served as a member of the Permanent Force officer corps with the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry (PPCLI) during the inter-war years. He attended the British Army's Camberley Staff College in England before WWII having been selected for potential senior rank.

With the outbreak of WWII Keller was sent overseas as a brigade major and he eventually rose to the command of the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry in 1941 in the accelerated pace of an army at war. A promotion to Officer Commanding the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade followed a few months later. Keller now a major-general served between September 8th, 1942, and August 8th, 1944, as General Officer Commanding the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

View of Juno beach from a captured German gun position
Canadian troops of the 8th Brigade move inland from Juno beach.

He led the division during the initial assault on the beaches of Normandy and as it fought inland against stubborn resistance often from elite and fanatical SS units. Wounded on August 8th, when US bombers mistakenly bombed Canadian troops during the opening rounds of Operation Tractable he was relieved of command.

 

American B-17s bombing targets in France

Although Keller was popular with his troops for his frank and outspoken manner he did not have the support of many of his staff officers or superiors as a result of several incidents that brought his leadership capabilities into question. After being relieved Keller received no further command during WWII.

General Keller served as a Kelowna alderman following the war having had family connections in the area. He also served as the Honorary Colonel of the B.C. Dragoons until his death. Ironically he died while on a visit back to the scenes of his last field command in Normandy in 1954 joining many of those under his command who ended their lives in those bloodied fields. Military command is the most demanding of tasks and those who aspire and train for it are at the mercy of not just the demands of war but those that reside in the human soul itself.

SegunArt All rights reserved no duplication of site images or content without permission. Webmaster Walter Viita. Contact:www.okmilmuseum.ca.