Talk for Western Front Association branches

1. Robert Keable, utterly immoral WW1 chaplain?

2. Treated like POWs. The story of the South African Native Labour Corps.

3. Did we ever say thank you? Foreign labourers serving in France in the British Labour Corps during WW1

I can say that your talk was extremely well received and enjoyed by those present. Your grandfather's story is remarkable and from a WW1 perspective you brought the SANLC out of the unknown.

Jim Kevany, branch chairman, Essex WFA

Thanks once again for a terrific talk last night. It was a subject that we have not had a talk on before and makes a change from our usual fare.

Tom Mudd, speaker secretary, Suffolk WFA

Thank you very much for your excellent presentation; it was greatly appreciated by all in attendance. None of us had ever heard of Robert Keable, or his scandalous novel.  Furthermore, we knew little about the activities and treatment of the South African Native Labour Corps.  Your talk, therefore, was a real eye-opener from which we all learned a great deal.  Comments received from supporters after the event have been very favourable and appreciative.

Peter Garland, speaker secretary, Lincoln WFA


1 Robert Keable, utterly immoral WW1 chaplain?
The story of Rev Robert Keable’s time as a WW1 chaplain in France to the appallingly treated men of the South African Native Labour Corps; and the story of the writing, publication and reaction to his scandalous semi-autobiographical bestselling war novel Simon Called Peter. What happened in France to lead a Cambridge educated rising star in the Church of England to leave the church, and his wife, and to run away to Tahiti to live in Paul Gauguin’s house with his mistress?

2 Treated like POWs. The story of the South African Native Labour Corp.
The story of the 27,000 black labourers who volunteered to travel from southern Africa to work in France during the second half of WW1. Beginning with the British negotiations with the South African government this talk looks at the setting up, deployment and withdrawal of the men and highlights the valuable work of the men despite being treated worse than German POWs doing similar work.

3 Did we ever say thank you? Foreign labourers serving in France in British Labour Corps during WW1 (Available from 2025)
The story of the foreign labourers from India, China, Fiji, South Africa, the West Indies, and Egypt who served in the France during WW1. The talk will look at the different methods used to recruit foreign labourers, the work and experience of the men and the differing consequences when the men returned home. 


Simon is Robert Keable’s grandson. He has been researching Robert Keable’s life and work for the last thirty years. He has been in contact with a number of academics in South Africa, and around the world, and has an excellent knowledge on the story of the SANLC during the war. In July 2021 he took early retirement following 25 years as a secondary school politics teacher and now works as a full-time writer and lecturer. He is a member of the Western Front Association.  His first book Utterly Immoral, Robert Keable and his scandalous novel was published in November 2022.

Simon has already given talks to the following Western Front Association branches:

  • Suffolk WFA - 12th April 2023 
  • London WFA - 13th April 2023
  • Southend-on-Sea WFA - 17th April 2023
  • Wessex WFA - 3rd June 2023
  • Northants WFA - 10th August 2023 
  • Oxford and Bucks WFA - 18th Novemebr 2023
  • Sussex WFA - 8th December 2023
  • Milton Keynes WFA - 15th March 2024
  • Thames Valley WFA - 28th March 2024
  • Essex WFA - 10th April 2024
  • Lincoln WFA - 29th April 2024

A list of future talks can be found on the Events page
If you require any further information, please do email Simon on [email protected] or use the contact page to send a message.