Francis Octavius Grenfell, VC.

He was born on 4thSeptember 1880, one of a twin, and one of a total of 15 children, although 2 brothers died in infancy. After his father and mother died in 1896 and 1898 respectively the children lived with their uncle, Lord Grenfell.

He was educated at Mr Edgar’s school then Eaton.

He had a Military heritage; one grandfather was Admiral John Grenfell, his uncle was Field Marshall Francis Grenfell, an older brother Robert was a lieutenant in the 21st Lancers and killed in a cavalry charge during the battle of Omdurman while three other brothers each reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

On 1st September 1899 he was commissioned into the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders serving in South Africa, Egypt before he transferred into the Regular service with the 4thKing’s Royal Rifle Corps in 1901. After a brief period in Ireland he served in the Boer War and then on to service in India until 1907.

At the time a Captain in the 9th Lancers he arrived in France during the early part of August 1914.

Following the battle of Mons the British Expeditionary Force was withdrawing with the German Army in close pursuit. On 24th August 1914 at Audregnies, the 9th Lancers, with Grenfell in charge of B Squadron, and two troops of 4th Dragoon Guards advance towards unbroken German troops during which time they took heavy casualties and he was left the senior officer. While rallying his men behind a railway embankment he was wounded twice.

Later in the day he volunteered to lead a small party of men to assist Major Alexander of the 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery to remove their guns which were under heavy fire and in risk of being captured. Once again, he was wounded.

While recovering from his wounds in England, he heard that his twin brother Riversdale had been killed in action on 14th September 1914 while directing fire on German positions.

By October he had recovered from his wounds sufficiently to return to France and B squadron, the 9thLancers. On 31stOctober he was wounded through the thigh and returned to England and then Dublin to recover.

He then returned to France in command of B Squadron but was wounded through the thigh at Messines on 31st October 1914. He was evacuated to Bailleul before recovering at Dublin. He was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 22nd February 1915.

In April 1915, he re-joined his unit and it was on 24th May 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres that he was shot in the back at Hooge, Belgium. He died within half an hour.

In addition to his VC, he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with four clasps, 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf. His medal is held at the 9/12th Lancers Museum at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

The 13th November 1914 edition of the London Gazette his citation:Cross:

“For gallantry in action against un-broken Infantry at Audregnies, Belgium, on 24th August, 1914, and for gallant conduct in assisting to save the guns of 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, near Doubon the same day.”