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58739: Private Richard Griffiths: Memories of being a Prisoner of War

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posted on 2024-02-18, 17:45 authored by Great War Archive Project Team

The first incident I should like to tell you about is as we were being marched away, wounded prisoners, about 12 of us. I happened to be the last one in the crowd, walking along the road, when a German soldier came rushing out of a cottage, and got hold o

Richard Griffiths, was my dear Grandfather and 36 years old when, on 9th December 1915, he enlisted in the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

A kindly, quiet, man with a deep love of literature and music, he was a Master Tailor and Cutter with Beaty Bros Liverpool. He left behind his wife, Kate, and three young children, Richie, Hugh Tryfan, and Olwen as he went to war.

The same year his two younger brothers, Ellis and Arthur also enlisted. On at least one occasion they went into action together, and, since the two older brothers were teetotal they passed the ration of spirits they received before ˜going over the top' to Arthur, who was then ˜mentioned in dispatches'. Richard were overseas

They had been overseas for over a year when sometime in early 1918 Richard was shot in both arms in battle and taken prisoner by the German Forces. Though always reluctant to talk about his experiences, some years later when his daughter Olwen (my mother) had learnt shorthand, she persuaded him to tell some of his story, and wrote to his dictation.

Part of this record is missing unfortunately. He was arrested because he hadn't saluted a German Guard correctly.

He always remembered that the German Doctors had taken the trouble to ask him what he did in civilian life and when he had replied that he was a tailor, they had said they would do their best to take care of his hands and restore the movement and feeling to his fingers. He carried the scars of the bullet wounds throughout his life but always remembered the kindness and thoughtfulness of the German doctors.

The main camp at Lager Lechfeld was a large one with different sections for the different Allied nationalities. British prisoners were lucky compared to the Russians and Serbians, as they received occasional parcels from the British Red Cross. There was some bartering with the other allies, however. A Russian had carefully whittled a beautiful wooden box with a hinge and carved lid from a single piece of wood he had found around the camp, and he exchanged a bar of soap from his parcel for this box, which remains a family treasure to this day. Prisoners were also allowed to send home photos of themselves and the camp as postcards, and in return were allowed to keep one photo of their family.

The many hundreds of prisoners would organise concerts for themselves and the guards, and Richard, having a fine singing voice was always in demand. The guards would shout You sing, Welshie, and Taid would sing. ˜Arafa Don', ˜Elen Fwyn' and ˜Sul Y Blodau', those most affecting of Welsh tenor solos having an airing in the depths of Bavaria, before a cosmopolitan and captive audience.

Private Richard Griffiths 41122 (3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers) was repatriated at the end of the war and finally demobbed and transferred to the reserves with two blue chevrons (signifying two years Overseas Service) and one wound stripe on 11 April 1919. His two brothers Ellis and Arthur also returned safely to Liverpool.

However, he was to feel the effects of war again in 1940, when, having established a busy and successful Tailor's shop on North John Street, Liverpool, this received a direct hit during the blitz “ not getting proper compensation from the Board of Trade, he started again from scratch at over 60 years of age.

He lived until the age of 86, a tolerant, intelligent, hardworking and gentle man, loved and respected by everyone who knew him.


History

Identifier

9078.cpd| 4162.jpg|GWA_2587_caerscan0045.jpg 4163.jpg|GWA_2588_caerscan0046.jpg 4164.jpg|GWA_2589_caerscan0047.jpg 4165.jpg|GWA_2590_caerscan0048.jpg 5716.txt|GWA_3995_Private_Richard_Griffiths__Memories_of_being_a_Prisoner_of_War__transcript_.txt

Subject

Griffiths, Richard

Date

1914 - 1918

Date Created

1914 | 01/08/1914

Temporal Coverage

01/04/1905 | 31/12/1918

Source

Leaf Unknown

Medium

Paper Text: Memoir

Type

Memoir

Pages

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Number of Pages

5

Contributor

Admin | Kate Lindsay | Mairwen Haldane

Submission Event

Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon Castle Submission Day, 8th May 2008

Rights

The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor

Publisher

The Great War Archive, University of Oxford