Julian Henry Francis Grenfell was born 30 May 1888 the eldest son of William Henry, later Lord Desborough, and Ethel Ann Priscilla Grenfell.
He had always wished for a military career and in 1910 was commissioned into the 1st Royal Dragoons and stationed in India. In 1911 the regiment was transferred to South Africa until August 1914 when it returned to England. On 6 October it formed part of the Expeditionary Force sent to France.
The regiment first became involved in close-up fighting on 19 October when the cavalry went on in front of the infantry but they were back in the trenches before the end of the battle of Ypres. A colonel said ‘he set an example of light-hearted courage which is famous all through the army in France’. In November he was given permission to go alone towards the German lines in order to reduce the threat from sniper fire. For his bravery he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and in January 1915 was Mentioned in Despatches.
On 13 May 1915, near Ypres, he volunteered to take a message under heavy fire to another regiment but as a result of a shell attack he was wounded in the head. At first it was not considered serious and he was sent to a hospital in Boulogne where his sister Monica, a nurse at a neighbouring hospital came to see him. His wounds proved to be more serious than thought and on 26 May, holding the rank of Captain, he died. He was buried in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.
His younger brother, 2nd Lieutenant Gerald William‘Billy’Grenfell was killed on 30 July near Hooge only a mile from where Julian had been wounded. His body has never been found.
On the day Julian’s death was announced his poem ‘Into Battle’ appeared in the Times. It was considered one of the best of the poems inspired by the War and is included in the anthology of the poet laureate, Robert Bridges, The Spirit of Man.
Julian Grenfell is commemorated together with other war poets in Westminster Abbey
Dictionary of National Biography
Julian Grenfell – His life and the times of his death 1888-1915 – Nicholas Moseley
The photograph is reproduced from the book ‘Julian Grenfell – His life and the times of his death 1888-1915 – Nicholas Moseley.