1ST JULY 1916 AGE 19


On 16 June 1916 Ronald Grundy wrote to his father, sending the letter home with a friend going on leave so as to avoid the censor and telling him him that the British were on the verge of a big attack. The letter gave John Grundy far more military details than it should have done, including the fact that Ronald was "glad to say I shall be one of the first over the top". At the end of the letter he warned his father that, "As it is information that would be useful to the enemy keep it to yourself at least until the show as started".
Two weeks later he wrote to both his parents concluding with these words:

And mother, please always look on the bright side. Only 5% of the Army are killed and there are lots of fellows over here who have been out 20 months & in all the big scraps. So cheer up & don't worry for I can't always write as frequently as I have done.
Goodbye and best to you all,
P.S. A very happy birthday to you

The next day, 1 July 1916, Ronald led his men (his platoon of about fifty men) 'over the top', according to his batman carrying no more than his officer's swagger stick, and was shot through the neck and killed in the very first minutes of the attack. It appears that his family received his 30 June letter on 4 July and the telegram notifying them of his death on the 5th - his mother's birthday.
Statistics vary but however you look at it Ronald's percentage of Army deaths was way out. Twelve percent is usually the number given for soldiers and seventeen percent for officers.
Ronald and his brothers were all pupils at Emanuel School in London. His elder brother Cecil died of wounds on 16 November 1915, his younger brother, Jack, became headmaster in 1953.
In his book, 'The Great War and Modern Memory', Paul Fussell scorned the use of 'high diction', euphemisms, that disguise the reality of war and glamourize and romanticise it. The use of the word 'fell' instead of died or was killed is one that receives special mention. However, I have seen enough reports from soldiers describing the death of the man beside them to know that they used the word literally - the man fell - without any intention of glamourising what happened. He 'fell', the 'fallen', did become the way to describe the war dead, and it did give their deaths some sort of romantic distance but it was also a literal description of what happened when you were shot or hit by a shell. Ronald's father used the word in his inscription, Ronald's manservant having told them that he had just "crumpled without a sound".
For Cecil's inscription, John Grundy appears to pay tribute to both his sons:

Age 21
And for such sons as these
Be praise to God

I have made extensive use of an article by Daniel Kirmatzis for this post. He is the co-author of 'Emanuel School at War' and can be heard talking about the Grundy bothers here.