Private, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), 6th Bn.
Service no. G/14181
Died on 12 July 1917, aged 26
Remembered at Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais France
Brother of Robert Grainger
Chris Burge writes:
John Albert Grainger was born in 1891 and baptised in Kennington on 25 January, the fourth child of Robert and Amelia Sarah (née Lea) Grainger. John’s father, who was born in Cork, Ireland was a carter; his mother, Amelia, was born in Clerkenwell.
In the 1891 census, the Grainger family were living at 83 Thomas Street (now Warham Street) in the parish of St Mark’s, Kennington, close to the open space of Kennington Park and the Oval Cricket Ground.
By the time of the 1901 census, there had been two more additions to the family. The Grainger family had moved to 14 Mitre Street, North Lambeth, close to Waterloo Station. John’s father was recorded as a cartage foreman and his older brothers Robert Jr and Frederick worked as errand boys or porters. When the social researcher Charles Booth visited the area in 1899 he described Mitre Street as having ‘a few fairly comfortable remaining but the majority [were] poor to very poor’.
The Grainger family soon moved to Weston Street, close to London Bridge Station, and by 1907 were living in the Hayles Buildings, St George’s Road.
In the 1911 census, the Grainger family had returned to Kennington and were living at 236 Hillingdon Street. John’s father Robert Snr described his occupation as a ‘Cartage manager for the Railway’. All six of their surviving children (Amelia had given birth to 11 in total), lived in the family home. Robert Jnr, 25, was a cellarman; Frederick, 24, a porter; Amelia, 21, a tobacco worker; John, 20, a porter; Alfred, 20, and Benjamin, 15, Post Office telegraph messengers. They shared five rooms and another family of three shared just one room at the same address.
After the outbreak of war, John’s parents moved to Morat Street and then Camellia Street, near Nine Elms. Robert Jnr had been living with his younger brother John at 16 Bramfield Road, Clapham, half a mile from the Clapham Junction railway complex where the brothers worked as ‘goods porters’.
Robert Jnr attested under the Derby Scheme (see Alfred Thomas Evans) on 12 December 1915, and was not called up until 1 March the following year. Six weeks later John, then aged 25, was conscripted. After reporting locally, he was directed to Kingston where he joined the Royal West Surrey Regiment. His details were recorded in the pages of the Surrey Recruitment Registers: he was 5ft 11in, 144llb, with a chest size of 37in. He was assigned to the 12th Battalion.
Little is known of John’s military service after this, other than at some stage he was posted to the 6th Battalion RWS as private G/14181, J. Grainger. The 6 RWS were involved the Arras offensive in April and May 1917 on its southern extreme, near St Leger. After a period of rest, on 1 July they returned to the front line trenches south-east of Arras. Their part of the trench was attacked and shelled on the 11th and 12th. Casualties reported were: ‘4 OR killed and 3 wounded’.
At the end of the war, John’s parents should have received his medals and war gratuity. But there is no entry for Private 14181 J. Grainger in the Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects. Some time after his parents moved from Stockwell to Norwood Amelia applied for her son’s medals. They were finally issued on 17 February 1930. The Arras Memorial was not unveiled until 31 July 1932.