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Private Henry (Harry) Grenfell
Born 3rd Jan 1886 at Rake Cottages Glenridding
Died June 1974 aged 88 in Northumberland
Son of John and Susan (nee Strange) Grenfell
Husband of Jane Beadnell and father of four
Henry Grenfell, universally known as Harry, was born on the 3rd January 1886 in Glenridding. His father John was working as a miner at Greenside mine and the family were living at Rake Cottages. John’s father Richard was a mining agent and had moved to Glenridding from Mousehole in Cornwall in the 1860s, where John had been born. John had married Susan Strange in 1877. Susan herself came from Cranbrook in Kent. By the time Harry was born John and Susan already had three children -
After Harry was born he was joined by two younger siblings, Richard, born in 1888, and Hilda Carvoso, born in 1895. In 1891 the family were all living at the Rake Cottages in Glenridding, as were Harry’s Uncle Hedley Grenfell (see more below), and his Great Aunt from Cornwall, Jane Grenfell. Tragically in that year Harry’s brother Richard died, aged just two.
At some point between the birth of Hilda and 1901 Harry’s family moved to Bedlington in Northumberland, where his father started working as a coalminer. Many other families in the Dale made a similar move, including the family of Robert Slee, and his brother Harry Slee, who about the same age as Harry Grenfell. By then Harry’s elder brother Frank was also working as a coal miner, his other brother Thomas as a joiner, and even young Harry himself, aged 15, was working as a token boy at the mine. Ten years later Harry was still living with his parents, at 9 Gordon Terrace in Bedlington. His father was still working underground in the coalmines but Harry himself had “escaped” and was working as a Grocers Assistant. By this time most of his older siblings were married, including his eldest sister Ada, who had married James Lamb from Penrith in 1904. James was also working at Bedlington when the war broke out. By this time Harry had also married, to Jane Beadnell, in July 1912.
Harry enlisted during the second week of September 1914, into the 16th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers (also known as the Newcastle Commercials as the recruitment was organised by the Chamber of Commerce) and assigned to 'B' Company. The Battalion initially trained on the Grammar School playing fields before moving, in December, to the newly built camp at Alnwick Castle. On the 23rd June 1915, the 16th Battalion moved to Catterick Camp for rifle training and became part of the 96th Brigade, 32nd Division of the Fourth New Army. The next move was to Salisbury Plain for Brigade level exercises and bombing/grenade practice (during which a Sergeant lost his right hand by holding on to a grenade just too long). After a year in training, the long awaited order came through and the Battalion entrained for Folkestone on the 20th November 1915 and arrived in Boulogne on the 22nd. Two weeks later they found themselves in the Somme region occupying front-
Zero hour was fixed for 7.30 a.m. When the barrage lifted A and B Companies moved forward in waves and were instantly fired upon by enemy Machine Guns and snipers. The enemy stood upon their parapet and waved to our men to come on and picked them off with rifle fire. The enemy’s fire was so intense that the advance was checked and the waves, or what was left of them, were forced to lie down. On observing this, C Company, in support, moved out to reinforce the front line, losing a great number of men in doing so. Battalion HQ was moved to the front line trench about 50 yards south of the junction of Hamilton Avenue at 7.40 a.m. and on seeing the position orders were given for D Company, the reserve company, to advance. Getting over the parapet the first platoon lost a great number of men and the remainder of the company was ordered to ‘Stand fast’ and hold the line.
At 8 a.m. Brigade HQ was advised of the position and at 10.45 a.m. orders were received that we had to hang on where we were as they were trying to turn the north of Thiepval.
At 8.20 a.m. we asked the 16th Lancashire Fusiliers to reinforce us in the front line trench and they sent up two companies.
At 9.30 a.m. a message was received from OC 96th Brigade Stokes Mortar Battery, whose guns had been unable to fire from 8.15 a.m. owing to lack of ammunition, that a fresh supply had arrived.
The enemy’s artillery continued firing on No Man’s Land and our front line trench all day, which no doubt accounted for a large number of the casualties amongst the companies that were lying out. Our artillery continued to fire all day but it was only very occasionally that it appeared to be heavy and effective. The enemy Machine Guns fired whenever a movement was shown in the line.
Orders were received from Brigade HQ at 9 p.m. to withdraw the men who were lying out as it was dark and that we would be relieved by the 16th Lancashire Fusiliers and the 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The relief was completed at 11 p.m. and the remnants of the battalion, 8 officers and 279 Other Ranks, marched into the Bluff at about 1.30 a.m.
The 16th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers suffered 6 officers and 350 other ranks killed that day with a similar number wounded. It appears that two of the other casualties that day were both Harry and his brother in law Isaac Lamb. They were both wounded, as the Herald reported two weeks later on the 15th July 1916 -
“Lance Corporal Isaac Lamb, son of Mr H Lamb of Castletown Penrith, was wounded. … Private Harry Grenfell, a native of Patterdale, also of the Tyneside Scottish and brother-
Perhaps after recovering from his wounds Harry transferred into the Royal Garrison Artillery, from where he was demobilised after the end of the war. We are unsure why Harry did not qualify for the 1914-
In terms of the rest of the family Harry’s mother died in 1922 and his father John in 1924. The family retained a strong connection to the Dale through some of John’s brothers, including Hedley Grenfell, who married Isabella Kilner (of Kilners Tea Garden). In terms of Harry’s siblings his older brother Frank married Elizabeth Tweddle Reed and died in June 1970. Harry’s other brother Thomas married Emily Joicey in Morpeth in 1908 . They had at least four children. Thomas died in December 1961 aged 77. It appears that Harry’s youngest sister Hilda married an Edwin Grenfell in Morpeth, Northumberland in 1917. She died in December 1979 in Manchester aged 84.
If you can add anything to the story of Harry and his family please contact us.
Harry’s Uncle Celebrates the end of the War
In November 2018 we were contacted by the grandson of Hedley Grenfell (Hedley Grenfell-
Hedley married married Isabella Kilner (of Kilners Tea Garden) and died aged 69 in 1933. He is buried in St Patrick’s Church Patterdale.
A photo of the children at Patterdale School in 1889, kindly given to us by the family of Dawson Bowman, which may include John but almost certainly includes his elder siblings Ada, Frank and Thomas. We have tried to identify as many of them as possible on our Patterdale School Then and Now page.
The story of Harry’s wounds as reported in The Herald, and below his medal index card.