GRIFFIN, William

Service Number: 442
Enlisted: 26 October 1914
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 17th Infantry Battalion
Born: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, October 1879
Home Town: Graceville, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Commercial Traveller
Died: Killed By A Fall Of Earth In A Trench, Gallipoli, Gallipoli, Dardanelles, Turkey, 10 May 1915
Cemetery: Beach Cemetery - ANZAC Cove
Plot I, Row F, Grave No. 3, Beach Cemetery, Gallipoli Peninsula, Canakkale Province, Turkey
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Corinda Sherwood Shire Roll of Honor, Graceville War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

26 Oct 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 442, 15th Infantry Battalion
22 Dec 1914: Involvement Private, 442, 17th Infantry Battalion
22 Dec 1914: Embarked Private, 442, 17th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ceramic, Melbourne
10 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, ANZAC / Gallipoli

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

William Griffin was born in Brisbane and attended Indooroopilly State School. He had several years service in the military cadets and was apprenticed into the drapery trade. At the time of his enlistment on 26th October 1914, William was 35 years old and employed as a commercial traveller in the drapery business. He stated his address as Graceville near Brisbane and named his mother; Emma Griffin , as his next of kin. His father George was deceased.

William was drafted into the 15th Battalion which was being raised at Bell’s Paddock, Enoggera. He would have felt quite at home in the 15th as there were a number of Graceville men in the unit, including the commanding officer Lt Col “Bull” Cannan and his brother Duncan. A sergeant in the 15th; Edwin Little, the son of a clergyman from Ipswich would also appear in the story of William Griffin. Edwin Little would unveil the Graceville War Memorial in the presence of “Bull” Cannan in 1920. (see introduction above).

While in camp, William was absent for a number of hours. He had been getting a tattoo and was admonished. The 15th sailed for Melbourne to join the other battalions in the 4th Brigade and to begin training under the Brigade Commander, John Monash.

Eventually the 4th Brigade sailed from Melbourne on 22nd December 1914 and arrived in Egypt on 3rd February 1915, going into camp at Heliopolis outside Cairo. The first contingent of Australians had been in Egypt for two months and had been formed into an Australian Corps. The later arrivals were combined with a number of New Zealand units into a second corps, which was given the telegraphic code “ANZAC”. Training in the desert continued through February and March. On the 12th April 1915, the 4th Brigade travelled by train to Alexandria where they boarded a transport bound for Mudros Harbour on the island of Lemnos. The troops of the 15th remained on board their transports, practising boarding boats and horse barges.

The landing on the beach at Gallipoli began at 4:40am by troops of the 3rd Brigade. The 4th Brigade did not begin landing until 5:00pm; by which time the Australians had advanced to the second ridge. The 15th Battalion dug in at a precarious position at the head of Monash Valley. The situation at Anzac in the first few weeks was extremely dangerous. The Turks were determined to throw the invaders back into the sea and vicious hand to hand fighting ensued as both sides battled to gain ground. The Turks had had months to prepare their defences but for the Australians, trenches and dugouts had to be constructed in haste, often under heavy enemy fire.

On 10th May 1915, a section of trench near Pope’s Hill collapsed and William Griffin was killed. Such was the intensity of the fighting at the time that William was not buried at Beach Cemetery for five days. On the 23rd May, a general ceasefire was arranged so that both Turk and Australian could retrieve and bury their dead. The 15th Battalion CO took the opportunity to conduct a Court of Inquiry into the death of William Griffin. In addition to Compnay Commander Duncan Cannan, the court heard expert testimony from Lt Newbolt of the NZ Engineers who advised that the ground was geologically unstable and prone to slip. Because the trench had been dug at night, and with great speed, it would have been impossible for anyone without extensive geological experience to have foreseen the danger. The court concluded that no person was to blame for the collapse and it should be deemed an accident.

William’s mother was informed that he had been Accidentally Killed on 10th May 1915 and had been buried at Beach Cemetery with the Rev, Power in attendance.

Soon after the notification of William’s death, his brother in law, Mr R.A. Wheeler wrote to base records questioning the date of William’s death as he (Mr Wheeler) had received a postcard dated 17th May (one week after his death). The official response was that the army records were correct and William probably made a mistake with the date on the postcard.

William’s mother was informed in 1917 that he had been buried in Shrapnel Valley Cemetery but this is incorrect. Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show that William Griffin is buried at Beach Cemetery on the southern point of Anzac Cove overlooking the sea. He is buried close to John Kirkpatrick Simpson (of donkey fame).

Courtesy of Ian Lang

Mango Hill