Christleton Village History Group
Remembering our Forgotten Heroes 1914-18
War Memorial and Church Memorial at St James’ Church. Also Christleton Institute.
The Rector G.M.V. Hickey said “that he was a man of very quiet disposition.” John was mentioned in dispatches but was killed on the first day of the battle of the Somme, in the battle for Beaumont Hamel Village. The cemetery there contains many graves of unknown soldiers.
This battle is generally accepted to be the worst day in the British Army’s history when there were more than 60,000 casualties- a third of them fatal!
Obituary’ Cheshire Observer 15/7/1916.
Captain John Griffiths Royal Irish Rifles
“He was a man of a very quiet disposition”
Mrs John Cullimore, Mr Radcliffe, Mr & Mrs Joseph Salmon, The Misses Salmon,(Waverton)
Mrs & Miss Dodd (Stamford Heath) Mrs Hickey, Mrs Heywood, Mrs & Miss Melchior, Mr & Mrs Porritt, Mr J Mosford, Miss Mossford, Mr S Lyon, Mrs Hewitt, Mrs Millwood, Mr & Mrs J Cooper, Mrs & Miss Postons, Mr T Duffin, Mr & Mrs W Towers, Mr & Mrs Steventon, Mrs Saunders, Miss Hughes, Mr Lewis Jones, Mrs T Griffiths, Miss Witter, Mr Joseph Fleet, Mrs Benyon, Mrs Ennion, Mr Frank Evans, Mrs Wm Postons, Mr Thomas Mayers, Mr W J Mayers, Warrant Officer W Jones.
In December 1914 Mr. Griffiths, a former Territorial, applied for admission to the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, Ulster Division, was commissioned, became a first instructor in musketry, and was speedily promoted to the rank of captain. He returned to Larne with about a hundred and seventy men of the 12th Battalion for a long weekend’s leave in June 1915 prior to their removal to England, and, in the Victoria Hall, called for three cheers for the ladies of Larne who had put on an entertainment for them there. He came to Larne again in June 1916, on leave, slightly wounded, but looking very fit. He was then thirty five years old.
On July 1st 1916 nine thousand men from the Ulster Division went into general action for the first time, at Thiepval on the Somme. Two days later fewer than two thousand five hundred answered the roll call. Among those who did not answer were Captain Griffiths, killed, and Lt. McCluggage, missing. The living grieved for the dead and missing.
Of Capt. Griffiths, the Larne Times wrote that “his many excellent qualities gained for him the esteem of all who came in contact with him in school or private life … as ‘coach’ of the Grammar School and captain of the Larne Club he did fine work, his absolutely clean sportsmanship and high moral principles making for the good of everything in which he took part.” James MacQuillan said “I almost regarded him as one of the family.” Seven years later, a Larne lady, who did not wish her name to be mentioned, donated a valuable silver cup, the Griffiths Memorial Cup for Athletics, in his memory
Account of His Death 1st July 1916
The bombardment, which had lasted seven days without ceasing reached its climax at 6-25 a.m. on the morning of the 1st July, and from 6-25 a.m. until 7-30 a.m. the German trenches were treated to a perfect hurricane of shells. The companies, who had already been in the trenches (HAMEL Sub Sector) two days, were in the following order: – ‘B’ Company had one platoon (No. 8) on the right made responsible for the marsh immediately on its left was another platoon (No. 6) responsible for the RAILWAY SAP. The other two platoons of ‘B’ Company were in support behind the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. The 9th Battalion. Royal Irish Fusiliers were in between ‘B’ Company and ‘C’ Company. ‘C’ Company being on their immediate left. ‘B’ Company had ‘D’ Company on its left and ‘A’ Company was on the left of ‘D’ Company.
‘C’ Company’s Attack
Before Zero ‘C’ Company who were on the left of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers left our wire and immediately came under very heavy Machine Gun fire. At Zero the company advanced led by No 10 Platoon and followed by No.11. No. 10 were held up by the wire, which had only two small gaps cut in it at this point. No. 10 Platoon at once split in two, each half going for a gap. Some of this party succeeded in getting into the German line, but as there was a German Machine-gun opposite each gap the casualties were very heavy. No 11. Platoon immediately reinforced No. 10 and at once rushed the gaps and a few more men succeeded in getting through. The casualties were very severe, but Capt. Griffiths collected Nos. 9 and 12 Platoons and gave orders to charge. He was killed immediately he had given the order. At the same time an order came to retire. The remaining men retired with the exception of Sergeant Cunningham, Corporal Herbison and Lance Corporal Jackson who remained and fired at the Germans, who were standing on their parapet firing and throwing bombs at our men. They killed or wounded at least ten Germans. Riflemen Craig with a Lewis Gun kept up a good fire by himself, all the rest of the team having been killed or wounded. Lance Corporal Harvey then rallied all the men he could find and rushed the gaps again but had to retire for the third time. The Company had then to retire to the SUNKEN ROAD. Sergeant Cunningham and Corporal Herbison again did good work by helping wounded men to get cover in the SUNKEN ROAD. The ROAD was being shelled very heavily all the time.
Nigel Meyrick and David Cummings