Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lieutenant William Ivor Grantham, 1/5th Royal Sussex Regt

William Ivor Grantham was born on 14th May 1898 at Cadogan Place, Chelsea, London; his birth registered in the district of Chelsea on 22nd June that year.  His birth certificate notes that his father, William Wilson Grantham, was a Barrister at Law living at 60 Cadogan Place, London. 

He appears on the 1901 census of England and Wales as a two year old living at 17 Cadogan Place, London.  The household comprised William Wilson Grantham (1861-1942), his wife Sybil Grantham (1877-1952) and their two children: William Ivor and Myrtle Irene Grantham aged eight months.  William Wilson, aged 35 and born in South Norwood, had married Sybil de la Rue, twelve years his junior, on 17th July 1897.  Also noted at 17 Cadogan Place are eight domestic servants including a nurse and under nurse employed to look after the two children. 

He was appointed to a commission as second lieutenant with the 6th (Cyclist) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment on 25th October 1915 and seconded for duty with the 9th Provisional Cyclists’ Company.  Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions him however, in January 1916, noting: Grantham, 2nd Lieutenant I, Royal Sussex Cyclists’ Corps.  The following month it amends that information to: Grantham, 2nd Lieutenant W I, 9th Provisional Cyclist Company. 

In March 1917, Ivor’s records state that he was Restored to Establishment, meaning that his period of secondment to the 9th Provisional Cyclists’ Company came to an end and he returned to the 6th Royal Sussex.  In the same month Chailey Parish Magazine noted that he was serving with the 15th Royal Sussex Regiment.  It seems likely, that the 15th Royal Sussex Regiment is a mis-transcription of the 1/5th Royal Sussex to which he was attached and which Chailey’s parish magazine correctly notes in July 1917. 

It is unclear from his surviving records, exactly when Ivor Grantham proceeded overseas.  He was however, promoted lieutenant on 1st July 1917.  In his unpublished memoirs, written for his niece, he recalls life on the Western Front:

“… a night operation in the front line in the Ypres salient in the autumn of 1917, at the end of which he returned to Battalion Headquarters located in dug-outs stretched along both sides of the Yser Canal.  Wet through, and shivering from the cold he decided to have a really stiff drink of rum before turning in, and knowing that no other member of his Company’s Mess ever touched rum – nor did he usually – he consumed the whole lot of that night’s ration for his fellow members.  To reach his own dug-out to turn in for the rest of that night, your uncle had to cross to the other side of the canal by a narrow plank bridge.  He remembers starting to cross, sitting down on the plank half way over, and then noticing that the sky above him and the water below appeared to be changing places.  His next recollection was being told that the Brigadier had wished to see him at 10 o’clock that morning, but had been pleased to excuse his attendance on learning of the events of the previous night.”

He also remembers a night fatigue in which his platoon was engaged in carrying supplies up to the front line at Ypres through “indescribable mud pitted with shell-holes” along a duck-board track: 

“Suddenly your uncle became conscious of an extraordinary feeling - ahead of him there appeared to be an invisible barrier, which restricted movement in a forward direction.  Following the line of least resistance, he found that he could move to the right, at right-angles to the track.  Although unable to account for this feeling, your uncle decided to act upon it, and word was passed back: “Move to the right in line”.  The line became extremely ragged, and much grumbling could be heard; but all did their best until about fifty yards had been covered.  Then suddenly a salvo of shells exploded upon the duck-board track two or three hundred yards ahead, just where the column would have been if they had continued to move forward along the track.  Your uncle’s reputation for good luck immediately became almost unbearable, as men began volunteering for tasks which it was known would be under his direction ; and it was a distinct relief when a week or two later he found himself knocked out by a stray piece of shell which penetrated a certain part of his anatomy.” 

According to his surviving service record, the “certain part of his anatomy” was his right buttock and the shell wound was sufficiently deep for him to be classified as “very severely wounded”.  He was wounded on 4th October 1917 in the Ypres salient which means that the photo at the top of this post, according to the caption, must have been taken on the 1st October. He was: 

“… carried back to a First Aid Post by stretcher bearers, assisted by his batman, the son of a Lewes picture-frame maker, who kindly wrote to your grandparents [William Wilson and Sybil Grantham] with details of the event.  After a week at the Military Hospital at Rouen your uncle made the journey home, lying on his face, on board a Hospital-ship which took thirty hours sailing down the river and crossing the Channel to Southampton.”

Ivor embarked for England on 9th October and disembarked at Southampton the following day.  He was despatched to The London Hospital at Whitechapel where he would remain for the next year.

While he was recuperating, a photo of Lieutenant Ivor Grantham and his platoon, photographed three days before he was wounded, appeared in a local Sussex newspaper.  The caption noted that his father had visited him in hospital in London that week and found that he was making good progress.

Ivor Grantham spent the next eleven months in hospital, appearing before various Medical Boards during that time, all of which regarded his recovery to a state of A1 fitness, a long way off.  In August 1918, a note on his file states that the “Ministry of Labour requires this officer’s services” but Ivor was still recuperating and on 25th September 1918 a further Medical Board stated: 

“That he is suffering from the effects of a GSW Right Buttock [unclear] a [unclear] [unclear] [unclear] wound with injury [unclear] external [unclear] [unclear] [unclear] [unclear] Great sciatic nerve resulting in right [unclear] drop, sensory loss and wasting of muscles of Right Leg.   

“[Unclear] a special treatment he has regained sensation [unclear] muscle power is slowly returning. 

“Wounds have now completely healed [unclear] he is recommended for transfer to a convalescent home where he can have electrical treatment for two months at the end of which time he would [unclear] probably be fit for sedentary duty.” 

Ivor Grantham takes up the story.

“[I was transferred] to a private Convalescent Home in Hove run by a lady in her own home on the front.  Her “guests” – ten or twelve in number – were individually received by the butler at the front door on their arrival, and were then solemnly announced by rank and name to their hostess as she stood ready to receive them in the drawing room.” 

It was here in Hove that, sitting on the seafront close to the convalescent home, dressed in civilian clothes and with his crutches on the ground, Ivor Grantham was “handed a white feather by a lady with a handful of such feathers” leaving him amused and speechless.  (While he was in France he had also learned from family members that a military escort had arrived at his family residence in Balneath with a warrant for his arrest for failing to report for duty when called up at the age of nineteen a few months earlier.  The corporal and soldier accompanying him were appropriately informed of Ivor Grantham’s current status). 

On 27th January 1919, Lieutenant Grantham assumed duties with the Ministry of Labour, remaining there until he was disembodied at Crystal Palace on 2nd August 1919.  On his discharge certificate, he gave his civil occupation as student and his address as Balneath Manor.  He was medically categorised as C2.  

He then appears to have returned to complete his studies at Cambridge.  A letter written from his tutor at Trinity College and received by the Kitchener Hospital in Brighton on 5th December 1919 states: 

“I hereby certify that Lt W I Grantham, an under graduate of this college, at present in residency, is detained in Cambridge until 10th December by reason of his academic work.  He will have kept his time on that date and will be free to leave.” 

In later life, Ivor married Helen Murray Walker (May 1933) and, after she died, married Anne Ridgeway (October 1973).  There was no issue from either marriage. 

As Chailey resident Mick Pateman remembers, the Grantham family was aristocratic, “property owners like the Blencowes and the Slessors.”  William Wilson Grantham was Lord of the Manor of Balneath and when he died in 1942, his son Ivor inherited the title.  His entry in Burke’s Peerage (circa 1952), under the title, “Grantham of Chailey”, reads as follows: 

“William Ivor Grantham OBE, of Buckle’s Wood, Chailey, Sussex, Lord of the Manors of Camois Court and Balneath, JP (1949) Sussex, Barrister-at-Law, Inner Temple (1922), Royal Sussex Regt (TF) 1915-19, in legal branch RAF 1931-46, W/Cmdr, Deputy Judge Advocate-Gen, Middle East, Iraq and Aden, 1934-36, served in World Wars I and II, O.st.J; b 14 May 1898, educ Harrow and Trin Coll Camb (MA LLB) m. 27 May 1933, Helen, dau of Murray Walker of The Wilderness, Woodbridge, Suffolk.” 

William Ivor Grantham died in Lewes in November 1986 aged 88.  His title of Lord of The Manor passed to his niece.  An obituary published at the time paid tribute to, amongst other things, his work as a Braille transcriber for the National Students’ Library; his efforts in establishing the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council in Lewes, and his abiding interest in the Anglican church.  His father, William Wilson Grantham, also served his King and Country during the First World War. 

No comments: