Robert Percy Kellett was born 11 February 1896 in Whitburn, Sunderland. His parents were Robert and Lucy Kellett of Shincliff, County Durham, and Blyth, Northumberland, respectively. The elder Robert Kellett worked as a coal miner, waggon-way man, then rolley-way man. His job was to mind the rolley-way (the path cut for horses to collect full tubs of coal and to return them once empty), keeping it in good repair to ensure the swift removal of coal. Kellett, his parents, and his younger brother William lived at Percy Terrace in Whitburn throughout young Robert’s childhood.
In 1914, Kellett entered Bede College where he trained to be a school teacher. He sat the first year examination for the Archbishop’s Certificate in 1915 and was listed with the Class II students the following year. He was unable to sit the second year examination, however, as he enlisted on 8 December 1916 and left the college without having obtained his qualification.
Kellett enlisted as a private with the 21st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps (Yeoman Rifles) on short service for the duration of the war. The battalion underwent training at Helmsley and Aldershot before sailing to France in May 1916 to participate in the summer offensive on the Somme. Once in the field in June 1916, Kellett was placed in charge of the cookhouse and was once reprimanded for neglect of duty. Nevertheless, in August 1916 he was appointed Lance Corporal for a probationary period, and the appointment was confirmed (with pay at that rank) from 26 October 1916.
Kellett survived the perils of the Somme summer offensive, but he was killed in action at Wytschaete, south of Ypres, on 12 March 1917. He is commemorated on the Bede College Memorial Plaque and Cross, as well as the memorial plaque at St. Mary’s Church, Whitburn.