Herbert Grass

Service number: 3/10468 | Rank: Private | Regiment: Norfolk Regiment

Killed in action, July 19, 1916, in Flanders.



Herbert was born in Brandon during March 1885 and had already been a career soldier for sixteen years before war was declared, and for six of those years he was stationed in India. During 1911 he had served his term with the army and returned to Brandon to live with his parents and take up employment as a labourer, although he was still kept on as a Reservist. With the outbreak of war he received his call up papers and duly reported for duty at Norwich and re-joined the Norfolk Regiment.

Herbert survived the carnage of the first day of the Somme and was in reserve with the remainder of the 8th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment just off the front line, and was able to continue with battle training for a couple of weeks. Very late in the evening of the 18th July the battalion received orders to counter attack on Delville Wood and moved toward the frontline arriving near Montauban at 1.30am on the morning of 19th July. The men received news that the South Africans were holding a line north to west of the wood and the 8th Battalion were to enter it the wood, flush out the Germans and then hold it until they were reinforced. At 5.30am the men made toward the south-west corner of the wood in readiness for the attack but came under machine gun fire which delayed the start of their battle, but at 7.15am the signal for the attack was sounded and the men advanced on a broad front.

Initially the men made good gains but the left flank came under heavy enfilade fire from machine guns resulting in many men being cut down, including some high ranking officers who lost their lives. The advance continued but was hindered when it met even more German machine guns and more men became casualties; however by noon the men, assisted by a brief artillery barrage on the enemy positions, began to clear the enemy from the wood. The enemy replied with their own artillery and sniper fire, but the Norfolks were now firmly in place in the wood and would stay there until the night of the 21st/22nd July, when they were relieved by the Gordon Highlanders. By this time the battalion had lost 81 men, 182 had been wounded and 36 were still missing. Among that day’s action Herbert had been killed.

Herbert’s brother, Walter, was also at the Front and he became concerned for his brother’s whereabouts and had decided to write home to his wife in Brandon to see if she had heard anything. His letter was delivered on the same day that Herbert’s parents,

Willis and Elizabeth Grass of Thetford Road, received the official notification of their son’s death. Herbert was 31 years old and unmarried.