National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Gallipoli Chaplain’s Son Goes to War

John Blair Grant was born on 24 December 1892 to parents Reverend William and Isabella Grant. Chaplain William Grant was a heroic figure on Gallipoli and was killed on 28 August 1915 at Hill 60. William Grant was 56 and was the first New Zealand Chaplain killed in World War One.

At the outbreak of World War One, John Grant, a Gisborne High School ‘old boy’ was working as an Engineer in Napier and enlisted on 14 August 1914 with the Wellington Mounted Rifles and after a period of training, John Grant embarked from Wellington on 16 October 1914 aboard the Orari bound for Suez, Egypt.

Once in Egypt, the NZ mounted riflemen worked the horses to fitness as well as training in musketry, bayonet fighting, and the dreaded route marches. The men also took time out to see the sights of Cairo; the tourist and the seedier side of the large metropolitan city.

The New Zealand infantry embarked for Gallipoli but the New Zealand Mounted Brigade were held in reserve so the majority of the NZ mounted riflemen carried out reconnaissance work near El Marg and then trained with the Australian Light Horse near Ishkendar Shakir.

John Grant eventually sailed to Gallipoli on 20 June 1915 but experienced bouts of sickness and within a month of landing, John was suffering severely from appendicitis and was transferred to Mudros.

From there, he was transported to England to convalesce, so John wasn’t actually at Gallipoli when his father, Chaplain William Grant was killed as he went along a trench at Hill 60 to help a wounded man lying among the scattered bodies. Unfortunately, he was not recognised as a ‘man of god’ and was bayoneted by a Turkish soldier, who on realising his mistake, put up a white flag, apologised and returned the body to his men.

For John Grant, after a period of convalescence, he decided to change corps and became a Gunner with the New Zealand Field Artillery on 29 May 1916.

On 3 June 1916, whilst on leave, he got married to Mabel in Bournemouth and around the same time, he completed a Fitter’s course at Sling Camp and also served for a time at Aldershot in the Quarter Master’s Store.

John Grant’s Service Record also mentions that his pay was withdrawn for disobeying Camp Standing Orders at Greytowers, Hornchurch in November 1916.

On 7 June 1917, John Grant was sent to Etaples, France with 3rd Battery, 1st Brigade, NZ Divisional Artillery and saw action in both France and Belgium.

On 5 April 1918, John was badly wounded during the Second Battle of the Somme with a shrapnel wound to the left shoulder and arm and was once again transported to England for treatment and convalescence.

John Grant returned to New Zealand aboard the Remuera on 26 October 1919 and was discharged from the Army on 23 November 1919.