Lance Corporal 7786 Tom Grainger
1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment who died on 13 November 1915
Tom Grainger was born in Oadby in November 1886. He was the son of Tom Goodman Grainger and Mary Grainger of Ward’s Yard off London Road Oadby. Tom was one of twenty children, eleven of whom survived infancy. He had six brothers and four sisters ranging (in 1911) between the ages of 30 and 8 years old.* His father worked as a bricklayer’s labourer and his siblings in various professions connected with the hosiery and boot and shoe industry. Before the joining the army Tom worked as a shoe hand in Leicester.
Tom joined the Leicestershire Regiment on 27 September 1905 at the age of 18 years and 10 months old, signing up for nine years with the Colours and three years in the Army Reserve. The early years of his career were served in both the 1st and 2nd Battalions. Tom received eight months training at Colchester during 1906 and was then posted to Shorncliffe Camp prior to going overseas. On 5 February 1907 the transport ship SS Plassey shipped him out to India. He was posted to Belgaum on 28 February 1907 and was stationed there until 11 February 1911. Tom was then posted to Madras for two years, from the 13 February 1911 to 4 February 1913. He also served at the 7th Indian Division’s headquarters at Bareilly and at Ranikhet on the North West Frontier.
On 15 February 1909 Tom completed a training course which qualified him to serve as mounted infantry. Whilst in India Tom also gained a 3rd class certificate of education and was awarded a good conduct badge.
Upon return to England he was transferred to the Army Reserve on 7 February 1914.
Tom joined the Leicestershire (County) Police on leaving the Army. There is a memorial to him and others who served as police officers but lost their lives in the foyer of Police Headquarters in Enderby.
The Army Reservists were called up on 5 August 1914 with the other 1st Battalion lads, including Matthias Summerland from Oadby Baptist Church, Tom took part in the Battle of 1st Ypres. During the battle the 1st Leicesters lost four officers and 47 men with five officers and 134 men wounded. Additionally there were 106 men missing in action. It is likely that a high portion of these were D Company men taken as prisoners of war.
Trench warfare set in following 1st Ypres and the men had to endure a truly terrible winter in the trenches. The trenches were knee deep in near freezing mud and water. To compound these hardships the Germans kept up constant shelling and sniper fire. During the ‘quiet period’ of November and December 1914 there were 25 officers and men killed and another 26 officers and men wounded. A number of men were hospitalised having suffered from frostbite.
Following the singing of Christmas carols and songs and exchange of messages of goodwill, on 24/25 December, some members of the Battalion stationed near Armentieres, took part in the famous 1914 Christmas Truce. Sgt A Illston described the conditions in a letter home to Rev Isaac Raine (see Sgt A Illston). At least one member of the Battalion, however, was killed by German sniper fire on Christmas Day. With the return of bad weather the open fraternisation gradually ebbed away and there was a return to full hostilities.
The opening months of 1915 were reasonably quiet. On 14 February 1915 Tom was appointed as a Lance Corporal. The 1st Leicesters were in and out of the front-line but in time were transferred to the hazardous Ypres Salient at the beginning of June 1915 and then to the ramparts of Ypres close by to the, now famous Menin Gate. During this time the Germans kept up heavy shelling, including the use of 17” howitzers.
On 20 September 1915 Tom was wounded in action, receiving bomb wounds to his head and hands. He was initially treated by the 17th Field Ambulance and then transferred for further treatment at No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station. On 23 September 1915 Tom was shipped to England. He ceased to be eligible to draw a Lance Corporal’s pay on admission to hospital.
After a period of convalescence Tom recovered from his wounds and was posted to the 3rd Battalion Leicesters on 23 October 1915 in preparation to return to active service.
Tragically, on 13 November 1915, Tom was involved in an accident at Patrington near Hull where he was knocked down by a car and died of the injuries he received. The coroner’s inquest into Tom’s death heard that there had been a fierce storm on the night he died and he and his companion Private Wright had not heard the approach of a motor car driven by farmer Henry Dixon. A verdict of accidental death was recorded. An article in the Leicester Illustrated Chronicle records that “Grainger was a single man, aged 26 and steady. He had been at the Front”
The newspaper article reporting his funeral records that “A sad feature of the case was that his mother received a postcard from him to say that he would probably get home for the weekend, and a few minutes later received a telegram informing her of his death”.
Tom was buried with full military honours in Oadby Cemetery. The funeral was conducted at St Peter’s Church by Rev Isaac Raine and the band of the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment attended along with the Church Lads’ Brigade, the Adult School, military colleagues, family and many villagers. Tom had a further rare distinction: his mother Mary died on 24 August 1918 and was buried in the grave beside him.
Tom Grainger is remembered with Honour at Oadby Cemetery, Grave Reference: C386. He is also remembered on the Memorial Tablet in Oadby Baptist Church and the Leicestershire Police Headquarters, Enderby.
Other Grainger Family members
*The surviving Grainger children were Walter, Annie Dale Goodman, George, Elizabeth (Lizzie), Tom, Harriet, Edmund (Ted), William, Doris Irene, Leslie Harold and John Lenard.
Interestingly one of Tom’s brothers George was known as “Captain” Grainger. He was one of the most popular and enthusiastic officers of the Battalion of the Church Lads’ Brigade, and was with the Oadby Company at Prestatyn Camp in August 1914 when the news came ordering him (as a reservist) to re-join his regiment the 1st Leicesters. The Graingers were well known church workers, and were connected with quite a number of social organisations in the district.
The wedding of Corporal George Grainger on 10 July 1915 caused a stir in the village. The Leicester Illustrated Chronicle reported it as “From the Trenches to the Altar and Back in a Week”. There was a large number of people present anxious to honour a local warrior who had just come straight from the front. The bride Miss Edith Worley wore a navy blue costume, and was given away by Mr. Harry Chamberlain. Miss Doris Grainger, sister of the bridegroom, was the bridesmaid and Pte William Grainger, brother of the bridegroom acted as best man. The Rev. Isaac Raine officiated and the wedding march was rendered by the organist, Mr. W. Siddons. The church bells were also rung in honour of the occasion. The Church Lads’ Brigade, with drum and bugle band, formed a guard of honour to their “captain” and his bride, and escorted the happy couple through the village streets. Mrs Edith Grainger was the Sunday school teacher at St Peter’s Parish Church for over 70 years and there is an oak collection plate dedicated to her memory to be found there.