War Memorials in Sowerby, North Yorkshire

 Tom Grainger

1877/8 - 15th October 1914 (age 36)

Lance Corporal 10308
2nd Bn Royal Scots

Tom lived his early years at Upsall and Kepwick, the eldest of six children, he trained as a blacksmith working for his father, William.

In 1904 he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery, enlisting at Burton-on-Trent and then going to Portsmouth. Compared to other Sowerby men covered in this work, his papers show him as relatively tall at 5 ft 11.25 ins with a 36 ins chest and weighing 156lbs. There followed an army career spanning eight years, many of which Tom served in India. During this time he transferred to the Royal Scots (Lothian) Regiment and trained as a prison warder and a bandsman where he played the bass. Clearly a versatile musician, he also played violin in the string band and was a bass singer in one of the churches in India. Medical records show he was hospitalised, suffering with malaria in 1908 and again in 1910. His time with the Royal Scots expired in March 1912 and he returned home but he was retained in the Reserves. The family had moved to Victoria Avenue in Sowerby, and his father was now working as an agent for a cake manufacturer.

At the commencement of war in 1914, Tom was called up with the Reserves and he rejoined the Royal Scots Regiment in the 2nd Battalion, going to Belgium with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in August. The BEF first met the Germans at Mons where the British fired their first shots of the war. Being vastly outnumbered, they then had to retreat southwards in a series of rearguard actions causing serious problems to the enemy, until the German advance finally stalled at the Marne. Both sides then turned north, each trying to outflank the other and this developed into a race towards the Channel ports, which was known as the race to the sea. As the race continued, trenches were dug hastily to defend territory, and the Western Front was gradually being formed.

The Royal Scots Regiment war diary shows that on 13-15th October they were advancing in the area of Croix Rouge (sic) and Neuve Chappelle which is south of Armentieres in Northern France. Their losses in battle over that three-day period included 26 killed, 134 wounded and 29 missing. Tom Grainger was one of those 26, recorded as killed in action on 15th October 1914 at Croix Barbe (sic). Today, Rouge-Croix and Croix Barbet are both seemingly nondescript cross roads located near Richebourg, east of Neuve-Chapelle. The area may appear nondescript now, but in 1914 both sides valued every inch of ground and it would be fought for at all costs and the costs included the lives of Tom and many others.

Tom’s remains were interred on 2nd January 1915 at Y Farm Military Cemetery, Bois-Grenier, south of Armentieres. There are no records to show why it took almost three months for him receive a burial, perhaps it had not been safe to recover his body from no-mans land until that time, or maybe he had been missing until that date. It appears that the cemetery was disturbed during further fighting, and there is now no exact marker for Tom’s grave, instead there is a special memorial stating that he is buried “near this spot”.


Tom Grainger’s memorial at Y Farm Cemetery – “Buried near this spot”


Tom Grainger’s memorial – 2nd from right

A younger brother, Louis Grainger also served in the war in the 4th Hussars. He was a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade serving from before February 1915 and he survived the war.

The information on this page was compiled by Steve Billings.

Information about Tom Grainger on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Information about Tom Grainger on the War Graves Photographic Project website

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