Queen’s South Africa, Raised Dates Reverse, 5 bars, Natal, Orange Free State, Belfast, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902, British War Medal and Victory Medal, Canadian Memorial Cross (GV), Lieutenant Howard Grestock, 73rd Battalion Canadian Infantry, former Private Strathcona’s Horse, an incredible character, whose patriotism knew no bounds, he walked twenty two miles in the coldest days of the Canadian winter to enlist with the Strathconas, and had his Horse shot from under him during the war.
During the First World War he was wounded and taken prisoner leading a daring raid on the enemies trenches, after heading too deep they could not back out and the party was all killed or taken prisoner, he later died the next day of his wounds in a Bavarian Hospital at Henin-Lietard on 5th February 1917.
A spectacular and rare raised dates group, one of only a handful of surviving raised date’s Q.S.A.’s.
Howard Grestock was born in London on 29th January 1879, his Father Richard Joseph Grestock, was born in Lodon about 1835 and later emigrated to Australia, on 29th October 1862 he married his 18 year old Bride Charlotte Roycraft, in Melbourne. Richard was employed as a Bank Clerk and their two eldest children, a son and a daughter, were born in Melbourne. In about 1868 he returned to England with his young family and settled in Lambeth in London where their family expanded with the
addition of a further six sons. Back home in London his father entered into business as a glove manufacturer and was able to later describe himself as a man “of independent means”.
Howard was their youngest of his seven sons, standing 5 feet 10 inches tall. He was a keen soldier and when the opportunity arose for him to serve in South Africa he volunteered to join the first contingent of Strathcona’s Horse, without a moments hesitation.
Reported on 19th October 1899, "H. Grestock has purchased the Rapid City Photograph Gallery and is prepared to turn out first class work at reasonable prices."
Rapid City Marquette Reporter 15th February 1900 –
"RAPID CITY REPRESENTED IN THE STRATHCONA HORSE
An oyster supper was tendered to Mr. H.J. Grestock by a number of his friends at the Queens Hotel on Friday evening last on the eve of his departure for South Africa, as a member of the "Strathcona's Horse". Mr Grestock, ever since the commencement of the war has evinced a desire to render services on behalf of his Queen and County, which culminated in his going to Brandon and being accepted, having passed a very creditable examination.
Mr J. Dunoon in a few well chosen remarks conveyed to Mr Grestock, the kindly feeling entertained for him by his friends not only for the manly and social qualities which he has displayed since coming among them, but also for the spirit of Patriotism which he has displayed since coming among them, but also for the spirit of patriotism which has pervaded his nature, and which has actuated him to leave home and friends for the purpose of defending that principle which is the bulwark of British institutions and freedom, "Equal rights to all."
Messrs Currie, Stinson, Mutter and Milne also spoke along a similar strain, after which Mr Grestock, who was deeply moed, thanked his friends for the manifestation of their good wishes and feelings toward him, and said that the kindly words expressed would live green in his memory. The farewell took a tangible form by the presentation of a purse containing $26 to Mr. Grestock as pocket money."
Winnipeg Free Press, 13th February 1900
"OFF FOR OTTAWA, FIRST DETACHMENT OF STRATHCONA MEN ENTERTAINED IN WINNIPEG, MANITOBA TROOP DEPARTS, OVER THREE HUNDRED AT TABLE AT THE DRILL HALL – PATRIOTIC SPEECH IN FAREWELL BY LT COL RUITAN, MAJ DICK LAURIE COMPELLED TO REJECT MANY RECRUITS ON THE PACIFIC COAST 0 MEN OF THE PLAINS ARE THE RIGHT SORT.
'The Contingent of Stratchona's Horse passed through Brandon at half past ten this Morning. Major Morris was in command, Colonel Butler having been seized with Pneumonia and forced to remain behind for a couple of days. The men were all in the best of spirits. The Brandon contingent boarded the train here and consisted of nine men, a fine, capable lot of fellows;'
'Howard Grestock has had experience with the 4th Middlesex Volunteers. He is 22 Years Old, 5 Feet 10 1/2 Inches in height. He showed his enthusiasm for the cause by walking to Brandon from Rapid City to volunteer, a distance of twenty two miles, on one of the coldest days of winter."
He joined Strathcona’s Horse, sporting a bullet wound scar on his forefinger, before he could even see battle.
He was sent with the first contingent to South Africa and participated in the Early battles of the war, earning himself the rare raised dates Q.S.A., being personally awarded it by King Edward VII as they went home to Canada, passing through England.
As the work of Strathcona’s Horse was now done, he re-enlisted to get back to the war, earning the additional South Africa 1901 and 1902 Clasps, mounting up once again with the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles.
He later wrote to the Royal Arsenal requesting the clasps which were sent to him as a pair soon after.
During the Boer War in a letter wrote home by Wm Zimmer, from Spitz Kopje on 30th September 1900 to his brother, he states; "Freddy shooting Boers is great sport. There is one young fellow in our troop got badly wounded, he got shot twice through the legs and once through the shoulder. He is from Moosomin. His name is Albert Garner. Grestock got his horse shot."
Grestock emigrated to Canada just before the Boer War, spending many years as a well known personality and Gold Miner in Yukon. As soon as war was declared in 1914 Jack Maitland and Howard Grestock left Dawson City Yukon, paying their way out of their own pocket to Enlist as soon as possible.
He officially enlisted on 22nd September 1914, rejoining the 73rd Battalion Lord Strathcona’s Horse.
He was most well known in his new home Dawson City, Yukon, writing back to the newspaper every chance he got in September 1914, before he shipped out to England, he prophesied that they were “In for a bad war… it will be extremely lucky if we come back.”
From the Klondike to Berlin, The Yukon in World War 1;
"Men immediately stepped forward to sign up. Most believed that the conflict would not last very long. many of the first to volunteer in support of the empire were born in Britain. Howard Grestock, a Londoner and Veteran of the Boer War, was the first. Within days of declaration, he was aboard to Steamer Dawson, heading outside, out of the Yukon, to enlist. He signed his papers on 22nd September at Valcartier, Quebec, and shipped out with his old regiment, The Lord Strathcona's Horse. His letters from France would be published in the News for years to come. With him was Jack Maitland. During the Boer War, Maitland was with the Royal Scots Greys and was wounded twice. A large crowd of friends and well-wishers massed at the waterfront to see the two men off. Aboard the riverboat with them were the shriners from the Gizeh Temple, who had concluded their visit to Dawson City."
As a veteran he was appointed Lance Corporal and was the head of the Grenade Section of L.S.H.
A few week later he complained of the rain on the Salisbury Plain, “I did not come out to do barrack room work, if we don’t go to the front before Christmas I shall apply for a transfer to a British Regular regiment.”
He landed in France during May 1915, but he then realised the war was not going as well as he imagined, “When I left Dawon, We though that the war soon would be over, but now I think it has just started and is good for years.”
Grestock has already seen some action on the front in France and considered himself lucky, he had been spared form Artillery fire, shrapnel, sniper attacks and poison gas. In April 1916, he was on the front, waiting for a big offensive to begin. Later in the year, he saw heavy action with the 73rd Highlanders, but came out of it unscathed. Several times reported home on his good luck at not being shot, blown up or gassed.
Since his arrival in France, he had seen action in all of the major battles, Hooge, Festubert, Givenchy, St. Eloi and the Somme.
Whilst he was in command of the Bombing Section as a corporal, he was sent to Grenadier School in the Field and by 14th July 1916, on Personal merit he was granted a commission, he was offered a position in the Indian Cavalry, but refused.
He was assigned to 36th Battalion but seems to have convinced his O.C. to send him back to the 73rd Highlanders, he landed with them on 21st September 1916 as Lieutenant, second in command.
Only 2 months later he received his first wound of the war, a light shrapnel wound in the leg, during an assault when the British captured the Regina Trench.
“Lieut Grestock was well known in Victoria and in the North, having gone all the way from Dawson to Ottawa to join the forces at the beginning of the war. A typical Soldier of Fortune, he served through the Boer War, and until the present conflict broke out he was mining in the Yukon, where he spent eleven years altogether. He left Canada with the First contingent as Private. He missed St Julien but was in all the important engagements since, at Oivenby, at St Oloi and later at the Somme. On Personal Merit he was given his commission, on February 4th he was reported missing but a cable reached Ottawa only a few days later that he had been given up as dead.
Colonel Le Sparling wrote to Grestock’s Brother in London;
“On that date 4th February, this battalion made a raid on the enemy’s trenches, and your brother led one of the raiding parties. This party, I am afraid, went too far and they sustained a number of casualties. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that during the time your brother was in this battalion he was one of the most capable and energetic officer that the battalion had ever had.
He was very popular with his men, and they would have followed him everywhere. He was an officer whom I trusted impolitely and relied on absolutely, and his loss to the battalion and to me is a very heavy one. It is only a very few weeks since he personally, in a most daring manner, did a great deal in beating off a bombing attack of the enemy of one of our posts. The night following that occurrence he again showed his keenness by going out into No Man’s Land and bringing in the body of one of the Germans whom he had killed the night before, the body being badly wanted in order to identify the German unit opposed to us.
I Hope that you will accept the heartfelt sympathy both of myself and the other officers of the battalion in losing him.”