Julian Grenfell in military uniform including his DSO ribbon
|Born||30 March 1888
Westminster, London, England
|Died||26 May 1915
Boulogne, Pas-de-Calais, France
|Years of service||1910–1915|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
|Awards||Distinguished Service Order|
|Relations||Captain Francis Octavius Grenfell VC (cousin)|
Julian Grenfell was born at 4 St James's Square, London, the eldest son of William Grenfell, later Baron Desborough, and Ethel Priscilla Fane, daughter of Julian Fane. He was educated at Eton where he was good friends with Denys Finch Hatton, and latterly with Patrick Shaw-Stewart. From Eton he went up to Balliol College, Oxford, where he bullied Philip Sassoon by cracking a stock whip within inches of his head.
Grenfell joined the army in 1910, and was awarded a Distinguished Service Order in 1914. In 13 May 1915 as a Captain in the Royal Dragoons Julian stood talking with other officers, a shell landed a few yards from them, and a splinter of the shell hit him in the head. He was taken to a hospital in Boulogne where he died of his wounds 13 days later with his mother, father and sister at his bedside. He was 27 years old and was buried at the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery. The day after his death, together with news of his death, his most famous poem 'Into Battle' was published for the first time, in The Times .
In a letter that was written in October 1914, Grenfell wrote "I adore war. It is like a big picnic but without the objectivelessness of a picnic. I have never been more well or more happy.". This contrasts with the work of later war poets such as Sassoon or Owen, but it should be remembered that Grenfell was a professional soldier. Also, it would be unwise to see the views of a small group of officer-poets as representative of all of those who fought in World War I.
Julian's younger brother Gerald William (Billy) Grenfell was killed in action on 30 July 1915 within a mile of where Julian had been wounded.
On 11 November 1985, Grenfell was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."
Honours and awards
- 1 January 1915 - Lieutenant The Honourable Julian Henry Francis Grenfell, 1st (Royal) Dragoons is appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order in recognition of service with the Expeditionary Force - On 17 November he succeeded in reaching a point behind the enemy's trenches and making an excellent reconnaissance, furnishing early information of a pending attack by the enemy.
- Mosley, Nicholas (1976) Julian Grenfell: His Life and the Times of his Death
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