People on board
Joseph Gratton was born in Toowoomba, Queensland on 16th November 1889 to John Richard Gratton and Elizabeth Booth. Born in England, John and Elizabeth had married near Manchester in 1876 and had seven children before they emigrated to Queensland in 1883. They then had seven more children in Toowoomba, Joseph being the eleventh in the family. John was a ‘Railway Wagon Maker’ in England and was a ‘Carpenter’ in Australia.
Joseph enlisted in May 1916 at the age of twenty-six, giving his occupation as ‘Plumber’, and after initial training, left Brisbane in October, arriving in Plymouth in January 1917. He was in England until the following October when, attached to the Machine Gun Corps, he was sent to France. He was on the battlefield until March 1918 when he went on leave to Paris. In late September 1918 he was admitted to hospital in London, while on leave, and then was permitted to finish his leave in Ireland, where it was reported he had friends living.
He may not have known that an Australian officer from Toowoomba, Lieutenant Laracy, was also on board RMS Leinster when he sailed on 10th October. Joseph Gratton did not survive the sinking, as another Australian, Sergeant Francis Coleman, reported. He said that he recognised him by his colour patches as belonging to the Machine Gun Corps, and that he could not get into the lifeboat, and through exhaustion, let go and drowned. Gratton’s body was recovered and he was given a full Military funeral before being buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin. It was noted on his records that his coffin was “surmounted by beautiful flowers sent from Miss May Bamberry”. Relatives or friends who attended the funeral included “cousin, Miss Bamberry of Rutland Square, Dublin and Miss O Doherty and others”.
Joseph’s family in Toowoomba received the news of his death on 15th October. The Mayor received a message from the military authorities asking him to inform Gratton’s mother, through the Baptist Minister. At a meeting of the City Council on 4th November the Mayor paid tribute to the soldiers from Toowoomba who had fallen, including Joseph Gratton and Frank Laracy. Gratton’s name is recorded on the Australian War Memorial and on several memorials in Queensland.