Kenneth Grant (Service No. 4537)
(1878)

Kenneth Grant was born about April 1878 in Skye Inverness Scotland to Alexander Grant and Mary Grant nee MacDonald. He appears to have been the youngest of the nine children born to the couple and he was also the brother of Donald Alexander Grant who was caretaker of the Government explosive reserve in Laverton. Kenneth appears to have moved to Glasgow and was initially employed as a salesman in his younger days. He married Florence McGowan on 5 June 1903 and the couple appeared to continue living and working in Glasgow.

At the time of his marriage Kenneth was still employed as a wine and spirit salesman but shortly afterwards it appears that he began an apprenticeship as a shipwright with Elder & Co Glasgow which went on to become Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Glasgow. The company was a major shipbuilder both domestically and internationally. Fairfield Shipbuilding was in fact commissioned to build a number of Australia’s WWI warships including HMAS Parramatta and HMAS Warrego. But their brief went further than building ships they were also commissioned to transfer their shipbuilding skills to Australian workers at Cockatoo Island in Sydney.

HMAS Warrego was the initial ship to facilitate this transfer of knowledge in that the parts and sections of the ship were built in Scotland and then shipped to Sydney where they were reassembled. Also, part of the conditions was that a number of key people from the Fairfield company transfer across to Australia to teach and supervise the process which is where Kenneth Grant’s story continues.

Kenneth was still employed by Fairfield Shipbuilding at this time and came to Australia aboard the Orama that arrived in Sydney in December 1911. With him on the journey was his wife Florence and their son Alec. This places Kenneth Grant at the location where the new naval ship was being rebuilt. Kenneth also travelled to Melbourne on the Tyrone in September 1913 presumably to visit his brother in Melbourne around late 1914 early 1915.

WhiIe he was still in Australia and in fact Melbourne Kenneth enlisted into the AIF on 15 February 1915 at the age of 36 years 10 months with his next of kin listed as his wife Florence who was listed as living at home in Glasgow Scotland so Florence and young Alec must have returned home just prior to her husband enlisting. Sapper Kenneth Grant was assigned to the 8th Field Company Engineers and they embarked from Australia on 10 May 1915 aboard HMAT A14 Euripides.

Kenneth appears to have spent a great deal of his early service in and out of various hospitals in Malta and England but did undertake light military duties while attached to a number of Australian Army bases in England. It wasn’t until late 1917 or early 1918 that Sapper Grant rejoined his company and saw action in France with the 8th Field Company Engineers.

8th Light Horse Regiment

The engineers were essential to the AIF in the building and repairing of bridges, roads and defensive positions to and at the front. Without them other branches of the Allied Forces would have found it difficult to cross the muddy and shell-ravaged ground of the Western Front.

At the time Kenneth rejoined the 8th they were heavily involved in battles on the Western Front including the battle of Cantigny, Marne, Amiens and the Hundred Day Offensive and was involved until the armistice was signed. In the lead up to the attack at Mont St Quentin the Engineers were strategically required to carry out two river crossing/bridging operations that greatly assisted the allied forces.

Sapper Kenneth Grant was discharged at the end of April 1919 in London and it is believed that he was then able to travel north to Scotland to be reunited with his wife Florence (Flora) Grant in Glasgow. We have very little detail of Kenneth Grant after the date of his discharge from the AIF in 1919.

References:

  1. ancestry.com.au
  2. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1338955
  3. https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=4671185
  4. https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=116791
  5. Staubermann, Klaus (2014) The transfer of shipbuilding knowledge: reconstructing HMAS Warrego (Part 1) ICON: journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology Vol.20 NO.2 (2014) pp.40-48 0259-9996
  6. Werribee Shire Banner, 6 March 1919, p.1.

Research by: Graeme Reilly & Ann Cassar (ALHS)