b. 19/09/1889 Blackburn, Lancashire. d. 13/08/1959 Blackburn, Lancashire.
William Henry Grimbaldeston (1889-1959) was born at 58 Hickory Street, Blackburn, Lancashire on 19th September 1889. His father, Thomas, was a carder in a cotton mill, and later worked in an iron foundry. He married Isabella nee Davis in 1884. They had a large family of ten including William who was the eldest.
William was educated at St Alban’s School, Blackburn until the age of 13. The school was also attended by James Pitts, who was awarded the VC for his actions in South Africa in 1900. William worked as a cotton weaver at Cicely Street Mill, Cherry Tree Mill and for Messrs Greenwood Bros Ltd of Rockford Mill. He was a noted amateur boxer and appeared at the Palace Theatre. He also won several prizes as a weightlifter and athlete.
Before the war, he served in 4th East Lancashire Brigade RFA and became an orderly to his CO, Lieutenant Colonel TP Ritzema. He enlisted in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers on 3rd September 1914. He joined B Company, 7th Battalion next day. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 22nd September, Corporal on 8th December and acting Sergeant on 30th December. He went to France with the Battalion on 9th July and was promoted Sergeant on 17th September. He was wounded by a gunshot at Loos on 25th September, resulting in the amputation of a finger being amputated on his left hand. Piper Daniel Laidlaw was awarded the VC for the same action.
William married Sarah Ellen Woodcock at the Chapel Street Congregational Church, Blackburn on 17th February 1916. They had a son, William, in 1918. William was posted to 9th Battalion on 25th February 1916 and was admitted to Kinghorn Auxiliary Hospital from 5th-8th June with a mild case of herpes. Having been posted to 3rd Battalion on 1st September, he returned to France to join 1st Battalion on 5th October. He was appointed Company Quartermaster Sergeant from 16th April to 16th August 1917.
On 16th August 1917 at Wijdendrift, Belgium, Company Quartermaster-Sergeant Grimbaldeston noticed that the unit on his left was held up by enemy machine-gun fire from a blockhouse. Arming himself with a rifle and hand grenade he started to crawl towards his objective, and when he had advanced about 100 yards another soldier came forward to give covering support. Although wounded, he pushed on to the blockhouse, threatened the machine-gun teams inside with a hand grenade and forced them to surrender. This action resulted in the capture of 36 prisoners, six machine-guns and one trench mortar.
William was gassed on 17th August and was evacuated to Warrington Whitecross Hospital, England. He and his wife were caught in a Zeppelin raid on London the night before his investiture, but were not injured. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 20th October 1917. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre on 17th December 1917. He returned home on 11th January 1918 and was given a civic reception 12 days later, receiving a cheque for £200 raised by public subscription and an illuminated address decorated with the town’s coat of arms and his regimental crest. He was demobilised to the Class Z Reserve on 21st February 1919.
William worked as a clerk at Blackburn Employment Exchange and later in 1919 became a steward of New Public Halls in Northgate. This included being mace bearer for the town. In 1937 he was a porter of the Trustees Savings Bank on Lord Street West and retired in 1949, having suffered poor health attributed to gas poisoning. He was Provincial Sword Bearer in Freemason Lodge De Lacy at Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire and was Chairman of 15th (Scottish) Division Old Comrades Association.
William collapsed and died at his home at 49 Bold Street, Blackburn on 13th August 1959, having just taken a glass of water to his semi-invalid wife. He was cremated at Pleasington Crematorium, Blackburn and his ashes were scattered in Plot G. In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and the French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star. His medals were presented to the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regimental Museum at a ceremony in Berwick-upon-Tweed on 17th August 1960, the 43rd anniversary of the action at Wijdendrift.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: KINGS OWN SCOTTISH BORDERERS MUSEUM, BERWICK ON TWEED.
BURIAL PLACE: PLEASINGTON CREMATORIUM, BLACKBURN, LANCASHIRE. PLOT G
William Grimbaldeston's medals including VC on display at the Kings Own Scottish Borderers Museum, Berwick upon Tweed
(Picture: Thomas Stewart).
War Illustrated, 6th October 1917
Blackburn Town Hall
The close up of William Grimbaldeston's stone in Blackburn and the front cover of the commemorative programme courtesy of Heather Talbot
Freemasons Memorial, London (Brian Drummond)