Alan P Grant b1918

Alan Grant 1922

1930

1941

His birth certificate shows him being born Alan Proctor Grant, at 40 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin on 27th July 1918. The son of Charles William Grant, Lieut. Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Alica Rogers Grant (Nee Proctor) of 28 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin.

He had a difficult childhood, as his parents Charles and Eliza Grant appeared to have lived separate lives. Eliza, his mother, lived in England, where she was in and out of hospital constantly; and Charles, his father, in Belfast. Alan seems to have been abandoned by both of them, though he appeared to be much fonder of his mother than his father.

He went to St John's School in Dublin, before getting a scholarship and going to a boarding school in England, Eastman's School, Southsea. He spent his school holidays with his grandfather, Thomas Grant, in Dublin.

He went to school first at Southsea at Eastman’s Preparatory School, 28 South Parade, Eastbourne. This was an unhappy experience for him due to bullying (he had an Irish accent that the English boys found odd) and absence of parents. He must have been at Eastman’s from about 1926 to 1931. His mother used to rent a flat close by in Southsea, so he must have seen quite a bit of her at this time.

Eastman’s Preparatory School, Eastbourne.

Thomas Eastman's school had initially been successful, but went into decline so that by Easter 1914 numbers were down to 20. It was under the joint headship of Thomas Gilderdale & Donald Mercer. The same pair had run the school from the same address as Eastman’s Royal Naval Academy until they changed its name in 1923.

It was on the corner of Burgoyne Road. It was four floors high with a huge assembly hall on the ground floor. In the middle was a large pot-bellied stove. There was also a very large kitchen with coal-fired ranges and a conservatory to the rear.

A large oak staircase ran from the top to bottom of the building and what looked like bedrooms going off of the floors with cast iron fireplaces in them. The building was largely flat roofed which the last flight of stairs led up to. On the roof were lots of tall yellow chimney pots. The school seems to have finally closed around 1940. Today it has been knocked down and replaced by an office block, Fastnet House. 

Alan Grant then went to Trent College from 1933-1935 where he was in Shuker House.

In 1865, Francis Wright proposed the foundation of Trent College at a meeting of the Midland branch of the Clerical and Lay Association. At the time, he intended Trent College to be one of many schools established in the region; in fact, it was the only one of its kind in the area.

The School opened its doors in April 1868 to the first contingent of 53 boys. Four months later, the school roll had risen to 118 and, by 1870, 225 boys were registered as pupils. The School’s initial success was hit by the outbreak of Scarlet Fever in 1873 and the death of its first Headmaster, Thomas Ford Fenn, in 1883.

In 1892, the Evangelical College and School Company Ltd. (established by Francis Wright’s surviving family) took over as Trustees of Trent College and remained its Directors until November 1966 when the School became Trent College Ltd.

Tucker was succeeded in 1927 by Headmaster Geoffrey Bell. Trent was about to face the Great Depression, which meant that Bell was restricted in the developments he could carry out at the School. However, during Bell’s Headmastership, the Warner Library was opened (1929) as well as the Cricket Pavilion (1933). Bell was apparently held in high regard by the boys at Trent and was seen as a forward-thinking man, even though the School’s finances were less progressive.

Bell also oversaw Trent’s great unbeaten rugby 1st XI sides of 1932-33 and 1933-34, which included the now-famous Prince Obolensky, who went on to play for Oxford and England and is still remembered as one of the country’s finest rugby players.

Bell left Trent in 1936 for a new Headmastership at Highgate and was succeeded by Ford Ikin, who reported being appalled by the dilapidated state of the buildings that greeted him on his arrival at Trent. Ikin immediately set about persuading the governors to spend money on sanitation, new beds and decoration, as well as removing the gas lighting that had been criticised in an inspection in 1929.

The delapidated state of the school buildings and the sucess of the rugby team were during Alan Grant’s spell at the school. I have no recollection of his talking about the rugby team. He did however recall the dilapidated buildings, cold showers, and fagging system. I don’t think he recalled Trent College at all fondly.

He then entered Queens University Belfast in 1935. He lived with his father in Holywood during his time there, and took the train in to Belfast. I believe that his mother was still living in England at this time. He had a brief spell as a house surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast from 1st July 1940 to 31st January 1941. He then qualified as a doctor with MB Bch (Hons) at the age of 22 and immediately joined the RAMC. There was no conscription in Northern Ireland during World War II, so he volunteered!

On joining up he was posted to the officers wing of 11 Depot RAMC at Becketts Park, Leeds. His initial fitness category was A1 on 15 Feb 1941, but this was later changed to A on 5 March 1943 (he was in hospital for 3 weeks in Nov 1942, which may have caused this change in fitness). After 2 weeks at the depot, he was posted to 176 Field Ambulance at Rothes in Scotland. Feb 1941 to December 1941 was spent in Rothes, Scotland and in Yorkshire. The longest posting being for 6 months at 5th Corps, Troops Supply Column, RASC at Manningham, Bradford.

Apart from normal duties took a Tropical Medicine Course and a Chemical Warfare Course.He then volunteered for service in the Far East. Being the British Army, they posted him to the Middle East.

During the war years Alan Grant served as a Captain in the RAMC field ambulance with the 8th Army at El Alamein and across Africa and up into Italy, Cassino, anzio, Rome and beyond. And was married to Jane Pugh in April 1944 in Christ Church in Naples.

His service record in government archives enables one to see where he was posted on a day by day basis.

Now follows a series of photographs he took himself on this hazardous journey. He was “Mentioned in Dispatches” twice for “gallant and distinguished service”

14 British Field Ambulance

14 British Field Ambulance

Fort Capuzzi, Libya

Schifet es Sidra, March 1942

Anti tank gun position at Schifet es Sidra (Knightsbridge) March 1942

 

 

 

 

 

Tunis and the end of the North Africa Campaign, 7 May 1943

Capt AP Grant attached to 60 Med. Regt RA, Mentioned in Dispatches 1942

He arrived in Egypt by troopship on 8 Feb 1942, he was promoted to Captain on 14 Feb 1942 and eventually arrived at Stork at the end of Feb 1942. Tobruk had been captured by British, Australian and Indian forces in January 1941.A German counter-attack resulted in Tobruk being besieged for many months by Rommel. The siege lasted until December, when Operation Crusader pushed the Germans and Italians back out of Cyrenaica. Tobruk remained in Allied hands until Rommel's second offensive took place in May and June 1942. Tobruk was taken in a surprise attack on 21 June 1942 along with most of the South African 2nd Division. It then remained in Axis hands until 11 November 1942, when the Allies captured it after the victorious Second Battle of El Alamein. It remained in Allied hands thereafter

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Most of 1942 he spent with 14 British Field Ambulance in the area around Tobruk, with a couple of temporary attachments to 11 Field Rgt RA in April and to Fort Capuzzo in June 1942. By June 1942 Fort Capuzzo had been retaken by the Germans, so this attachment was as the Allied forces were retreating. Fort Capuzzo was a fort in the Italian colony of Libya, near the Libyan-Egyptian border. It is famous for its role during World War II. During Operation Brevity the fort changed hands briefly between May 15 and May 16 1942 , but ultimately remained in German-Italian possession when the operation failed and the attacking British Brigade group withdrew. The fort was retaken by the New Zealand Division on November 22 during Operation Crusader. Axis forces once again took possession following the Battle of Gazala before the fort was returned to allied control for the final time following the Second Battle of El Alamein.

His first mention in dispatches was for the period May to October 1942. Something seems to have happened to him during the retreat, and he entered hospital for a 3 week period in Nov 1942. He returned to 131 Field Ambulance after being discharged from hospital, spent 3 months with them, before being transferred back to 14 Field Ambulance. After 3 months here, there was another posting to 69 Med Regt RA, but after only 2 weeks there he was admitted to hospital again, this time for 5 weeks, so there must have been a serious medical problem.

On discharge from hospital there was a posting to 2 General Hospital until December 1942, when he embarked for, as his record says "an unknown destination", which turned out to be Italy, which had been invaded in September 1943, but the Allied advance had run up against the German "Winter Line" which proved a major obstacle to the Allies at the end of 1943, halting their advance on the Fifth Army's front, the western side of Italy. Although the Gustav Line was penetrated on the Eighth Army's Adriatic front and Ortona taken, blizzards, drifting snow and zero visibility at the end of December caused the advance to grind to a halt. The Allies focus then turned to the western front where an attack through the Liri valley was considered to have the best chance of a breakthrough towards Rome. Landings at Anzio behind the line were intended to destabilise the German Gustav line defenses, but the hoped for early thrust inland to cut the German defenses off did not occur and the Anzio forces became bottled up in their beach head. It took four major offensives between January and May 1944 before the line was eventually broken by a combined assault of the Fifth and Eighth Armies (including British, US, French, Polish, and Canadian Corps) concentrated along a twenty mile front between Monte Cassino and the western seaboard. At the same time the forces at Anzio broke out of their beachhead but an opportunity to cut off and destroy a large part of the German Tenth Army retreating from the Gustav Line was lost when, on the brink of success, the Anzio forces changed their direction of attack to move parallel with the coast to capture Rome. Rome was declared an open city by the German army and the US forces took possession on June 4.

The stalemate at Monte Cassino, which was reached in December 1943, and this was where he was posted to 2 Field Ambulance in Feb 1944. One can get the flavour of the difficulties at Cassino from this piece written by a member of 184 Field Ambulance about Cassino.

 It was a great stumbling block but the weather was kind except on the mountaintops where wind and rain made things a bit uncomfortable, but we were on high-altitude rations, which was a luxury. The rivers Volturno, Rapido and Garigliano were a nightmare and it was proving a long winter.

We had a stretcher chain reaching over 3 mountains with about 1000 men (Indian, British, Italian and any others that could be brought in). They were spread out 4 to a stretcher with varying distances between each team according to the difficulty of terrain. Each group brought a loaded stretcher anything from 50 yards to of a mile each and handed it over to the next group and took an empty one back with them. They slept in bivvies (small tents 3’ high by 4’ wide), two to a bivvy, it was very uncomfortable as the chain worked well into darkness in pouring rain and even snow and ice on the higher reaches. In places the paths were so narrow and steep it was a two-man job, and quite a few were killed by the constant shelling.

I remember lying on a hilltop one day looking at the Cassino Monastery. I saw U.S. planes fly over and I could see the bombs falling on the buildings. When the smoke and dust had blown away the walls were still standing but the roofs were non-existent. Cassino had fallen and I was back with 184. We were in a small mountain town called Monte Fiore and I had 3 or 4 real frights before the Germans retreated beyond Rome as the Anzio beachhead was expanding.

Anzio, is situated on the west coast of Italy with Rome only a few miles away to the north; it was decided that this small town was the best place to put a fighting force ashore which would outflank the axis powers, and thus break the deadlock at Cassino that paralysed the Italian front. To this effect a British American force, consisting of a division apiece was landed upon the beaches of Anzio on January 22nd in the early hours of the morning.

2ccs in Anzio

Then he went on to Anzio with a posting to 2 Casualty Clearing Station (a unit that he remained attached to for nearly the next year, until March 1944). Alan Grant was posted to 2CCS on 22 March 1944 on his service record

The original landings were carried out so flawlessly in January 1944 and German resistance was so light that British and American units gained their first day's objectives by noon, moving three to four miles inland by nightfall. After the landings and an uncertain lull for two days, corps command hesitated to push forward, and this enabled the enemy to seal off the beachhead. The German High Command was astonished that the Anzio forces had not exploited their unopposed landing with an immediate thrust into the virtually undefended Alban Hills. 96,401 Allied soldiers were required to hold the 35-mile perimeter against an estimated ten German divisions in the Fourteenth Army, totaling 120,000 men. Following the collapse of the final enemy drive on 4 March, a three-month lull began.  Not all was quiet. A barrage of 150 shells fell on the hospitals on 12 March with no damage, but 2 days later 12 patients and 2 officers were killed and 75 men wounded at the British 141st Field Ambulance

Alan Grant was at 2 CCS Anzio. The British 2 Casualty Clearing Station (2 CCS) was established just north of Anzio. The Beach Head War Cemetery is located just north of Anzio on the site of the casualty clearing station, as burials came directly from the battlefield following the Anzio landing. Here are some stories from those that were at Anzio.

On the 26th January 1944 Father Brooks, the Irish Guards Padre found himself in 2 Casualty Clearing Station at Anzio in Italy, and whilst there he described the scene before him.

‘The patience and gratitude shown by the wounded men is one of the few things which it is worth being in battle to see. Not only on this occasion, but at all times, the silent courage of the maimed, battered, bleeding Guardsman lying about, was a living monument to the strength of the human will in the depths of human misery. A man drained of blood gets very cold; there is not much a man with a shattered thigh can do for himself. But they do not say anything, they didn’t ask for anything; they smiled painfully, when the medics put a blanket over them or gave them drink of water or a cigarette, just shut their eyes for a moment when a shell exploded particularly close.’

The memoir of Cpl Ron Rhodes, attached to 158 Welsh Field Ambulance provides a graphic reminder of the shelling during the Anzio invasion:

... it was hell on earth, we were under constant attack. We started digging slit trenches right away with our bayonets and any other tools we could scrounge. Harry and I managed to get to some sand dunes near the sea. By then the Germans were being pushed back inland. We dug out the sand with our bayonets and an old piece of angle iron, we dug down about four feet, the shells were bursting round us everywhere. We were digging like hell, we were soaking wet through, up to our knees in wet sand and mud. Roy Harris caught a packet in his left side, a piece of shrapnel sticking through his guts, we carried him to the Medics then we literally fell in the slit trench, soaked to the skin. We tried to put a ground sheet over us but it was useless, we couldn't sleep. The Artillery behind us was firing with their guns called Long Toms nearly all night.

The bombardment of the Anzio beachhead was continual, resulting in extra strain on those deprived of sleep. “Anzio Annie” was the name given to the railway gun operated by the Germans from a tunnel in the Alban Hills. Particularly Ron Rhodes remembers this shellfire:

I had just started to write to Joyce when we heard the usual thud, subconsciously I started to count but I got to about twelve seconds when there was a hell of a bang and a big bright flash, the next thing I remember was our dug-out fell in on us.

A surgeon referred to as “J.A.R.” recalled in his memoirs that his first duty in Italy was as a surgeon in a CCS in the British medical area in Anzio. The hospital opened on 7 March 1944 and began immediately to receive patents, most suffering multiple wounds from shrapnel and bullets. As the Germans went all out in their efforts to remove the Allies from the beachhead, the CCS became choked with wounded and it was impossible to treat all patients immediately. “J.A.R” was now faced with one of the most difficult dilemmas confronting surgeons in forward units: to decide which patients to treat first. Surgeons were well aware that difficult cases, such as abdominals, took three to four times longer to operate on than a man with simple wounds on the extremities, and the former only had a 50:50 chance of recovery.

During March, all of April, and the first part of May 1944, recalled one veteran, the Anzio beachhead resembled the Western Front during World War I. The vast majority of Allied casualties during this period were from air and artillery attacks, including fire from "Anzio Annie," a 280-mm. German railway gun which fired from the Alban Hills. During March, shrapnel caused 83 percent of all 3d Division casualties, and other units experienced similar rates. The Anzio beachhead became a honeycomb of wet and muddy trenches, foxholes, and dugouts. Yet the Allied troops made the best of a bad situation, and one soldier recalled that during these months the fighting was light and living was leisurely

The narrow confines of the beachhead made it peculiarly vulnerable to enemy artillery, which ranged from 88-mm. guns up to giant 290-mm. railroad guns. One of the latter was popularly known as the "Anzio Express," also as "Anzio Annie." These big guns, not to be confused with the smaller railroad guns which the Germans had employed during February, were first reported in action on 24 March. During March, 83 percent of the combat casualties of the 3d Division were caused by shell fragments, although the division occupied a long sector of the forward line until the end of the month.

Smoke generators, used to create an artificial fog behind the lines, helped to reduce the accuracy of enemy artillery and of bombing; but there was only one effective answer to the problem of security from the constant pounding of enemy shells and bombs: that was to go underground. During the rainy winter months the process of digging in was hampered by the proximity of the ground water to the surface. Fox holes and dugouts quickly filled with water. With the arrival of spring, warm and sunny days dried up the ground and it became possible to construct a dugout without striking water. Viewed from the air the beachhead created the illusion that thousands of giant moles had been at work.

In the American hospital area near Anzio, the 36th Engineers set to work excavating foundations three and one-half feet deep for hospital tents; the sides of each tent were further strengthened by sandbag walls. Even with these improvements, the hospital area remained one of the more dangerous spots on the beachhead. No soldier who was at Anzio will forget the work of the doctors, nurses, and aid men who served with them. When the shells were coming over or the air raid siren signaled a red alert others could seek shelter; the doctor performing an operation or the nurse tending a patient had no choice but to continue in the performance of his or her task. A measure of their courage and willingness to sacrifice themselves for their patients is indicated by the losses suffered by medical personnel at the beachhead.

The description of some of a typical day's operations and events may serve to illustrate the weeks of relative inaction at Anzio. Before dawn on 15 April, eight enemy aircraft dropped antipersonnel and high explosive bombs in the areas of the 1 Division and 1st Armored Division. They struck an ammunition dump and a gasoline dump, and caused a few casualties at the 1st Armored Division command post. Anti-aircraft shot down one of the enemy planes and probably destroyed another. At 0530, the 2d Regiment of the 1st Special Service Force, supported by twelve tanks of the 1st Armored Regiment, launched a raid on the village of Cerreto Alto, southwest of Littoria; after seizing this objective and other enemy positions in the vicinity, the raiding force withdrew at 1115. Sixtyone enemy prisoners, including seventeen Italians, were captured. The attacking force suffered only one casualty but lost two medium tanks. Elsewhere along the front the situation remained unchanged. Enemy artillery fire was somewhat lighter than on preceding days, and the usual long-range firing of heavy enemy guns did not occur. American artillery fires were directed against enemy tanks and self-propelled guns in front of Isola Bella; and in the afternoon the newly introduced 240-mm. howitzers destroyed several enemy-occupied buildings in the vicinity of Cisterna. On the British front, mortars were used to scatter enemy troops working on fixed defenses. During the day, Allied planes flew ninety-nine sorties in the VI Corps area, somewhat fewer than normal. Behind the lines, 3,513 tons of supplies were unloaded, slightly above the average daily total of 3,191 for April. Total combat casualties of VI Corps on 15 April were 105 (20 killed, 83 wounded, and 2 missing), slightly below the daily average of 107.5 for April.

The Breakthrough came on 25 May 1944 when units from the Anzio Beachhead met up with the advancing American 5th Army, and the siege of Anzio was broken.

2 CCS seems to have had some music

Mentioned in Dispatches a second time, dated Feb 1944 in Italy, Capt AP Grant, MD, no 173008 of 140 Field Ambulance.

My mother (Jane Pugh) told the story that my father (Alan Grant) asked her to marry him before he went in to Anzio. Her reply, with the knowledge that the previous two doctors going ashore at Anzio had been killed and that Alan was replacing the second of these, was that she would marry him if he got out of Anzio alive. During the Anzio campaign, 92 medical personnel were killed in action, 387 were wounded, 19 captured and 60 more missing in action. He survived this carnage and so “ fresh” from Anzio he married Jane Pugh a QA nursing sister on 27 April 1944 at the English Church in Naples.

“On the 27th April 1944 at Christ Church, Naples, Italy, Sister Jane Pugh T.A.N.S., the eldest daughter of Mr & Mrs Evan Pugh of Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent and Bangor, North Wales, was married to Captain Alan Proctor Grant R.A.M.C., the only son of Mr & Mrs Charles W Grant, Ardmore, Holywood Co Down. Rev Senior Chaplain Cross conducted the service. Captain Lloyd Owen R.A.M.C. of North Wales gave the bride away. The best man was Captain J Gilmore R.A.M.C. of Northern Ireland. At the organ was Captain Vernon Rees R.A.M.C. of South Wales. After the reception at the Allied Officers Club, the young couple left for a short honeymoon at Amalfi and Capri before returning to their different units”

It is interesting to note that the same Captain Lloyd Owen who gave away the bride was mentioned in the same letter above of "Mentions in Dispatches”. He was also my godfather. The Allied Officers Club was located on hill overlooking Naples. It was described as a beautiful club, finished in marble, with an all-around balcony upstairs with an extra bar. The orchestra was Italian and excellent. Every imaginable uniform present—American, British, French officers, nurses, WAC’s, ATS, Red Cross girls, Canadians, Scotsmen dancing in kilts. Drinks were fairly good too.

 

 
 

The Church in Naples

The honeymoon in Capri

 

Italy, late 1944

After Rome fell, there was the opportunity to visit the city. Jane returned to England when she became pregnant, but Alan soldiered on in Italy until the end of the War

A soldier wrote: -. I applied for leave and when it was granted I made my way to Rome. On arrival we were told the war had finished and there was free beer in the NAAFI.

We were asked if we would like to join a party to go to the Vatican. We were put into groups of 40 of all nationalities and shown round the Vatican. I met and shook hands with the Pope and went up and stood by the Basilica cross at St Peters.”

Churchill visited Italy in August 1944, I assume this is then

The conception of their first child, David Grant, must have been at a Christmas leave in 1944 (he was born Sept 1945). Jane's pregnancy resulted in her being transferred back to the England by ship, via Gibraltar in spring 1945, and subsequent demobilisation. There was a letter from the War Office 28th March 1945 sent to Mrs J Grant 50 Bailey Road, Fenton, Burton on Trent dealing with her resignation.

Alan Grant flew back to the UK 21 Sep 1945, met up with his wife and new born son David (the birth had been 4th September 1945) in Stoke on Trent where they were staying with Jane's parents. The new family then went to Belfast. He applied in early March 1946 for a permanent RAMC commission, whist at Palace Barracks, Holywood. Brigadier Atkins "strongly recommended" him for this regular commission, but nothing became of this putative army career, and soon Alan Grant was released from the army effectively on 28 March 1946, with 101 days leave, followed by full release from military duties on 7 July 1946

When war finished they returned to settle in Holywood Co. Down where Alan had lived when at Queens. He embarked on a mountain of studying in the immediate post war years, obtaining

He was appointed as a General Physician at the Belfast City Hospital in 1948 and was involved in the early work of the insulin pump for diabetics and the development of the hospital as it is today.

Alan Grant 1950

The family lived briefly in a flat at Ardmore Terrace, Holywood. Then moved to Knockagh, on Priory Corner, High Street Holywood, before finally arriving at 28 Sans Souci Park, Belfast around 1948. This became the family home until about 1962, when they moved to 4 Cherryhill, Belfast. 28 Sans Souci Park was a big rambling house, on the corner of a suburban street in South Belfast. It was a 5 bed roomed house, but one was used as a study for Alan. And downstairs one of the reception rooms was his consulting room for the private patients whom he saw in the house.

28 Sans Souci Park, Belfast

They bought a “cottage” on the sea at Millquarter Bay, Killard, near Strangford, Co Down, apparently for £50. It had no electricity and an outside toilet! It was used for family holidays from 1953 till it was sold in the late 1960s when he moved to Kilenican Hill, Killinchy.

Rear of Cottage at Killard, Strangford Lough (Jane, Isabel & Charles Grant)

View from window of Kilenican Hill, Killinchy, Co Down

Their house on the Strangford Lough was at 9 Killenican Hill, Killinchy, Co Down, and had sweeping views over the Strangford Lough.

Alan Grant at his daughter Fiona's wedding in 1977

During the Ulster troubles of the 1970s he was Physician to the Maze prison and was responsible for the care of the Republican hunger strikers.

1979 he was awarded the CBE for his service to medicine in Northern Ireland

Buckingham Palace 1979

1981 he was elected President of The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. The first Ulsterman in its 300-year history. It is a debatable point as to whether he was an "Ulsterman" or not. However although he was born in Dublin, it ceased to be his home in 1922. I think if you had asked him, he would have called himself an "Ulsterman" rather than a "Dubliner".

Royal College of Physicians in Dublin

He retires…..

…to enjoy sailing. This is him sailing Glen 18 on Strangford Lough.

In retirement he indulged in his lifelong love of sailing, making ships in bottles and had a passion for Irish history. Blindness in his later years was a bitter blow but his sharp mind, his wartime memories and his quick wit sustained him well

On Holiday in Australia circa 1985

At his Golden Wedding 1994

He suffered from Glaucoma in later years

He died at Killinchy, 1 April 2004, aged 85. He is buried at Kilmood Church, Co. Down

Family fan chart