Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Private Walter Alexander Grierson - Mt Eden Memorial - updated

Walter Alexander Grierson was the 3rd son of John and Susan Grierson.  Private Grierson embarked with the Main Body on the 16 October 1914 aboard the Waimana from Auckland.  On embarkation he was a Driver with the Army Service Corp.   Private Grierson was killed in action on the 8 May 1915 whilst attached to the Auckland Infantry Regiment.   He is remembered on the Twelve Tree Copse memorial.

TWELVE TREE COPSE (NEW ZEALAND) MEMORIAL is one of four memorials erected to commemorate New Zealand soldiers who fell on the Gallipoli peninsula and whose graves are not known. The memorial relates to engagements outside the limits of Anzac in which New Zealand soldiers took part. It bears almost 180 names. (information taken from CWGC website)

Walter Grierson's father John was a well-known Chess champion in Auckland and I found a lovely story on Papers Past reporting that his son Walter and a fellow soldier were busy finishing a game of chess before landing at Gallipoli with shrapnel flying all around them.  Both were wounded shortly after.  The board used for the game had been a gift to Walter from his father before he embarked.
A further two members of the Grierson family enlisted and are worth a mention.  The first is Walter's brother Hugh Cresswell Grierson.  Hugh was an architect and survived the war despite being wounded at Passchendaele.  After the war he became a partner at the Auckland firm of architects Grierson, Aimer and Draffin.  This firm entered the competition to design the proposed Auckland War Memorial Museum  in 1921 and subsequently won the competition.   Hugh Grierson must have felt during the process of designing and building the Museum that he was building a memorial to his brother and I am sure Walter was never far from his mind.   The firm of Grierson, Aimer and Draffin also won the competition to design the Wellington Cenotaph.

The second family member was their cousin 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Hugh Grierson who made the headlines during the war when he was accused by the Member of Parliament John Payne and the Anti-German womens league of being disloyal and a German Sympathiser.  The case was heavily reported in the press.  Alexander  had worked for the German Consul in Auckland, visited Germany and was partly educated there.  His accusers maintained he was pro-German and should not be allowed a commission or to serve in the New Zealand Army.   A Royal Commission of Inquiry was set up.  Alexander was able to prove that he had no 'foreign blood' he produced his birth certificate and British Passport.  His father was the brother of John Cresswell Grierson (Hugh and Walter's father)  John Grierson testified at the inquiry that the family went back generations in the United Kingdom.  The inquiry found in favour of Alexander Grierson and he embarked on the 6 May 1916. He survived the war.  His accusers continued to protest even writing to the King.  His story is an interesting read on Papers Past.  What was printed in the press shows the attitudes of the time and the somewhat fierce irrational patriotic fever that some possessed.

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