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    QSA medal with RAISED DATED REVERSE 1899-1900


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    QSA medal with RAISED DATED REVERSE 1899-1900- 5 bars: Natal, OFS, Bel, SA’01, SA’02 54 Pte. H. Grestock Ld.Strathcona’s H:;
    BWM; AVM (Brit.) Lieut. H. Grestock Canadian Memorial Cross (Geo.V) Lieut. H. Grestock 

    Howard Grestock was born in London on 29 January 1879. His father, Richard Joseph Grestock, was born in London in about 1835 and later immigrated to Australia.

     

    On 29 October 1862 he married his 18 year old bride, Charlotte Elizabeth Roycraft, in Melbourne. Richard was employed as a Bank Clerk and their two eldest children, a son and a daughter, were born in Melbourne.

     

    In about 1868 he returned to England with his young family and settled in Lambeth in London where their family expanded with the addition of a further six sons. Back home in London his father entered into business as a glove manufacturer and was able to later describe himself as a man “of independent means”.

     

    Howard was their youngest of his seven sons, standing 5 feet 10 inches tall. He was a keen soldier and when the opportunity arose for him to serve in South Africa he volunteered to join the first contingent of Strathcona’s Horse.

     

    Just three weeks after the death of Queen Victoria, Howard was amongst the group who paraded before the new King, Edward VII in London on the occasion on which the first Queen’s South Africa medals were awarded to servicemen on their return from the war in South Africa. 


    A cursory examination on the Web reveals that he continued to serve as a member of Lord Strathcona’s Horse before World War I, serving for many months as head of the grenade section.

     

    It is recorded that, soon after the declaration of hostilities in World War I, Howard Grestock was the first recruit from his native Yukon attesting for service with the Canadian Infantry on 22 September 1914.

     

    At that time his civilian occupation was that of a Miner and he was soon aboard the steamer Dawson. A contemporary newspaper report records that he was initially offered a commission in the Indian cavalry but refused before being posted to the 73rd Battalion.

     

    He re-enlisted into the same unit on 4 May 1915, as No. 2499 Private being promoted Corporal on 26 July 1916. Later that year he was commissioned into the 73rd Infantry Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada.

     

    A report published in the The Dawson Daily News carried the headline: “First Yukon Volunteer Dies for his Country” It reads as follows: 

     

    “Ottawa, Feb. 15 – (Delayed in transmission) – Lieutenant Howard Grestock, the first Yukon man to volunteer for overseas service, has been killed in action.

     

    A private cablegram from Grestock’s brother in London announces his death. The official casualty list of Tuesday put Lieutenant Grestock down as missing, so that news of his death did not cause much surprise here. 

     

    As Yukon people are aware, Grestock had served for many months as head of the grenade section of the Strathcona’s Horse, and some time ago received a commission, when he joined the Seventy-third Battalion as Lieutenant.

     

    The wound he received before was a light shrapnel wound in the leg, during an assault when the British captured the Regina trench. I received a letter from Lieutenant Grestock only a few days ago in which he said he expected to get leave of absence to visit England about the first of March, when he hoped to be able to join the Yukon Infantry Company. 


    Grestock was second in command of his company when killed.” Howard Grestock is officially recorded as having died as a Prisoner-of-War on 5 February 1917 and lies buried in the Cabaret-Rouge British cemetery at Souchez in Pas de Calais in France. 


    A reference, which alludes to excellent further research opportunities about Howard Grestock, records that he “died at Vimy before the battle began.” Following a skilfully planned attack and a precision creeping barrage, the Canadians overran and captured the heavily fortified German position on 9 April 1917.

     

    Nearly 3,600 Canadians died taking the Ridge, where the French and British had failed. Many Yukoners were there. This reference continues …. 


    “Today more is known about Grestock than of many of his other countrymen because the letters that he sent to Dawson were frequently published in the newspaper. In September 1914, before shipping out for England, he prophesied that they were in for a “bad war… it will be extremely lucky if we  come back.”

     

    A few weeks later, in England with the Strathcona’s Horse, he complained about the constant rain on the Salisbury Plain. “I did not come out to do barrack room work,” he said. “If we don’t go to the front before Christmas I shall apply for a transfer to (a) British regular ... regiment.”


    In June 1915, Grestock was in France. “When I left Dawson,” he said, “we thought that the war soon would be over, but now I think it has just started and is good for years.” Grestock already had a taste of action on the front and considered himself lucky.

     

    He had been spared from artillery fire, shrapnel, sniper attacks and poison gas. In April 1916, he was on the front, waiting for a big offensive to begin. Later in the year, he saw heavy action with the Seventy Third Highlanders, but came out of it unscathed.

     

    Several times he reported on his good luck at not being shot, blown up or gassed. Since his arrival in France, he had seen action in all of the major battles - Hooge, Festubert, Givenchy, St. Eloi and the Somme. “On personal merit,” says an article in the Victoria Daily Colonist, “he was given his commission.”

     

    When transferred to Vimy Lieut. Grestock was second in command in his unit. Sometime in late 1916, in a most daring fashion, he played an important role in forcing back an enemy counterattack. The following night, he returned to no man’s land to recover the body of a dead German soldier so that they could determine the unit he served in.

     

    On February fourth, 1917, his luck ran out. He led a small raiding party across no man’s land to attack the German trenches. His party went too far, and suffered heavy casualties. He did not return. The circumstances surrounding his fate became clear when it was learned that he had died some time later, as a prisoner of war, in a German-run hospital at Henin-Lietard.

     

    Yet another reference includes the following title description to a wartime photograph: “Strathcona Horse in trenches 1000 yds from La Basse”; “H. Grestock (with periscope)”; “Jack Watt (killed in action October 4, 1915)”; “Paddy Doyle, D.C.M.”

     

    The foregoing write-up highlights the magnificent story of Grestock and his Canadian colleagues in France in 1917.

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