Gloucester’s Brenda MacDonald didn’t know much about her grandfather’s service during World War I when she was a child.
She knew he went to war and that he was injured but other than that, he didn’t talk about it around her.
Alfred Edwin Grinyer died when Brenda was 12 years old and it wasn’t until she started looking into the family history that she began to understand why he named is home in Ashfield ‘Bullecourt’.
Private Grinyer served in the 7th Australian Field Ambulance in Belgium and France, spending just over 19 months overseas during World War I.
He was 26 years old when he left Sydney aboard the HMAT A61 Kanowna on March 29, 1916 and in the early hours of May 3, 1917 he was involved in the Second Battle of Bullecourt.
Brenda hadn’t heard much about the Battles of Bullecourt until she came across the Road to Remembrance story ‘Heartbreak of Bullecourt’ in the Gloucester Advocate on November 29, 2017.
“I had never heard about it as a separate story,” she said.
She had spent time going through her copy of her grandfather’s diary highlighting all the places he had been during his service in order to map out where he had spent his time.
Brenda was able to relive his experiences as he wrote about the incessant rain, the lack of sleep and the terrible rations.
During his time in France transporting injured soldiers between McCormicks post and Crest post in November 1916, Private Grinyer wrote about carrying heavy stretchers through knee deep mud under shell attack in the rain.
On Monday, November 13, 1916, he writes “We won two trenches, but believe we lost them again.”
“I got his this morning. A piece of shell is still embedded in my pocket book. We are terribly busy carrying.”
It was the Second Battle of Bullecourt that would put an end to Private Grinyer’s service for good.
On the evening of Wednesday, May 2, 1917, he wrote about marching “blankets and stretchers, right up to the front line (about one mile in front of Noreuil).” Noreuil is close to Bullecourt.
Around 4am on the morning of May 3, 1917, Private Grinyer said, “We opened up. The fighting was terrible. We wasn’t too successful, and suffered heavily.”
“Thursday several bits hit me until 8am when I was blown up, picked up unconscious, was carried through Noreuil to the loading post and driven in an ambulance to our headquarters, was dressed and put in a motor (bus) and driven to CCT.”
“Am sick as a dog over the gas and can’t eat,” he wrote.
Private Grinyer suffered a severe compound fracture of the skull and he was medically discharged on July 2,1918.
After he returned to Australia he got married and had four children. His son, Norman, Brenda’s father enlisted for World War II.
Brenda remembers her grandfather as a quite man with a love for irises.
“As far as the family was concerned his life was forever affected by his injuries,” she said.
Private Grinyer’s original diaries from March 29, 1916 until January 3, 1918 are kept on digital record at the State Library of New South Wales http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110365381
As part of the final throes of the British Army's Arras offensive, a renewed attempt was made to secure the fortified village of Bullecourt in the period May 3 – 17, 1917.
The Australian 2nd Division (5th and 6th Brigades) and the British 62nd Division attacked at 3:45am on May 3, 1917. The Australians penetrated the German line but met determined opposition which frustrated the envelopment plan. Drawing more and more forces in, renewed efforts on May 7 succeeded in linking British and Australian forces, but inspired a series of ferocious and costly German counter-attacks over the next week and a half. Following the repulse of the counter-attack of 15 May, the Germans withdrew from the remnants of the village. Although the locality was of little or no strategic importance, the actions were nevertheless extremely costly: AIF casualties totalled 7,482 from three Australian Divisions.
Information sourced from the Australian War Memorial website https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E73
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