SKeith completed five terms at Cambridge, before applying to join the Officer Cadet Training unit of the Gordon Highlanders, inspired by his uncle Keith's service with that regiment until he was killed by a sniper in the closing stages of the First World War.
His poor eyesight frustrated that ambition and he was instead told that he would have to ‘go down the mines’ as his contribution to the war effort. If it had not been for the intervention of a tutor at Cambridge, this would have been his most likely outcome! Instead, he was directed to take a 6 month course in Japanese at Bedford. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1942, receiving his call up in 1943.
Early In 1943, then aged 22, Keith set sail for Bombay on the ‘Nevasa’, via the Suez Canal. In Delhi, he joined the 164th Signals Wing Headquarters as an interpreter, taking down Japanese phonetically. He received his commission in India.
During the war, Keith received various postings in India, Ceylon and Singapore. At the end of the war he joined the education branch of the Air Force and in 1946 was posted to Hiroshima as Acting Flight Lieutenant, returning to ‘civvies’ in 1947. He was granted a ‘war degree’ and resumed his academic career with the Roston Scholarship to study Oriental Languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London where Sir Ralf Turner, Professor of Sanskrit had recently been appointed to a chair.