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Second Lieutenant Gerald William Grenfell (1890-1915)

Gerald William 'Billy' GrenfellGRENFELL, GERALD WILLIAM ‘BILLY’ (1890-1915), was born in London 29 March 1890, the second son of William Henry Grenfell, afterwards first Baron Desborough, by his wife, Ethel Anne Priscilla, daughter of the Hon. Julian Henry Charles Fane. He was educated at Eton College and from 1909 to 1913 at Balliol College, Oxford where he won the Craven scholarship and was awarded his ‘Blue’ for tennis.

 He had planned to lead a career in the Law but volunteered for service shortly after the outbreak of war and was gazetted as 2nd Lieutenant to the 8th Rifle Brigade 12 September 1914. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from May 1915.

He had the ability to both inspire his men and to remain popular with all ranks and was killed instantly at Hooge, Flanders on 30 July 1915 leading a counter attack in the face of heavy machine gun fire. His body was buried where he died and his memorial is at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. It was reported that in the battle the battalion lost 20 officers and more than 500 men in 14 hours.

Of his two brothers, the elder, Julian Henry Francis Grenfell, the Great War poet, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order died of wounds on 26 May 1915, and the younger, too, died from the results of a motor accident in 1926. Their sister, Monica, was a Red Cross nurse in France during the War. His cousins, the twins Francis Octavius Grenfell VC and Riversdale Nonus Grenfell were both killed during the war in 1915 & 1914 respectively.

Sources: Dictionary of National Biography 1901 – 1911 and De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1918.
The photograph is reproduced from: Cameos of the Western Front; Salient Points Four by Tony Spagnoly & Ted Smith. Leo Cooper, publisher

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