503 Company Sergeant Major Robert Grayson, MSM, MiD
Robert Grayson was born in Ormskirk and enlisted into the 9th King's when he was 15 years old.
He was an active sportsman, playing cricket for Ormskirk, a renowned bowler.
He enlisted into the 9th Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment in 1908 and at the outbreak of the war he had been promoted to Lance-Corporal. He was one of the original members of the battalion to go to France, on 12th March 1915.
He fought throughout 1915 and was promoted to Company Sergeant-Major by early 1917.
He was Mentioned in Despatches in 1917. The citation for this award reads:
"For consistent good service and devotion to duty. This warrant officer served in France continuously for 18 months. By his ability and cheerfulness he always set an excellent example to his men. During the active operations in which this unit has taken part, this warrant officer always proved himself an efficient leader. During a heavy bombardment of our lines near WAILLY on 2-7-16 Sgt Major GRAYSON was buried and bruised. On extricating himself he refused to leave the line and assisted to dig out a number of other men who had been buried. This warrant officer sustained shell wounds on his legs during the operations near FLERS."
Robert Grayson was badly wounded on 25th September 1916 when his battalion attacked the German defences between Flers and Gueudecourt on the Somme. He was injured in the legs by the shrapnel effect of an exploding shell and was evacuated to England.
He spent some time in hospital in Bradford, from where he wrote numerous letters to friends and acquaintances in Ormskirk.
In May 1917 he was with back with the reserve elements of his Regiment at Oswestry.
After finally recovering from the wounds he received on the Somme, Robert Grayson was seconded to the King's African Rifles, a native African unit led by British officers and NCOs (Non-commissioned Officers). He went to Africa to serve with his new regiment and was based at Zomba, Nyasaland (now Malawi). He was promoted again to Regimental Sergeant-Major and only returned home in 1921 or 1922.
In 1919 he was awarded the Territorial Efficiency Medal (TFEM). This was in effect the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal of the Territorial Force.
His father worked in the Ormskirk Advertiser, as did Robert himself later. Both Robert and his father were secretary of the Ormskirk & Southport District branch of the Oddfellows.
The family later lived at 76 Wigan Road, Ormskirk.
The following extracts from the Ormskirk Advertiser concern him:
15th April 1915:
The following is an extract from a letter received by Mr A. W. Whiteman (secretary of the Ormskirk District Working Men's Conservative Club), from Sgt. Robert Grayson, 9th King's on Thursday morning last, which was of course, too late to be read out at the annual meeting of the club:-
"We regret we are unable to attend the annual meeting of the club on Wednesday next. We hope the past year has been a successful one in every way. Mr W. Griffiths and myself, as members of the committee for the past year, hope the members will refrain from nominating us for the committee this year. We would suggest that the committee be formed of members over the age of 35, as the country still calls for men. We hope to be in the trenches in a few days. The members out here wish the club the best of luck.
P.S. We miss dear old 'prop and cop' but it is a far better game out here; even more exciting than a 'grand slam'."
20th May 1915:
WHERE THE STRIKERS SHOULD BE
In a letter under date May 15th to his parents at Ormskirk, Sgt. R. Grayson of the Ormskirk Territorials refers in bitter terms to the strikers in this country. He says: -
"It is sad reading for the chaps out here of the strikes etc. in England. I wish they were out here and seeing things. The troops don't get a rise in pay when there is a big battle on, and if the workers at home, who have a nice fire and good bed at night, deserve it, the men here deserve ten times more. The strikers wouldn't like to change places I know. I suppose we shall make up some day… We have had a very warm time this last weekend. On Sunday it simply rained shells from five in the morning till seven at night. It was a terrible day but happily I came out all right. I am in the pink and we are having a rest for a day or two."
20th January 1916:
Another Ormskirk hero to return is Sgt. Major Robert Grayson, Ormskirk Territorials, eldest son of Mr R. Grayson of Wigan Road, Ormskirk. He arrived home for 7 days on Tuesday evening after being out since last March when he went out with other Ormskirk men. He has been promoted twice in the field, from Corporal to Sgt, and Sgt to his current rank. He stated that he left his Ormskirk friends in the best of health, 30 minutes from the firing line.
31st August 1916:
THE KAISER IS LICKED
An optimistic note runs through a letter just received by one of our staff from Co. Sgt Major Robert Grayson of Wigan Road, Ormskirk, who is with the King's Liverpool Regiment in France, and who gives a succinct account of the recent fighting. He says:-
"We have been fighting on the Somme and are now out for a rest. It is a terrible battle, but we are superior in every way. I never saw such a number of guns and they are continually speaking. Our battalion made an attack in conjunction with the French on the 12th. Of course we lost men but I cannot tell you the number. Second-Lieutenant Watson and a lot of our best men were killed. The Ormskirk lads came through very luckily. I am very sorry about Second-Lieutenant Watson; he was a fine officer and was killed when in charge of a bombing party who by the way made the Huns run like the devil. We received great praise from the French Commander and also our own. The Somme Front is hotter at present than it was on July 1st, the Huns having brought up their heavy pieces of artillery, and don't forget to use them. There is no doubt, however, who is the better side - we beat them in artillery and infantry fighting, and in the air there is only one team in it. A German aeroplane is seldom seen. The Kaiser is licked and he knows it."
28th September 1916:
ORMSKIRK SERGEANT KILLED
News has been received of the death in action in France, of Sgt. James Galland, eldest son of Mr Henry Galland of Mill Gardens, Ormskirk. A splendid soldier, he joined up the day following the outbreak of war, receiving his training with the King's Liverpool Regiment & going to France with them in March 1915. Twice he was promoted on the field, and his comrades all speak of him as a grand type of fighting man, and all deeply regret his death. He was killed by a shell. Before enlisting he worked as a miner at Bickerstaffe colliery. His youngest brother, Harry, is also in France, whilst his next brother is in the Hussars. Sgt. Galland was an old Aughton Street schoolboy - one of the many who have made the great sacrifice. He was 27 years of age.
Company Sgt-Major Grayson, of Ormskirk, writing to the deceased's parents, aquainting them with the sad news, says:-
"A shell exploded in the trench, killing him, and a private and wounding Cpl ___ ____ . He had practically no pain. Everyone in the battalion is extremely sorry, for Jimmy was very popular. He was a wonderful chap - he came out with the battalion and had never been absent except on six days leave. He played football for the battalion in every match and he had no superior in the trenches. He was a fine all-round man and I shall miss him very much. He died doing his duty and is a credit to Ormskirk. Please accept our deepest sympathy."
5th October 1916:
CSM R Grayson - who after being out with the King's Liverpool Regiment, since March last year - through many engagements, has been wounded for the first time and is now in hospital. He was promoted to his present rank of CSM on the field, going out to France as a Cpl. He is the eldest son of Mr Robt. Grayson of Wigan Road, Ormskirk, and is very popular with his colleagues.
12th October 1916:
WITH OUR WOUNDED MEN
CSM Robert Grayson, of Wigan Road, Ormskirk, who as stated in our last issue, has been wounded in the left leg, is in St Luke's Hospital, Bradford and progressing satisfactorily. As usual, he is in the best of spirits, despite the fact that he has been on his back - he is a stretcher case - for the past fortnight.
Seen at the hospital on Tuesday, CSM Grayson paid a great tribute to Sgt Galland, Cpl James Howard, Pte. John Gaffney, who are amongst the last Ormskirk men killed. He stated they were all splendid soldiers.