12589 later 33543 Private William Henry Grant, Bedfordshire Regiment
Born on 21st January 1885 in Wroxton, Oxfordshire
Died on 12th July 1969 in Nuneaton
William Henry Grant was born in Wroxton, Oxfordshire, the fourth of the 5 children of Caleb Grant and Eliza née Taylor. He was baptised at All Saints’ Church, Wroxton on 19th April 1885.
He had two older sisters: Annie, born 30th July 1879 and Emma, born 26th January 1881. His older brother Dennis was born on 15th February 1883 and his younger brother Albert on 17th August 1891.
The family lived in the village of Wroxton, Oxfordshire, where their father was a Garden Labourer.
In the 1901 Census, 16 year old William is shown as a Tin Worker, living at home with his parents. Also at home were his siblings Dennis, 18, an Agricultural Labourer and Albert, 10, who was at school.
However, by 1911, William, 26, was a Domestic Gardener living at The Bothy, Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire. His employer at that time was Sir William Plowden of Aston House.
William’s Army Service Record shows that, in 1912, after 1 year working at Aston House, he became a Gardener at Ashridge, working for Earl Brownlow.
William Grant attested for the Bedfordshire Regiment at Hertford on 27th August 1914. He served as a Private, Service Number 12589. William was then 29 years 8 months old, 5 feet 5¼ inches tall, weighed 124 pounds and had a 36 inch chest. He had a dark complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.
William was one of 16 men on the Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour who volunteered for the Bedfordshire Regiment in the first month of the War. 12473 William Wells volunteered on 26th August followed by 12589 William Grant, 12591 George Cash and almost certainly 12593 Charles Batchelor on the 27th. 13330 Frank Dove R.I.P. and 13724 Horace Halsey then joined on or before 3rd September 1914 and a further 10 men attested on 3rd September. These were 13785 Edward Saunders, 14374 Harold Catt, 14532 John Mayling, 14553 Victor Collier, 14546 Frederick Purton R.I.P., 14457 Ernest Bearton, 14575 Arthur Maunders, 17221 Bertie Purton, 17231 Herbert Fenn and 3/8219 Jesse Holland.
The Sixth Battalion
After a week at the Depot, William was posted to the 6th Battalion, in which he served until 28th March 1916. The 6th Battalion was a “Service” battalion, raised in August 1914 specifically for the duration of the War. Other local volunteers who served in that Battalion included Private George Cash, Private Charles Batchelor, Private William Wells, Private Frederick Purton and, for two months, Private Bertie Purton.
The Battalion was formed around a cadre of 200 experienced soldiers from the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, one of whom was Private Jesse Holland. They trained at Aldershot and then on Salisbury Plain until July 1915.
However, on 29th July 1915, the Battalion boarded trains at Ludgershall Station near Andover, arriving at Southampton late that afternoon. They then left for France at 6.30pm on board the Empress Queen and landed at Le Havre at 7am on 30th July 1915. They were based around St Omer before moving forward to the front line. The Battalion served entirely on the Western Front.
William had short periods in hospital with Rheumatism and, from 23rd to 28th March 1916, was hospitalised suffering from Debility – a very general term which included shell shock. Probably as a result of this, William returned to England from 29th March 1916 to 13th June 1916. His unit for that period was recorded as “Depot”, which may have signified time spent in hospital or convalescing. Then, on 14th June 1916, he was posted to the 9th Battalion, a Reserve Battalion, based at Colchester. On 1st September 1916, the men of that Battalion were transferred to the 6th Training Reserve Brigade at Harwich, after which they were absorbed into the 28th Training Reserve Battalion. William’s Service Number during this period was TR/9/12627.
However, on 16th December 1916, William returned to France to serve as a Private in the 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, Service Number 33543. According to the Battalion’s War Diary for December 1916:
During the period of the month the battalion has been in rest billets enjoying a much need [sic] rest after the Somme battle… The General Routine has been to work extremely hard from 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. daily, Games in the afternoon, lectures, Concerts, Boxing Entertainments & other forms of enjoyment being indulged in every evening, which has resulted in the battalion appearing very Smart, Merry & Bright & very fit for fighting.
And they had enjoyed a particularly good Christmas Day:
Presents of Pudding, Fruit, Nuts, Cigarettes etc. had been received from Sir Frederick Price, Lady Price, Col & Mrs.Hudson, Mrs.Heneker, wife of the late Brigadier, 54th Brigade. The men were supplied with a good Christmas dinner, quart of beer per man & so on which was followed by Entertainment. The officers dined together in one billet. Each Coy. had their dinner Separate. A most enjoyable day was spent by everyone in the battalion, the C.O. visited each mess & the health of all was toasted.
On 6th January 1917, William transferred to the 8th Battalion and the Battalion War Diary for that day recorded: “New draft of 1 off & 174 OR arrived a very good lot of men”. “Off” was an Officer and “OR” were Other Ranks. He then served in the 8th Battalion until 20th November 1917 when, on the first day of the Battle of Cambrai, he was reported missing in action. He had suffered a gunshot wound to the right thigh, for which he was then treated (mainly in No 11 Stationary Hospital, Rouen, France) until 8th January 1918.
From 9th February to 16th April 1918, William again served in the 7th Battalion but, on 5th April 1918, he was wounded for a second time, receiving a gunshot wound to the back. After initial treatment in France, he returned to England aboard AT Carisbrooke Castle. Fortunately, there was no damage to his spine and his wounds healed. However, the remainder of his War Service was in England. On 1st June 1918 he was posted to the Command Depot at Ampthill, then used for nursing wounded soldiers back to health, where he remained until 8th October 1918. His final posting from 9th October 1918 was to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.
On 1st April 1919, William was demobilised and transferred to Class Z Reserve. For his War Service he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
William Grant is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. He is listed in the 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, the battalion in which he first served, and he is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
William’s address on discharge was Ashridge Park, Berkhamsted, Herts, where he remained until 1921, the year in which Lord Brownlow died. His Service Record includes an entry dated 21st January 1921 relating to his Character Certificate, which reads “Character – Very Good. Appears from his records to be sober, honest, hardworking and trustworthy.”
In 1930 (3rd Quarter) William Henry Grant married Maud Florence Sadd; the marriage was registered in Nuneaton. Their daughter Doris Mabel Grant was born on 5th February 1934. Her birth was registered in the Evesham District of Worcestershire.
By September 1939, William, Maud and Doris lived at The Lodge, Overthorpe Hall, Brackley, Northamptonshire where William was a Gardener in Private Service to Mrs Edith Gilbey of Overthorpe Hall. Maud had household duties and Doris was at school.
William Henry Grant died, aged 84, on 12th July 1969. His address at that time was 115 Attleborough Road Nuneaton, Warwickshire. On 30th November 1991, his widow Maud died, aged 94, at the same address.
8. http://www.bedfordregiment.org.uk/7thbn/7thbtn1916diary.html 7th Bn War Diary Dec 1916
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson