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An Excavated Piece of Horse Harness belonging to Captain F. O. Grenfell, V.C., the metal clasp engraved ‘Capt. F. O. Grenfell 9th Lancers. Tidworth.’, with small piece of the original leather harness
mounted for display purposes along with a cigarette card of the recipient and a depiction of the action for which he was awarded the V.C., in relic condition but attractively presented
V.C. London Gazette 13 November 1914:
‘For gallantry in action against unbroken infantry at Andregnies [sic], Belgium, on 24 August 1914, and for gallant conduct in assisting to save the guns of the 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, near Doubon the same day.’
Francis Octavus Grenfell was born in Guildford, Surrey, on 4 September 1880, into a military family; he was the nephew of Field Marshal the Lord Grenfell, and the maternal grandson of Admiral John Grenfell. Educated at Eton, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, on 1 September 1899, and was promoted Lieutenant on 12 March 1901. He transferred to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on 4 May 1901, and served with them in South Africa during the Boer War, before going to India with the 2nd Battalion. Whilst in India he transferred to the 9th Lancers in May 1905, and was promoted Captain and Adjutant on 1 November 1912.
Following the outbreak of the Great War he embarked for France, along with his twin brother who was attached to the 9th Lancers, on 15 August 1914. On the 24 August 1914 he was in action at Elouges and Audregnies, Belgium. Following the successful withdrawal of the 2nd Army Corps, British Expeditionary Force, before the overwhelming German attack the day before along the line of the Mons-Condé Canal, the flank guard, consisting of the 1st Battalion the Cheshire Regiment and the 1st Battalion the Norfolk Regiment, supported by artillery and cavalry, now came under sustained enemy attack at Elouges. The Battle began at noon, and it soon became clear that the sheer weight of German infantry would eventually lead to the capture of its guns. Although all the battery’s horses were dead, the Battery Commander of one of the Artillery units, Major E. W. Alexander, managed to save the guns with the help of his few surviving men and cavalry volunteers led by Captain Grenfell. This enabled the 5th Division to retire without serious loss.
Later that afternoon, at Audregnies, two miles south-west of Elouges, Grenfell rode with the Regiment in a charge against a large body of German infantry. There were heavy casualties and the captain was left as the senior officer. He was rallying part of the regiment behind a railway embankment when he was twice hit in the hand and thigh and seriously wounded. For his gallantry at both Elouges and Audregnies Grenfell was awarded the Victoria Cross, one of the very first to be awarded during the Great War.
Grenfell remained with the 9th Lancers in Belgium, and was again wounded at Messines in October 1914. Invalided home, he was presented with his Victoria Cross by H.M. King George V at Buckingham Palace on 21 February 1915, before returning to the Western Front on 17 April 1915. He was killed in action at Hooge, Belgium, during the Second Battle of Ypres on 24 May 1915, and is buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Belgium. His twin brother, Captain Riversdale Grenfell, had been killed in action serving with the 9th Lancers at Mons on 14 September 1914.
Grenfell’s Victoria Cross and other medals are on display in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derbyshire
Code: 52004Price: 475.00 GBP