Guy Desmond Griffiths

Paul R Hughes

Trooper, Royal East Kent Imperial Yeomanry

Private 725, “C” Company, 22nd Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces Private 725, No. 6 Company, 2nd Pioneer Bn., Australian Imperial Forces

Born: 21 January 1879

Enlisted: 9 February 1915

Discharged: 7 August 1917

Died: 5 April 1949

Guy was the youngest son of William Higford and Ellen Griffiths of Bedfont House, Campden and was baptised in Aston-sub-Edge Church on 11 March 1879. He was educated at Campden Grammar School and during the Boer War he served with the Royal East Kent Imperial Yeomanry. After returning from South Africa he emigrated to Australia and became a farmer. He embarked on White Star Steamship Ceramic at Liverpool on 17 December 1913 and his port of destination was Adelaide.

When war broke out in 1914 Guy had no intention of enlisting, but as time went on things began looking black and, following a number of letters from his sister, Josephine, describing the situation, he made the decision to enlist as soon as possible. He sold his equipment, locked up the farmhouse and gave the key to a neighbour after notifying the owner to come and take possession.

Guy went to Melbourne and enlisted in the 22nd Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces on 9 February 1915. He was 36 years old, five feet nine inches tall with blue eyes, dark brown hair and a medium complexion. There was a vaccination scar on his left arm and tattoos on both forearms and at the base of his neck. After some training at Broadmeadows Camp, which consisted mostly of drills and parades, Guy embarked on the troopship Ulysses on 8 May 1915. The boat was overcrowded and the weather was very rough. The food was poor and this caused much discontent amongst the troops. When the ship arrived at Colombo they were forbidden leave to go ashore, which had the result that many men got ashore by any means or methods that they could. Several of them were put in prison on board ship when the journey to Egypt continued. A short time after leaving Colombo this rankling discontent, aggravated by the “still rotten tucker”, broke out into open mutiny. One evening the men were growling and muttering, evidently in a very dangerous mood. Some of the officers tried to pacify them and finally Colonel Crouch appeared on the bridge. He endeavoured to address the men below him, but no sooner had he opened his mouth than growls began swelling into an ominous roar and cries of “throw the old b****** overboard” rose in the air. The troops then took possession of the ship. The doors of the prison cells were bashed in or prized off and the men inside liberated. They then entered the canteen and stripped it bare of all the food. During all this confusion, young officers who were notably liked by the men had been going up and down amongst them, trying to quieten them, and their efforts had the desired effect, for towards midnight the men resumed their normal conduct.

Guy arrived at Suez on 10 June 1915 before travelling to Alexandria, where they entrained for Heliopolis. The weather was blazing hot and drills were done in the early morning. Leave was given to the troops at certain times to go into Heliopolis and up to Cairo but these Egyptian places were full of stench, dirt, filth and corruption. The troops soon had trouble there and after they blew up a British general’s motorcar in Cairo all leave was stopped.

Just before Guy was sent to Gallipoli the troops were massed in a big parade and addressed by an Australian general. He called his men criminals and hard cases and told them they were not fit to be sent to France as they could not be trusted in a civilised country and that they were going to be sent to Gallipoli. Guy embarked at Alexandria on 30 August 1915 and arrived at Mudros on the island of Lemnos a few days later. From here they embarked on small, fast boats and were taken over to Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula. They landed at night and after stumbling over a lot of rough ground in the dark they got what sleep they could before dawn. Guy remained at Gallipoli for the next four months until the campaign ended with the evacuation. Before they left they rigged up the trenches with all kinds of devices to keep an occasional rifle popping off long after the men had left. The men moved out of the trenches in small parties and muffled their feet with any rags or bags and on the beach they got aboard small, fast boats which quickly took them over to Lemnos. They did not stay on Lemnos very long but embarked again for Egypt, where they arrived on 7 January 1916 and where they were posted to Ismailia. While Guy was en route to Egypt he was found guilty of “when on active service behaving in such a manner as to show wilful defiance of his company commander”. He was awarded ten days’ field punishment number two with loss of pay.

On 13 March 1916 Guy was transferred to a pioneer battalion and then on 19 March they embarked at Alexandria before arriving in France at Marseille on 26 March. After a long train journey and several marches they arrived at Armentières and took up their positions in the third line of trenches. In July 1916 they moved south to the Somme and saw heavy fighting at Pozières. Guy’s battalion was employed digging a communication trench from the original British front line to the captured German trenches. It was all open land under heavy German artillery fire and the work had to be done at night. On one day when dawn came Guy had a look over the trench into No Man’s Land and saw scores of dead bodies lying just where they fell. In his diary Guy described what he saw: “Of all the God-forsaken desolations ever impressed on a man’s mind I think this tract of country that had come under the sweep of my glance was it. The utter desolation of it seemed to penetrate into a man’s soul. I could only liken it in my mind to the desolation of the cities of the plain, when God destroyed them.”

After being relieved from the Pozières sector Guy moved north into to Belgium to the Ypres Salient but as winter approached they returned to the Somme, where everything was water, mud and slime. On 3 November 1916 Guy was found guilty of two military offences: refusing to obey the order of an NCO and insolence and threatening language towards an NCO. He was awarded 21 days’ field punishment number 2 and 21 days’ loss of pay as a punishment.

The war on the Western Front ended for Guy when his pioneer battalion were trying to build a corduroy road. When he went over to a railway siding to unload a lot of poles he found that he could not lift a little finger. He was completely exhausted and was evacuated back to England, where he was admitted to hospital in London on 20 January 1917 with “anaemia and debility”. He failed to recover fully and was discharged from the army on 7 August 1917 as “medically unfit for home or general service” and a Silver War Badge was issued to indicate that he had made his contribution to the war. His application to be discharged in England was granted and he went to live with his brother Scudamore at 81, Linden Gardens in London.

Guy returned to Australia after the war and in 1919 married Sarah Stonehouse at Frankston in Victoria and they had three children: Desmond Guy, Nelly and Ronald. He continued working as a farmer and the family home was in Carrum Downs, Frankston. Sarah died of pneumonia soon after the birth of her third child and times became very hard for Guy.

He died on 5 April 1949 aged 70 years and is buried in Midlands, Perth, Western Australia.

This page was added on 11/03/2014.

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