Keith Gill was born in Alberni on June 22, 1893 to Edith and Ed Gill. Both his parents were early pioneer settlers, each of them having walked to the Alberni Valley through the Horn Lake trail in the late 1800’s. The Gills were a farming family, settling in the Beaver Creek area. They were active in the community and their children enjoyed a fun and active life while growing up on a large family farm. In the summer of 1887, Ed Gill, along with George Huff, built the Beaver Creek and Alberni Schools; later, named Gill school in honor of Ed Gill. Keith was a laborer in the Alberni Valley and prior to 1914, relocated to Quebec.
Keith enlisted in the army in Valcartier, Quebec on September 23, 1914 in the Seventh Battalion and shipped overseas on 03 October, 1914. At some point in the early part of the war, he sent the following letter home: “We are in the thick of it now, and I don’t get much time to write, as we are in the trenches as much as we are out of them. We are getting pretty well used to the firing now. I have fired quite a few shots at the Germans, but I don’t know if I have killed any of them or not. I got hold of a German rifle and ammunition the other day and I used it to shoot at them with. This saved my own from getting dirty. I don’t know what they would say if they knew we were shooting at them with their own rifles. The trenches are so close that we yell back and time. The most of them can speak English, so we can tell what they are saying. I am feeling fine myself, and getting along fine. This country might be all right in peace times, but is sure badly battered up just at present. I guess they will build it up again when the war is over. I wish it was over now because I would like to be back among the timber and the mountains. I am getting tired of this settled country.”1
Keith was discharged on 29 September, 1915 in Quebec at age twenty-two. By the end of his time while in the war, the battles he fought in included: Neuve Chappelle, Festubert, and Ypres. In October of 1915, Keith returned home as a hero. Later, that summer he entered an organized swimming competition with eight competitors. The race was from Alberni to Port Alberni due to choppy waters most did not finish. He worked at various jobs in and around the Alberni Valley, farming, logging and mill work. He died in April 1967 in the Alberni Valley.
1. Letter Reference: “The Albernis 1860-1922”, 1992, Jan Peterson, Oolichan Books.