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Brothers in Arms

What can be worse for any family than to lose a son? But to lose 2 sons within a few months of one another is a catastrophe for any family. Such an event was far from unique during the years 1914 – 1918 and the passage of the Great War for civilisation. Throughout the kingdom and the commonwealth families were deprived of their sons, some would lose more than two, the Souls family from Great Rissington in Gloucestershire lost five sons from 1916 to 1918, and at least 18 pairs of brothers died on the 1st July 1916, the First day of the battle of the Somme.

Coxhoe and district was not left untouched by tragedy during these dark times with 3 sets of brothers, commemorated on the village memorial losing their lives. John and William Earl, John and William Wilby, and Fred and Robert Grint.

Fred and Robert Grint were the sons of George and Sarah Grint of 1, Prices Buildings, Cornforth Lane, Coxhoe. Norfolk and Yorkshire blood coursed through the veins of these two lads courtesy of their parents and it was to the North East of England and County Durham in particular that they would settle and raise their family. George and Sarah would raise 6 children from their home at 1, Prices Buildings, Cornforth Lane.

The Grint family had 4 daughters and two sons, Fred and Robert were the second and third in the family being born in 1894 and 1897 respectively. George Grint had worked in the Durham Coal fields, notably Tursdale Colliery so it was fitting that both his sons would follow him to an industry along with limestone quarrying that dominated the surrounding area.

At the outbreak of war both lads were working alongside their father in Tursdale Colliery, underground hewing coal.

Fred Grint

Fred, the older of the two brothers was the first to enlist, attesting at Ferryhill on 30 /10/1915 and joining the 22nd  (Service) Battalion Durham Light Infantry , a Pioneer battalion. The role of the Pioneer Battalions was to provide “organised and intelligent labour” thus assisting the Royal Engineers field companies and alleviating some of the infantry’s burdens. The skills Fred learned digging coal were ideally suited to the role and on the 2nd  November 1915 Fred joined his battalion in West Hartlepool and stayed there training until March 21st 1916 when they moved to Scotton Camp, Catterick, their last camp in England before moving to France on the 16th June. Arriving at Le Havre via Southampton in the early hours of 17th June the 22nd DLI with Fred amongst their numbers boarded a train and began preparation for one of the bloodiest battles of World War 1, The Somme.

Robert Grint

Robert Grint

Robert who was the younger of the Grint brothers by 3 years, also worked underground at Tursdale Colliery. Robert attested on the 11th December 1915 and was posted to the army reserve, being to young at 18 to serve overseas. Whilst it wasn’t always the case young soldiers would often claim to be 19 years of age in order to go off and do their bit for the empire and the recruiting sergeants would often turn a blind eye to the fact that many were in fact far too young.

In April 1918, Robert was mobilised and posted to the 4th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and stationed at Seaham Harbour as part of the home reserve. He was called to arms on 11th September 1918, embarked for France on the 12th September and posted to the 15th (Service) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. Very soon he found himself in the Somme battlefield in the midst of battle to drive the German army from France.

Service Records

Fred Grints Attestation   Robert Grint's Attestation

The original Attestation papers of Fred and Robert.

Fred in France

Preparations for the battle of the Somme were underway and nearing the start when the 22nd Durham Light Infantry and Fred amongst them arrived in Millencourt, to the west of Albert on the 30th June. Fred being a member of ‘A’ Company remained behind in reserve whilst ‘B’, ‘C’ & ‘D’ Companies moved forward through the town of Albert to consolidate ground won during the early stages of the attack. Being held back gave Fred sometime to seek a souvenir and amongst his collection is a table cloth which he sent home to his mother.

Albert Basillica 1   Albert Basillica 2

Beautifully embroidered the table cloth depicts Albert Basillica with its statue of the Golden Virgin hanging precariously. A legend grew that when the Golden Virgin fell the war would end. French engineers secured it so that it would not be toppled by the enemy. It did finally fall during a British bombardment in the spring summer of 1918 to push the german army out. The Golden Vrigin wa never found. The basillica was rebuilt after the war ended. Fred Grint never saw this magnificent building in all it’s glory. By the time Fred reached Albert artillery bombardments had reduced the town to rubble.

A feature of operations on the Somme was mining beneath enemy lines and from mid July 1916 the 22nd Durham Light Infantry found themselves working alongside the 251st Tunnelling Company undoubtedly putting the skills many of these County Durham lads, of coal mining stock to good use. Fred would undoubtedly take his turn with pick and shovel during the time the battalion were helping out, often coming under heavy shell fire from enemy artillery. Such work, mining and keeping trenches in good order would feature everyday Fred and his comrades spent in the line ensuring the divisional troops were effective because of the work the Pioneers carried out.

The beginning of November saw ‘A’ Company with Fred amongst them marching towards Montauban de Picardie and the Le Transloy ridges were a bloody battle had left a desolate battle ground. Hard work was needed to repair trenches, fix roads and move supplies forward but the 22nd Durham’s were unstinting in their efforts and gained very little rest. All the time death and danger shrouded them and during the month of November 1916 the battalion lost 46 men killed and wounded.

Postcards from the Front

Throughout the time Fred spent in France his thoughts would often turn to his family back home and these are reflected in the postcards he sent from France. They remain in remarkable condition to this day as the following photographs demonstrate.

How I Miss You Postcard  To My Dear Mother Postcard

To My Dear Sister Postcard

The photographs are just a sample of what Fred sent home. Some of them were for his youngest sister Edna, some for his mother and he also recognised the love for his brother Robert.

World War 1 silk postcards were very popular and were sent home to England and other parts of the Commonwealth in their millions.

Robert Gets His Orders

Whilst his older brother Fred was at the front, Robert who had joined up in 1915 aged 18, had spent his time as an army reservist awaiting his mobilisation. It came in April 1918 when Robert was posted to the 4th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and despatched to billets in Seaham Harbour, County Durham, for training before being posted to the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and entering the theatre of war on the 12th September 1918. France!

Robert Grint's Conduct Sheet

Robert Grints Regimental Conduct Sheet

It is possible to see from Roberts service record that he was far from the most disciplined recruit. On two occasions he was charged with leaving his post and received 168 hours detention, forfeited 14 days pays and was confined to barracks. He also overstayed his leave and found himself short in his pocket again, to the tune of 5 days pay.

Fighting to the End

Reaching France Robert received intensive training for a week before he joined the battalion at the front. On the 18th and 19th September 1918 the 15th Durham Light Infantry received a draft of 300 men whilst they rested at Elsom Copse before preparing to cross the St Quentin Canal south of Bantouzelle and the push towards the Hindenburg Line. This period of fighting for the St Quentin canal was particularly bloody and murderous as the 15th Durham’s alongside the East Yorkshires and the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry broke through the elaborate German defences known as the Beaurevoir line. Passing through these defences the 15th Durham’s enjoyed 9 days of rest and Robert who had fought hard for 65 weeks would benefit form the same.

Moving on during the 22nd of October 1918 the 15th Durham Light Infantry relieved the 9th Duke of Wellingtons Regiment (The West Ridings) South east of Amerval beyond the Selle river. On the 23rd October 1918 just 6 weeks after entering France, Robert Grint lost his life. He paid the ultimate sacrifice as his battalion attacked the village of Ovillers and fought their way into Vendigie-au-Bois.

War diaries report close fighting before the German resistance weakened and yielded, giving themselves up as prisoners. This was the last battle the 15th Battalion and Robert Grint would fight. He could be justifiably proud of the part he played as the German Army were finally defeated. Many honours were awarded, men were wounded and sadly men were lost.

Robert Grint's Death Record

Army form B 2090 A, which records Robert Grint, Killed in Action

Robert is buried in Amerval Communal Cemetery Extension, Solesmes

“There's no other love like the love for a brother. There's no other love like the love from a brother”.  Astrid Alauda

 

Fred Fights On

The battle of the Somme ended in stalemate at winter approached and both sides dug in. From December 1916 to March 1917 the 22nd DLI worked hard to support the 8th Division working on communication trenches, digging drainage ditches whilst having to contend with the thick Somme mud which hindered their work.

March arrived and Fred with ‘A’ Company was attached to the 24th infantry brigade and the task of digging communication trenches across No Mans Land. On the 4th of March the infantry attacked and ‘A’ company began their job of digging the trench and as they started at 8:10 a.m. shell fire came down from the enemy and got heavier. ‘A’ Company stuck to their task and by 2.pm had dug a trench 240 yards long to a depth of 5 feet connecting up with the old front line. The next day they were involved in consolidating positions that had been captured from the enemy. This type of work went on every day often under very heavy enemy shell fire, and snipers operating  in the area. The 22nd battalion continued to take casualties and more men were to lose their lives but Fred was fighting on.

Into Belgium

Having remained in the Somme battlefield until May 1917,carrying out vital repair work for their division, the 22nd were pulled back and found themselves heading for the Ypres Salient in Belgium. Life didn’t get any easier for Fred Grint and his ‘Pals’ in this sector and on the 20th June German shell fire caught two platoons filling sandbags out in the open causing many casualties and by the end of June, Fred had lost another 50 comrades either killed or wounded. Throughout this tour the battalion would face regular bombardments both from artillery and mustard gas shells. Come the end of July Fred and his mates were pulled back behind the lines for a well earned rest.

Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele)

The 22nd Durham Light infantry played their part in a battle that has become synonymous with mud. The contribution they made is best summed up in the words of General Grogan who commanded the 23rd infantry brigade. In a letter to Colonel Morgan the brigade commander he wrote:-

General Grogan

General Grogan

“I should like to thank all ranks of your battalion who co-operated with the 23rs brigade on August 16th in crossing the Hannebek. The bridging parties who went over with the leading wave did their work in a most efficient and soldierly manner, with the utmost coolness and disregard of fire. The bridges very materially contributed to our success, and valuable information in regard to the situation was brought back by bridging parties on completion of their task.”

The battalion remained on the Passchendaele front continuing to work in December 1917 but such was the volume of work needed to keep the front and communications in good repair that companies were only brought out one at a time to rest. The turn of the year saw a lot of comings and goings within the battalion sending hardened troops to the 18th and 19th Battalions of the Durham Light infantry being replaced by 100 men from base. Fred’s battalion continued with great work and again they were rewarded for their efforts with the Chief Engineer of the 8th Corps making special mention :-

“The results produced by this battalion have exceeded all expectations, and have been due not only to sound, steady, solid work, which has been carried out by all ranks with such consistent energy and unfailing good spirit, but also to the careful and conscientious supervision by the officers and N.C.O’s of the battalion.”

Although just a short passage from the tribute it can be seen that Fred Grint and his fellow comrades were held in high esteem by the commanders of the Corps at that time.

On the 23rd March 1918 Fred and the 22nd Battalion finally pulled out of the mud bath that was Passchendaele and moved south to rejoin the 8th Division and continue their pioneering work. Little did Fred know what was awaiting him.

The Spring Offensive, the Kaiserschlacht

Fred Grint had got this far, arriving in France in June 1916 and seeing action for the first time during the battle of the Somme. He’d worked hard, he’d fought hard, he would have undoubtedly witnessed sights than no one would wish to see. Through a long hard winter of 1916 and the mud of 1917 Fred found himself in France once more as the German Army launched their Spring offensive, or Kaiserschlacht (Kaisers Battle) on March 21st 1918.

Fred and the 22nd Battalion had arrived back in the Somme region just as the German army launched an all out attack to win back the land it had lost during 1916. On 25th March 1918 at Omiecourt the battalion faced an onslaught by masses of German infantry supported by artillery. The 22nd held on until they were in danger of being surrounded. Fighting all the way as they retreated they sustained very heavy losses and it is likely that Fred lost his life that day being confirmed as killed in action on 26th March 1916.

Fred Grint Statement Of Service

Fred Grint's Statement Of Service

Fred Grint was presumed to have either died of wounds or been killed in action, because of the passage of time between him last being seen and his body being found on the battlefield. He did not report for the muster following the battle.

Fred lies in Fouquescourt British Cemetry in France.

Like every other soldier that died there was an opportunity to accept the medals he was entitled to for his gallant service and to apply for his memorial scroll and death plaque, more commonly known as the Dead Mans Penny. Sarah Grint did that but not before she had wrote a letter to the infantry seeking more information about her missing son.

Sarah Grint's Letter

Sarah Grint would receive no good news, only reminders in the form of medals and a Death Plaque and Scroll that would testify to the sacrifice both her sons had made.

Robert Grint's Campaign Medals  Robert Grint's Medal Index Card

Robert Grints Campaign Medals and Medal Index Card

Fred Grint's Death Penny

Fred Grint's Death Scroll

Fred Grints Death Plaque and Scroll

Fred Grint's Medal Index Card

Fred Grint Medal Index Card

Two sons of Coxhoe, Fred and Robert Grint who along with many other young men of this area gave their lives for their beliefs so that others could live in freedom.

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Poppy


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