Kenneth Walton Grigson, the second of the seven sons of Canon William Shuckforth Grigson, vicar of Pelynt near Looe in Cornwall and his third wife Mary Beatrice Boldero, was born on 29 June 1895. He was a pupil of Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham in 1911 and matriculated in 1913 with a foundation scholarship in Theology, to enter St Chad’s Hall at Durham University.
Grigson had already enlisted in the 7th (Cyclist) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment but studied for three terms for a B.A. degree and gained a 4th Class pass in the first public examination in Arts, Classical and General Literature at the end of the Easter term 1914. Meanwhile he had joined the University Officers’ Training Corps, the demands of which were intensive enough, including six parades and three training sessions a week, that it is perhaps not surprising that he left little other trace upon the university’s records than his full attendance at lectures and chapel.
By the autumn of 1914 the 7th Devons were helping to defend the coast north of Scarborough into Northumberland. In November the battalion witnessed the sinking of hospital ship S.S. “Rohilla” with the loss of 90 lives, and the Devons were able to help some of the survivors. In December they also witnessed the German naval bombardment of Hartlepool, when 127 civilians were killed.
The 7th Battalion was a reserve unit which did not serve overseas, but after being promoted from corporal to second lieutenant in March 1915, and to lieutenant in June 1916, Grigson was attached to the 2/5th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) and went to France with them in January 1917 as part of the 62nd (2nd West Riding) division, part of the Third Army. The Divisional Ammunition Column sailed from Avonmouth for Rouen on 30 December 1916; the rest crossed from Southampton to Le Havre from 5 January 1917 and by 18 January concentration was completed in the Third Army area between the Rivers Canche and Authie. The Division then remained on the Western Front in France and Flanders for the rest of the war.
Grigson was gazetted as acting captain on 16 July 1917, and awarded the Military Cross in the Birthday Honours list of June 1918. The ribbon was presented to him at a ceremony in the field on 21 June 1918.
Kenneth Walton Grigson was killed during the fighting of the Second Battle of the Marne 20 July 1918 and is buried at Marfaux. He is remembered on a touching memorial in the church at Pelynt, Cornwall, recording that five other sons of the canon were killed serving for their country: Second Lieutenant Lionel Grigson on 9 May 1917, R.A.F. Cadet Claude Grigson (of pneumonia) on 15 October 1918, Captain Aubrey Grigson in Burma on 27 April 1942, and Air Commodore John Grigson at Bulawayo, Rhodesia (in a flying accident) on 3 July 1943. A seventh son, Wilfred Grigson, died on government service in an air crash India in 1948. Kenneth Grigson’s youngest brother was Geoffrey Grigson, a writer and poet who, on his brother John’s advice to “keep out of it”, never joined the services. His autobiography The Crest on the Silver (Cresset Press, 1950) is a rich source of the family’s history. Kenneth Grigson’s sacrifice is also commemorated on the Pelynt war memorial, a reredos and a roll of honour at the chapel of St Chad’s College, and on Durham University’s roll of service (1920).