William Grant was a Presbyterian Minister and was responsible for a parish in Gisborne when the war broke out in 1914. He was appointed as Presbyterian Chaplain to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Grant requested to be attached to the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment so that he could embark on the same transport ship as one of his sons, a mounted trooper from Dannevirke. Grant was one of 13 chaplains who left with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in October 1914.
Here there was no question of Anglican, Presbyterian, or Methodist. The only question was whether or not there was a hunger in the heart for the fellowship of the memorial rite and for the succor and the sustenance to be found thereat.
As well as attending to the spiritual needs of the men at Gallipoli, the chaplains also distributed water and rations, comforted the wounded, and performed funeral services. Chaplain-Major Grant was well known to the troops at Gallipoli and was greatly admired and respected.
He wanders up and down the beach all day long helping the wounded and has a cheery word for everyone; takes absolutely no notice of the shells and bullets.
Grant was known to have offered medical assistance and comfort to both wounded Ottoman and Allied soldiers. On 28 August 1915, the day after the second assault at Hill 60 was launched, Grant and a comrade made their way through the network of frontline trenches looking for wounded men. Grant heard a wounded man calling for help, and he ventured into the Ottoman-held area.
It was at the western entrance to this trench that Chaplain Major Grant was shot. He had no business there at all and was, I should say, shot under the impression that he was a combat officer. After all, it was a fine death for a soldier parson to die. He was looking for and dressing the wounded in front of the fighting line.
A large number of men attended Grant’s funeral on 30 August 1915.
He was one of the finest men I have ever met. Though well on in years he was always in the thick of it, and where the fighting was hottest there would you always find the Major. All hours of the day and night he would bring water and biscuits into the trenches, and would always cheer the men with ‘Fight on, boys; you can beat them; God is with you.’ Every man on the Peninsula would have laid down his life for the Major.
Trooper C Holmes
His grave was marked with a cairn of rocks and a wooden cross, but those were subsequently lost. His name is recorded on the New Zealand Memorial at Hill 60. A booklet of his letters and sermons was published in his memory in New Zealand, and a tablet unveiled at his former church in Leeston, Canterbury.