The AIF Project

Michael James GRIMES

Regimental number76
Place of birthBeragh, Co Tyrone, Ireland
SchoolBeragh National School, Co Tyrone, Ireland
Other trainingTrained for the grocery trade.
Age on arrival in Australia21
ReligionRoman Catholic
OccupationCook
AddressRailway Refreshment Rooms, Werris Creek, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation23
Height5' 10"
Weight158 lbs
Next of kinFather, M Grimes, Beragh Island, Co Tyrone, Ireland
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date17 August 1915
Place of enlistmentArmidale, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name33rd Battalion, A Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/50/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A74 Marathon on 4 May 1916
Rank from Nominal RollLance Corporal
Unit from Nominal Roll33rd Battalion
FateKilled in Action 30 March 1918
Age at death25
Age at death from cemetery records25
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: Michael and Susanna GRIMES, Berragh, Ireland
Other details

War service: Western Front

Embarked Sydney, 4 May 1916; disembarked Devonport, England, 9 July 1916.

Proceeded overseas to France, 21 November 1916; detached to 1st Army Forest Control; rejoined unit from detachment, 2 September 1917.

Appointed Lance Corporal, 26 October 1917; Temporary Corporal, 4 November 1917.

On leave to England, 5 January 1918; reverted to Lance Corporal, 8 January 1918.

Reported to be Absent Without Leave, 19 January 1918; rejoined unit, 4 March 1918. Case investigated by AIF Headquarters, London, 5 March 1918: soldier exonerated on account of illness.

Killed in action, France, 30 March 1918.

Buried in the vicinity of Hangard Wood.

Statement, Red Cross File No 12208141, 2558 Pte L.H. ENKS, A Company, 33rd Bn, 5 October 1918: 'I saw him wounded at Hangard Wood outside Villers Bretonneux. He was wounded in the leg first, and later on was wounded in the stomach. Pte Sam Withey stayed with him till he was shot also. He was in the same Company. We were relieved the next morning, and can't say anything about his burial.'

Second statement, 118 Pte F. McGRATH, 53rd [sic; 33rd Bn] Bn, 8 October 1918: 'I knew L/Corporal Michael Grimes, A. 4. he was in he original Battalion and was an Irishman, but joined up in N.S. Wales. I was close to him in the Hangard Wood Stunt at about 5 p.m. March 30th. 1918, daylight, when I saw him hit in the thigh by M.G. bullet; he was one of five wounded at the same time, and were carried back to a Copse and attended to by S/Bearer Withey, A. 4. (since killed). I saw Grimes' body about 1 a.m. March 31st, he had died of wounds during the night. I cannot say where he is buried. We handed over to a British Battalion and Fritz took the position from them on April 4th. 1918.'

Third statement, 1885 Sergeant H.G. McLENNAN MM, 33rd Bn, 23 October 1918: 'I knew him well. He was an Irishman by birth, and had been a cook in a Railway Hotel. He was about 25, medium build. About the 30th March we had just stopped the German rush at Hanguard [sic] Wood. About noon we attacked, and during the attack Grimes was hit by a bullet in the leg and brought down. The S/Bs went to him, and he was hit again and killed right out. I saw this. A burying party went up next day, but I don't know where he was buried.'

Fourth statement, 2141 Pte J.I. TIDBOLD, 33rd Bn (patient, Wilson Hospital, Reading, England), 10 October 1918: 'I knew L/Cpl. Grimes very well - was with him for 2 years. I was with him when he was killed on Easter Saturday (March 30th) at Hangard Wood. He was buried where he fell - I saw the grave with the cross up two days later. The ground was afterwards taken by the Germans. He was killed instantaneously by a Machine Gun buller in the head. Ground was lost. He was buried at Hangard Wood.'

Fifth statement, 230 Pte E.A. CANTWELL, 33rd Bn (patient, 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, England), 29 October 1918: 'I had a letter (now destroyed) from J. Hickey 33rd Battn. A. Coy., saying that he saw Grimes killed, gave no details except that he bled to death, I think at Morlancourt. Number 76 is right, he was called Grimy and was very popular. He came from Australia in same ship. His people live in Ireland.'

Sixth statement, 2875 Pte H.G. McLeod, A Company, 33rd Bn, 6 April 1919: 'Informant described Grimes as about 5 ft 6 or 7 inches high, slight build, fair reddish complexion, aged about 30. An Irishman by birth. Informant states that they both belonged at A. Company, Grimes being a Lewis Gunner. On 4.4.18 the Battalion was at Villers Bretonneux resisting an attack by the Germans. Just after daybreak while Grimes was getting his gun into position he was killed outright by a bullet. Informant was about 10 yards away and saw Grimes fall. The Battalion was pressed back, but Informant heard that Grimes was taken back and buried. The Battalion counter-attacked quickly and regained the position that they had lost, and it was after the counter attack that Grimes was taken back. According to Informant Grimes was a chap well thought of by his mates.'

Seventh statement, 108 Sergeant H. LEWIS, A Company, 33rd Bn, 28 June 1919: 'Private Grimes and I were original members of the Battalion, and we were both in "A" Company. I knew him very well; he was thickset, nuggety build, dar, about 5'6/7" in height, and clean shaven. On Easter Saturday, 1918 at Hanguard [sic] Wood, I saw him hit on the thigh by a shell splinter, and heard that he died of wounds soon after.'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, GRIMES Michael James
Red Cross File No 12208141

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