PRIVATE JOHN GRIFFIN
Died 30th September 1918
No. 42174 of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers, 6th Battalion
Born: Woodside Cottages, Woburn Sands, May 15th 1884
Resided: Aspley Hill. (Baptismal Register for his children says Brickyard Cottages)
John was the son of Rueben, a labourer, and Sarah. He volunteered in September 1914, and after training at Ampthill Camp, as Private 12803, proceeded to France on 27th October 1915 with 8th Bedfordshire Regiment.
A letter to a Griffin family in Russell Street was reprinted in the “North Bucks Times”, 19th October 1915, although it is not clear which Griffin it is from, which is not helped by the rank mentioned, but it gives a vivid description of the conditions faced:
“HARD TIMES IN THE TRENCHES. Sergt. J. Griffin writes: “When I got your letter I was in the trenches only 100 yards from the Germans, and the shot and shell were coming like hailstones. How we live through it I don’t know; it is dreadful; it deafens you – you can’t hear anything. I have just had a wash, the first for seven days, and I am nearly frozen to death at night. How any of us come out of it I don’t know; its murder. I had one of my men killed by the side of me yesterday. I do wish it would finish, but there is no signs of it. It is enough to see others, and to see the way they die without a murmur. Day after day it’s the same thing. I do hope our son will never have to come into one of these fights; it will be terrible for him, but I suppose he is in it somewhere by this; I hope he will be spared if he is. Anyone that gets wounded and not too badly, and gets home is very lucky; there are such a lot get killed.”
To confuse things further, there were two John Griffens from Woburn Sands listed as being in the army in a listing published by The North Bucks Times on 11th May 1915. One is said to be in he Welsh Fusileers, from Russell Street, and another in Lord Kitcheners Army, from Station Road.
John was wounded on the Somme in September 1916 (probably during the Battle of Morval) and again during the Arras Offensive in April 1917.
After recovering from his wounds, he was transferred to the Highland Light Infantry in September 1917 as Private 52832 and served in the 2/5th and 21st Battalions in Ireland and Kent until June 1918. On 30th June 1918 he again proceeded to the Western Front, this time posted to the 18th Highland Light Infantry.
However, almost immediately part of his draft was transferred to the King’s Own Scottish Borderers; John served as Private 42174 with the 6th Battalion from 7th July 1918. He took part in the Advance in Flanders and the Battle of Ypres.
He was reported missing in action, presumed dead, on September 30th 1918, aged 33, a week after the baptism of two of his children in Woburn Sands.
He was not officially declared dead until April 1919. He left a widow, Harriet, (nee Bettle) living in Aspley Hill, and four children. He is listed at Ledeghem Military Cemetery, Ledeghem, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. Only one J. Griffin is listed on the Woburn Sands Memorial, although the other man of the same name died of the effects of disease caught while on army service, in 1918. There are no suitable army papers surviving for this soldier.
Possibly two brothers survived; A. P. and D. Griffin also of Aspley Hill. A .P, a serving soldier in the Ox. and Bucks. Light Infantry at the outbreak, was at the retreat from Mons and wounded at the battle of Marne. After a period at home, he returned to the front and fought at Festubert. He was sent home to hospital in 1915, and invalided out of the army in 1916. The other, D. volunteered to the Bedfordshire Regiment in November 1914 and served in various posts, including a Military Policeman. He was unsuccessful in obtaining a transfer overseas, and was demobbed in March 1919.
My grateful thanks to Dr. Stuart Wilson, and his project ‘Sons of Galloway’ at www.sonsofgalloway.org.uk for allowing me to reprint the photos in this article and some of his research.
Page last updated Jan. 2019.