b. 20/01/1893 Abram, Lancshire. d. 20/07/1980 Isleworth, Middlesex.
John Elisha Grimshaw (1893-1980) was born on 23rd January 1893 at Abram, near Wigan, Lancashire, the son of carpenter John Grimshaw. He was educated at St John’s School, Abram, before working like his father as a carpenter at Messrs Cross, Tetley and Company’s collieries in the Wigan coalfields until enlisting with the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1912 at the age of 19. The following year, he joined the 1st Battalion in India and returned to England with his unit after the outbreak of war. By the time of the landing at W Beach, he was a lance corporal signaller in C Company, and his role throughout the operation was to maintain contact with the HQ aboard HMS Euryalus and neighbouring units.
During the landing, the three companies and the Headquarters of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, were met by a very heavy and effective fire from the company of Ottoman Empire troops defending the beach. This caused 533 casualties out of the 950 men who attempted to land. The survivors, however, rushed up and cut the wire entanglements notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained.
Following his actions on W Beach, his name was put forward for recommendation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal rather than the VC. He continued to take part in the Gallipoli campaign with his unit, and had a narrow escape when he was buried by a shell blast that smashed his trench and withstood the strain of prolonged periods under fire without rest. He managed to survive the fighting, only to succumb to frostbite, which forced him to be evacuated from Gallipoli. He spent five weeks in hospital before being sent home to England to recuperate. While convalescing, he was invited back to Abram for the presentation of his DCM which the burghers of the town had persuaded the War Office to send to them. It was pinned on his chest at Abram Parish Church School by the district council chairman, who also presented him with a gold watch.
Following his convalescence, he was posted to Hull as an instructor, and it was here that he met his future wife, Maggie Stout. The couple were married on 26th August 1916. News of his belated VC (elected by his Regiment alongside Cuthbert Bromley and Frank Stubbs) was given to him by a journalist at an army camp in Humberside. Grimshaw needed some convincing of the award. Nine days later the award was gazetted, and he received his VC in person from King George V at Buckingham Palace.
Later that year, Grimshaw was posted to France and was commissioned in the field. In 1918 he was posted to India where he served with the 1/75th Carnatic Infantry on the Sub-Continent and in Arabia. In 1921 he rejoined the Lancashire Fusiliers. His last posting with the Regiment was to Ireland where the troubles were approaching their climax. A few months later he retired to take up a post of army recruiting officer in Cardiff. After eleven years in the job he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and served as chief recruiting officer in Northumberland until 1944, and then in East Anglia. He retired from the Army in 1953, aged 60, after completing 41 years’ service. He lived in Warrington and Lymm in Cheshire, before settling in Twickenham, London, where he died on 20th July 1980. He left a widow, two daughters, eight grandchildren, and eleven great grandchildren. His only son, who served as a squadron leader in the RAF, pre-deceased him. He was cremated at South West Middlesex Crematorium in Hanworth, and his ashes were scattered on Lawn 3-C-5.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and the Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977. His medals are now held by the Ashcroft Trust and displayed alongside the medals of fellow W Beach VCs, Richard Willis and Alfred Richards.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: SW MIDDLESEX CREMATORIUM, HANWORTH, MIDDLESEX.
ASHES SCATTERED LAWN 3-C-5 BY WEEPING WILLOW.
John Patterson – Image of the Grimshaw VC medal group when on loan to Lancashire Fusiliers Museum, Bury.