Lieutenant Wilfred Van Gruisen 1897-1916


Wilfred was born in Oxton on 19th September 1897, the second son of Albert Van Gruisen and his wife Florence (nee Isaacs). He was the nephew of Viscount Reading who was Lord Chief Justice and was educated at Rugby School and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

He graduated from Sandhurst in April 1915 and became a second lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers. Upon reaching the age of 18, he was posted to France in October 1915 and became a lieutenant in March 1916. A born leader, he was awarded the Military Cross on 10th August 1916 having led an attempt to rescue 23 of his men who had been buried in a shell crater, mostly suffering from bruising and shock.

He personally cleared airways for four of the men before the rest of his company joined him and in all only three of those buried were lost; this action was undertaken with the major support of one of his men, Corporal Scott who having been rescued himself returned and rendered great assistance whilst their location was under heavy fire. Amongst others rescued was the company medical officer Captain C Scott who was also able to return and help save lives.

Just six days later, Wilfred was badly wounded in action during the Somme offensive and was repatriated to the 1st Western Hospital in Fazakerley, Liverpool where he fought for his life, sadly losing that battle on 1st November.

Wilfred’s commanding officer recalled him as a fine and inspirational young officer who led by example and who had the full respect and admiration of his men as a result of the bravery and outstanding leadership he had shown.

The funeral service to lay Wilfred to rest was conducted by the Revd. Herbert Leigh Mallory, the father of George Mallory of Mount Everest fame.