• Christina Drummond

Second Lieutenant the Honourable Gerald William Grenfell, 8th Battalion, the Rifle Brigade

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Second Lieutenant the Honourable Gerald William Grenfell, 8th Battalion, the Rifle Brigade, was killed in action at Hooge in Flanders.

The second son of the 1st Baron Desborough, he was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he won the Craven scholarship and was awarded a Blue for tennis. He had been destined for a career in the Law but at the outbreak of the Great War he volunteered and was gazetted as Second Lieutenant to the Rifle Brigade. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders and was considered an inspirational officer, popular with all ranks. His older brother, the war poet Julian Grenfell, had died of wounds two months earlier, and his younger brother was killed in a motor accident after the war – his two cousins also died in the war which meant that his father had no male heirs and was therefore not only the first but the last to hold the title of Baron Desborough. One in five soldiers from the peerage were killed in the Great War, and Baron Desborough was not the only title to disappear for lack of an heir.

On the day of his death Second Lieutenant Grenfell was leading a counter-attack in the face of heavy machine gun fire – he is reported as having been killed instantly and buried where he died. A further nineteen officers and more than five hundred men were lost that day. He is memorialized on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

Gerald, from Taplow Court in Buckinghamshire, was 25 years old.

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