Sapper 96828 Walter Henry Griffiths

Killed in Action on Wednesday, 28th July 1915, age 44.
Commemorated on Panel 9 of Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

Royal Engineers, 175th Tunnelling Company.

Son of the late Mr and Mrs W. H. Griffiths, of Park Lane West, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: London, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 1st June 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/907969/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
135 Park Lane West, Tipton, Staffs.
William H. Griffiths (56, Builder, born Tipton), his wife Elizabeth (47, General Dealer - shop, born Brierley Hill), and their 5 children: Walter H. (20, Coal Miner, born Tipton), Albert P. (14, Fitter, born Tipton), Florence E. (13, Scholar, born Tipton), David S. (9, Scholar, born Tipton) >> David S. is Sidney Griffiths, killed 1st April 1917 <<, and Phoebe A. (6, born Tipton).

1901 Census
134 Park Lane West, Tipton, Staffs.
William H. Griffiths, (65, Carpenter, born Tipton), his wife Elizabeth (47, General Dealer - Shop, born Brierley Hill), and their 4 children: Walter (30, Coal Hewer, born Tipton), Albert (25, Carter, born Tipton), Sydney (20, Clerk, born Tipton), and Hannah (17, born Tipton).

1911 Census
135 Park Lane West, Tipton, Staffs.
Elizabeth Griffiths (67, Widow, born Tipton), and two of her 6 surviving children of 10: Walter (41, Coal Miner, born Tipton), Annie (27, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Walter's brother Sydney Griffiths was killed in April 1917 whilst serving with the 6th Royal Irish Rifles in Salonica. Their mother, Elizabeth, was killed in a gas escape in December 1915 - see Newspaper Cutting below.

Action resulting in his death

The 175th Company War Diary for July 1915 shows that they were in the Ypres Sector, working under 'Hill 60', at Armagh Wood and at Sanctuary Wood. The work at Sanctuary Wood was abandoned on 28th July due to flooding. Five men were wounded on the 28th July, it is not recorded where those men were working; the only man of the five to die was Walter Griffiths.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 14 August 1915
Tipton people will be sad to learn that Sapper Walter H. Griffiths, a son of Mrs Griffiths, a well-known resident of Park Lane West, Tipton, has been officially reported as killed in action, the place and date not being given. The mother has received the customary letter sending the sympathy of the King and the Army Council at the loss.
The deceased, who had been a miner, belonged to the 175th Company, Royal Engineers. He enlisted soon after last Easter, and was the first Tipton miner to join the special Corps of Sappers raised by Major J. Norton Griffiths, M.P., a few weeks ago.
The deceased's brother, Sydney Griffiths, who was a scrap metal dealer, is also in the Army, while Mrs Griffiths has a son-in-law who has been in the trenches six months.
Among those who have written condoling with the mother of the deceased soldier and to their own loss of a companion, are Private Dan Sherwood and Corporal John King, of the 13th Worcesters.

Tipton Herald 21 August 1915
In our last issue we recorded the death of Sapper W.H. Griffiths, of Tipton, who was one of the Tunnelling Company attached to the Royal Engineers. Mrs Perrins of Hill Street, Tipton, has now received the following letter:- "Dear Mrs Perrins, I have taken the liberty of opening the enclosed letter of yours to Sapper Griffiths, in order to discover the address of his relatives. No doubt by now you have heard the poor lad was 'killed in action' as the official report stated, on the 28th July. The following is a brief description of how he met his end: At 7.30 a.m. on the 28th of July I was down at the spot with Sapper Griffiths at my side, listening to certain work being done by the Germans in the crater. I stayed there till 8 a.m. leaving Sapper Griffiths to report immediately anything out of the ordinary happened. I may here state that I chose Sapper Griffiths for this job as he was one of the best and coolest men of my section, always cheerful under the most trying circumstances. At 8.15 a.m. I heard an explosion, and immediately went up to the tunnel, and down as far as I could get, but the explosion had caved about 30 feet of the gallery behind where Sapper Griffiths had been listening, so it was impossible to get his body out. Needless to say he was killed instantaneously, doing his duty right to the end. It is hard for me to say how much I regret his loss, while you have my sincere sympathy. War is war, and we have all lost relatives, thus my sympathies are all the more sincere. Will you kindly forward this letter on to his parents. Yours sincerely F.R. Pretyman (2nd Lieutenant, R.E.)"
Most likely Frank Remington Pretyman, Sgt 54002 RE, Lt. 2nd Bn. Scots Guards, died 4th July 1917, buried Canada Farm Cemetery.

Tipton Herald 18th December 1915
The residents of Park Lane West, Tipton, in the immediate vicinity of Park Lane Colliery, will have cause to remember last Saturday midnight for a long time to come. What happened is another illustration of the old saying that no one can tell what dangers surround us. It seems that about 11.30 p.m. several persons became aware of the smell of gas, but the place where the wind wafted the obnoxious and poisonous fumes to a most alarming and fatal extent was the site of six small dwelling houses at the entrance to the colliery. There are two houses (including a small shop in the occupation of Mrs Elizabeth Griffiths, aged 71, who was killed by the fumes) at the front of the block, and four at the back. Along the road runs one of the large mains of the South Staffordshire Mond Gas Company, from which there is a junction into the colliery premises. Singular to say, most of the tenants of the block were either asleep or had retired without detecting anything wrong. The family of Mr and Mrs Rich, who occupy the front cottage next to the shop, had fortunately not gone to bed, and it is to this fact probably that the lives of every dweller in the tiny block of houses was saved, with the one sad exception of Mrs Griffiths. Mrs Rich having some time ago been troubled by an escape of some town gas, was all on the alert when she detected a smell of gas through the floor of the cottage. Her son made an investigation, and they soon found that it was something of an alarming nature. They at once knocked up the occupants of the other houses and told them it would be death to remain in their houses. In one cottage there is a very old lady, in another a mother and six children, but soon all were accommodated in houses of neighbours across the road in the main thoroughfare, several of them running from their homes in the scantiest attire.
By this time the smell of the gas was affecting everybody, and created the greatest possible alarm. Everyone realised too that it was the Mond gas that was causing the affair. A tiny little grandchild of Mrs Griffiths was seen to be filled with the gas, going black in the face and the gas fumes leaving the mouth. Its mother (Mrs Ellmore) ran from the house to fetch Dr. H.C. Brown, who resides in the vicinity, and collapsed on getting outside, being "gassed." Miss Louise Griffiths (a granddaughter aged about 22), was also badly "gassed," but by 2 a.m. the victims were apparently satisfactorily recovering from the ill effects of the fumes. Mrs Griffiths, the grandmother, who was a very strong and robust woman, was apparently unaffected. Then after Dr. Brown had gone away, the old lady was missed and eventually after home enquiry, her relatives returned to her house and found her dead body at the top of the stairs, she having been overcome by the fumes. She was carried into the open air, and Dr. Brown was sent for, but he could only certify that death was due to gas poisoning. A cat, dog and parrot belonging to the old lady had also been asphyxiated, whilst four horses in an adjoining stable were also found the be "gassed" but were removed to safety.
A very alarming feature of the occurrence was that when the pipe burst the gas poured out with a noise like that of a motor engine. The crack occurred near the junction where the branch pipe runs from the main to the colliery engine, for which it provides the motive power. The noise of the escaping gas was heard by all residents in the vicinity, and many of them did not go to bed for hours for fear that the gas might still be in their houses. It was not safe to open the windows of the houses until the atmosphere was clear of gas, and it is said to have been around 2 a.m. before the gas could be turned off at the main. Mr and Mrs Rich and their family were walking about outside their house until about 4 a.m. The food in their house, as well as Mrs Griffiths' house, was completely spoilt by the gas. A cat in Mr Rich's house was found to have died from the fumes. Their daughter, Alice, was "gassed", and was lead up and down to prevent her going to sleep, and on Sunday she appeared to be all right. On Sunday however, she was very ill from the effects of the gas. It is remarkable in view of the lights that were burning at the time that there was no explosion.
The late Mrs Griffiths, who had been engaged as a dealer in boots and clothing for many years, was the widow of William Henry Griffiths, a colliery carpenter. She was very widely known and respected. A few years ago she contested a seat on the Dudley Board of Guardians, but was not successful. One of her sons was lately killed at the front.

Tipton Herald 14 April 1917
The deaths of two Tipton soldiers (killed in action) have this week been reported to their relatives. One is Private Thomas Gould, late Chief Clerk at Freakley's Ltd., and the other is Corporal Sid Griffiths, scrap iron merchant of Tipton Green. Both men were well known locally. A brother of the latter - Sapper Walter H Griffiths was killed at the front some time ago.