McKeever was born in Listowel, Ontario, Canada, to Bella Henderson and William McKeever, a grocer and butcher. After attending Toronto’s Central Technical School, McKeever worked as a teller until 1916.
McKeever joined the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, a militia unit, as a private. He remained with them until November, 1916, when he was accepted into the Royal Flying Corps. He sailed for England for training on 25 November 1916. He was commissioned a probationary lieutenant on 5 December.
Following training, he was assigned on 28 May 1917 to No. 11 Squadron, which was flying obsolete F.E.2s. They re-equipped shortly thereafter with Bristol F.2A fighters, sometimes referred to as the Brisfit. Among McKeever's tasks were photographic reconnaissance, with his observer wielding a hand-held camera and taking the photos. Although the Brisfit could do this job well, it was as fast as the Fokkers that opposed it, as well as maneuverable enough to be flown like a single-seater.
McKeever began his career as an ace by destroying a D.V on 26 June 1917 and sending down another out of control. On 7 July, he and Powell knocked down three more, with one destroyed and two falling uncontrollably out of the battle. McKeever would repeat this feat of triple victories on three more occasions, on 5 August, 23 September, and 31 October 1917.
On 3 October, when his score reached 20, Lieutenant McKeever was awarded a Bar to the Military Cross he had gained a month prior.
On 30 November 1917, while flying Brisfit A7288, he ended his career by attacking two German two-seaters protected by a flight of seven Albatros D.Vs. The D.Vs paid dearly for their protective role, as McKeever and Powell destroyed four of them, one of which burned. When Powell's gun failed, McKeever feigned being shot down and dived out the battle. He leveled off at only 25 feet altitude and, hidden from enemy planes by a shield of fog, hightailed for home. The remaining Germans broke off contact. This epic battle earned the Distinguished Service Order for Captain McKeever.
McKeever would score all 31 of his victories while flying the two-seater fighter, becoming the RFC/RAF's leading two-seater fighter pilot ace. All but two of those triumphs were over German Albatros D.V fighters. Seven different gunners/observers shared his victories. One of these, Lieutenant Leslie Powell, became an ace in his own right, with 19 successes, 18 of which were in tandem with McKeever.
Mckeever and his gunners's 31-claim tally consisted of 18 destroyed and 13 'out of control'.
On 25 January 1918, both pilot and observer were withdrawn from combat and shipped home. Major McKeever joined fellow aces William Bishop and Raymond Collishaw in establishing the Canadian Air Force. McKeever organized No 1 Squadron of the new air force. The war ended before the new squadron could take its Sopwith Dolphins to battle. Canada's government then dissolved the fledgling air force.
With war's end, McKeever accepted a job managing an airfield at Mineola, New York. Before he could start work, he was involved in an auto accident in his home town of Listowel. He broke his leg, complications set in, and he died of cerebral thrombosis on Christmas Day, 1919.
"2nd Lt Andrew Edward McKeever, R.F.C., Spec. Res. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, particularly when on offensive patrol. He attacked eight enemy aircraft single-handed at close range, and by his splendid dash and determination destroyed one and drove five down completely out of control. He had previously shown exceptional fearlessness in attacking the enemy when in superior numbers, and in the space of three weeks he destroyed eight hostile machines, setting a very fine example to his squadron."
"Lt. Andrew Edward McKeever, M.C., R.F.C., Spec. Res. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in aerial combats. He has recently destroyed five enemy aeroplanes and driven down six out of control. On one occasion he encountered five enemy scouts, and drove down two out of control. Later, while leading a patrol, he engaged nine enemy scouts. He destroyed two, drove down one out of control, and dispersed the remainder. His dash and determination have been a fine example to his squadron."
"2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Andrew Edward McKeever, M.C., R.F.C., Spec. Res. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. While on patrol by himself over the enemy's lines in very bad weather he encountered two enemy two-seater machines and seven scouts. By skilful maneuvering he engaged one and destroyed it. As he turned to get back to the lines five of the enemy dived on his tail and his observer engaged and destroyed two of them. After an indecisive combat with two others he attacked and destroyed one of the enemy which had overshot him. He continued the fight with the remainder until he was within twenty feet of the ground, when the enemy machines climbed and left him. He has recently destroyed ten enemy machines and has shown great courage and initiative."
New Chinook building named for Canadian First World War hero
On June 26, 2015, descendants of Major Andrew Edward McKeever and Member of Parliament for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Cheryl Gallant unveil the main sign for the 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron hangar during its dedication ceremony at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario. PHOTO: Sergeant Jean-Francois Lauzé 450 Squadron commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher McKenna (left); 450 Squadron Chief Warrant Officer CWO Luc Emond; McKeever family members Phyllis Thompson, Ross Thompson and Ralf Robinson; Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Member of Parliament Cheryl Gallant; and 1 Wing commander Colonel Scott Clancy prepare to cut the ribbon on the new Major Andrew Edward McKeever Building at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario, on June 26, 2015. PHOTO: Sergeant Jean-Francois Lauzé Crewmembers load a CH-147F Chinook helicopter with nitrogen tanks at the Kapuskasing, Ontario, airport on May 1, 2015. The Chinook was deployed on Operation Lentus in support of the provincial evacuation of residents from the flood-affected community of the Kashechewan First Nation, located near the Albany River on the western shore of James Bay in Northern Ontario. PHOTO: Master Corporal Melissa Spence
By Melinda Miller
The Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, located at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Petawawa, Ontario, was re-established as the home for Canada’s new CH-147F Chinook helicopter fleet and, on June 26, 2015, the hangar housing the new Chinooks was officially named the Major Andrew Edward McKeever Building.
“Major McKeever was the epitome of what it means to serve one’s country, with an impressive 18 aerial victories to his name in the First World War,” wrote Minister of National Defence Jason Kenney in a statement read by Member of Parliament Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke) during the ceremony. “It is a fitting tribute to Major McKeever’s service to name the home of our new Chinook fleet after him.”
Major McKeever was a Canadian First World War flying ace who claimed his first two aerial victories 98 years ago, on June 26, 1917. He received the Military Cross on September 17, 1917, for his total of 18 targets confirmed destroyed, and received a bar to his Military Cross a month later.
RCAF historian Major William March has checked many published sources concerning Major McKeever’s combat record. “Most of the sources I have checked credit him with 31 victories, of which 13 were enemy aircraft ‘driven down out of control’," Major March said. “Up until late 1918, it was British practice to credit the ‘moral’ victory of preventing an enemy aircraft from completing its task by driving it away. It should be noted that as the prevailing winds on the Western Front more often than not blew from British lines toward German lines, it was common practice for German aircraft to dive away from a fight toward their own lines (these were often claimed as ‘driven down out of control’), where they would climb to altitude and get back into the fight.”
“We are pleased to be able to have descendants of Major Andrew McKeever here with us today as we dedicate this hangar in his name,” said 450 Squadron commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Chris McKenna during the June 26 ceremony. “The tradition of naming buildings after soldiers, sailors and aviators in the Canadian Armed Forces is well established, and provides us with a link to our roots and history, one that will be a reminder to every member of this squadron as they pass through those front doors.”
Under the Canada First Defence Strategy, the Government of Canada invested in infrastructure at CFB Petawawa that includes a hangar, a ramp, utility services (water, sewer, electrical lines, etc.), a refueling facility, and a fenced-in parking area. The 50,000-square-metre building, constructed by EllisDon Corporation of Ottawa under an original contract valued at $134.8 million, houses the new helicopters and 450 Squadron (which reports to 1 Wing, Kingston, Ontario). By 2016 it will be home to about 400 military personnel.
Canada’s 15th and final CH-147F Chinook helicopter arrived in July 2014. The Chinooks have dramatically increased the RCAF’s ability to respond effectively to needs throughout Canada and elsewhere. They can operate in remote and isolated areas, and respond to emergencies such as fires, floods and earthquakes. The fleet saw its first action in April 2015, when two Chinooks deployed to Kapuskasing, Ontario, in response to spring flooding.