World War 2 Soldier - Private Henry John Granger 1919-1940

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Private Henry John Granger
Private Henry John Granger

Private Henry John Granger was the son of Henry James and Rita Mabel Granger (nee Manns).

Henry James, father of Henry John, enlisted in WW1, but was discharged in October 1915 as unfit. At that time his address was Lower Barton St, Gloucester. He married Rita Manns in 1915 and their daughter Queenie was born in1918, Henry John in 1919, Joyce in 1922 and Rita May in 1924.

Rita died in 1924, perhaps at the time of Rita May’s birth, leaving Henry James with four young children. He remarried later that year to Elizabeth ‘Myrtle’ Merrett. They had three children, Myrtle Esther in 1924, Daniel 1926 and Ruth 1930.

In 1925 the family were living in Coaley, by 1927 in Frocester, moving later to Cam, but by 1937 had settled in Gossington. The 1939 register shows the family at Bells Cottages in Cambridge, but the electoral register puts them back in Gossington after the war. Henry James was working on the railway as a labourer.

We know very little about Henry John, but in 1939 he married Mary Jones whose family also lived in Gossington. Henry would have been 20 years old at the time and Mary was only 17, working as at the woollen mill as a cloth mender.

Henry served in the 2nd Battalion Gloucester Regiment, (144 Infantry Brigade) Service number 5183832

We have very little information regarding his service in the army, but he was with the 2nd Battalion as it withdrew from Escault on 23rd May, reaching Cassel, about 30 km south of Dunkirk on May 25th. The Gloucesters were tasked to hold the western half of the town, to hold the line at all costs to allow the B.E.F. to be evacuated from Dunkirk. Initially they worked on improving their defences and saw German patrols, but it was not until the 27th that the assault commenced in earnest. We do not know which company Henry was with on the 27th when he died, but the following account provides insight into the desperate situation the men experienced.

Cassel was attacked in strength from three directions. ‘D’ Company (Captain A.P. Cholmondley) in the South West corner of the town, was heavily attacked. ‘C’ Company (Captain E.H. Lynn Allen) fought off a strong infantry assault.

At 0800 Zuytpene was assaulted from the air and then tanks and infantry. The position was soon surrounded. ‘A’ Company fought from house to house, withdrawing to the centre of the village. By 1800 the position was desperate. The survivors had gathered in one building. When the Germans got into the garden and were able to throw grenades into the house Percy-Hardman ordered his men to surrender.

At 1800 the attack began on the blockhouse held by No.8 platoon. They were immediately cut off. Without rations and the blockhouse on fire they held out for 4 days. Finally on 30th May, with the Germans on the roof Cresswell ordered his men to break out and try to reach Dunkirk. But escape was hopeless and the survivors were captured.

This report is taken from the company diary 26th May The reserves helped with propping and sandbagging a day of working on the defences – no enemy, just a squadron of bombers passed overhead without bombing. To the North a great pall of smoke where Dunkerque was burning.
27th May A few enemy tanks were reported – as the morning went on we set to on road blocks. Afternoon heard heavy mortaring and rifle fire from D Company a tank had penetrated the chateau grounds driving D Company from their positions. The attack on D Company died down, but the shelling and mortaring of the town continued well towards dusk – late afternoon tanks approached our position along the road from the west”.

Henry John Granger is buried in Esquelbecq Military Cemetery and commemorated on Slimbridge war memorial.

Mary remarried in December 1941 to Thomas Albert Mills, a tractor driver also living in Gossington. Their daughter Ann May was baptised November 1942 followed by Jennifer Leslie (Jenny) in 1944. Mary never talked to her children about her marriage to Henry.

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