The start of Volume III, 1939-1945, finds Keyes in a frustrating position. Too young for fleet command in the First World War, he was now too old for command in the Second World War. Keyes’s temperament did not allow him to suffer in silence. His criticisms of the Naval Staff, and implicitly of the government reached another climax with his celebrated speech in the debate in the House of Commons in May 1940, which helped to bring down the Chamberlain government.
On 17 July 1940 Keyes was appointed Director of Combined Operations, and he set to work to build up an organization. Immediately this organization was at odds with both the Royal Navy and the Army, as they were competing for the same supplies, equipment and manpower. He was treated with considerable suspicion, personally, by the 3 Chiefs of Staff, who knew all to well his close connection to Churchill, and most of his proposals were ruled out by various planning committees.
In March 1941 the Commandos carried out a raid on the Lofoten Islands, and for much of the summer Keyes was involved in planning a raid on the Grand Canary Island or the Azores (Operation Pilgrim). This culminated in August in Exercise Leapfrog, designed as the dress rehearsal for the operation. The mistakes committed during this exercise led directly to Keyes dismissal as DCO and was eventually relived of his post by Churchill.
For the second time in the war Keyes was out of a job, when he thought he ought to have been running the war. He continued to write to all his naval friends and spoke out against the conduct of the war in Parliament. Despite his criticisms of the direction of the war Churchill offered Keyes a peerage, which he accepted. He died on 26th December 1945.