War Time Service: Enlisted - 1 May 1916

Personal Details: Private A Griffin     
Regimental No: 20335 - Click here for Arthur's Archived Military Personnel Records online Date and Place of Birth - 11 May 1873, London
Religion: Church of England
Marital Status: Married
Occupation: Farmer
Address: Inaha, Taranaki
Employer: Self Employed
Height: 5 feet 7 1/2 inches;
Weight: 10 stone 5lbs; Complexion: Fair; Eyes: Hazel; Hair: Black
Next of Kin: Wife: Helena Maria Griffin nee Adlam  Address: Inaha, Hawera
The march from Trentham along the Hutt Valley to embark for Europe
 
War Time Service:
 
Chronological sequence of postings, promotions and hospitalisation
Attested at Trentham on 2 May 1916
Marched into Camp on 29 April 1916
Rank: Private
Unit: B Company; 16th Reinforcements
Discharged from army - 11 Apr 1919
 
Embarked from New Zealand on His Majesty's New Zealand Troop Ship No 62 SS Mokoia and travelled in convoy with Navua
 
WWI troopship leaving Wellington with the 23rd Reinforcements. Alexander Turnbull Library
This faded newspaper clipping kept by family for the past 100 years - the vision of the troopship leaving Wellington with Arthur aboard
 
* Disembarked at Devonport on 24 October 1916  ( Men who went overseas as part of a reinforcement draft, after arriving, went through Sling Camp in England for their final preparations before going to the front. They were then posted to what-ever regiment that needed to come up to operation strength.) Arthur Griffin joined 1st Battalion Auckland Infantry and General Base Depot.
* Left for France: 15 Nov 1916
* Attached to New Zealand Infantry at General Base Depot, Estapols 16 Nov 1916
 (Src: The NZ infantry spent most of its time in the trenches, where it defended its positions and attacked the enemy in trench raids. It participated in the major SommeMessines and Passchendaele offensives, which saw it surge out of the trenches in an effort to drive the enemy into retreat. Casualties among the infantry were consequently heavy, with losses exacerbated by the relatively unsophisticated assault tactic of sending men �over the top� in frontal attacks against entrenched enemy positions which had not always been weakened by preliminary artillery barrages.)

The Anzac Corps, in which most of the New Zealanders in the theatre were serving, had moved north from Armenti�res into Belgium in February. Here it became involved in preparations for an attack on the Messines Ridge. This was an essential prelude to the main Allied attack, which became known as the Third Battle of Ypres, to break through the Germans holding the ridges surrounding Ypres. While the Messines attack succeeded completely, the main assault foundered in the face of determined enemy resistance, difficult terrain and appalling weather. Eventually all that was gained was a few kilometres of ground, including the ruins of Passchendaele, at horrendous cost in lives.

* Reported missing in field 23 June 1917


Awarded the Military Medal for "Acts of Gallantry in the Field" 17 June 1917
Awarded the Military Cross: Private A. Griffin, prisoner of war in Germany (Mrs A. Griffin, Hawera, wife)

(The Military Medal (MM) was instituted in 1916 during the First World War and was awarded to non commissioned officers and other ranks of the Army for acts of bravery for which the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) was not considered appropriate. (Over 2500 MMs have been awarded to New Zealanders, the most recent being in Vietnam.)

* Military Medal: Awarded to Arthur Griffin: Reg. No 20335 Private, 1st Btn, Auckland Regiment. L G 6 Aug 1917 p8430 Rec No 933.
Messines Offensive - 7th to 9th June 1917. "When the Company Stretcher bearers were wounded he volunteered for the work which he carried out under heavy shellfire with great pluck and endurance. He worked continuously during June 7th, 8th and 9th and when not stretcher bearing, he carried water and wire to the front line. His work throughout was excellent.")
The injuries were often horrific -  men with various wounds had to be carried from the trenches - they were muddy, bloody and often crawling with vermin. Later everyone got a tetanus jab because the heavily manured Western Front fields were full of the deadly bacillus.

23 July 1917: In Friday's casualty list Private A Griffin, of Inaha, is posted as missing. Private Griffin is a son-in-law of Mr. G. A. Adlam, of Oakura, and left a wife and large family "in order-to go and do his bit" for the Empire. He was recently awarded the Military Medal.

ROLL OF HONOR. Hawera & Normanby Star, 27 August 1917: NZ Casualty List: Previously reported missing, now reported wounded and prisoner of war at Warsburg Germany � Private A. Griffin

Military Medal - Arthur Griffin - B Company 16 Reinforcements
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5 Sep 1917
Military Medal ........... British Medal.............Victory Medal
 
 

By the time New Zealanders were finally withdrawn from the Ypres  front line in February 1918, the New Zealanders had suffered more than 18,000 casualties including around 5000 deaths � 1917 was the most costly of the NZEF�s three years on the Western Front.) Arthur Griffin's  heroism was followed by captivity (several family descendants made mention of his swimming the Rhine River - did he attempt to escape? Can you help?)

5 Sept 1917; RIVERLEA - Hawera & Normanby Star: (From Our Own Correspondent.) TWO MILITARY MEDALS. It is with great pleasure that Riverlea people have heard of the gaining of the Military Medal by Private I R Knight, who was a resident here for several years and Private Arthur Griffin, who also received the Military Medal a couple of months ago, was also for many years a resident of Riverlea, where he was farming on the Mangawhero road up against the mountain reserve. Private Griffin has a large family, thirteen (number was 11) in all, if I remember correctly, and was, in his earlier days, an extremely clever boxer. Indeed, even nowadays", he seldom met his match, and I believe was the best boxer in his reinforcement draft. We were all very sorry to hear, a couple or three weeks ago, that Private Griffin was reported missing and as the army was advancing, we feared the worst, and so it was with great pleasure that we heard last week that he was now reported wounded and hospitalised and prisoner in Germany, for although this, is not a very pleasant prospect, the news that he was alive was very gratifying to us all. We hope soon to hear that he is on the way to recovery, and also that the war will soon come to an end so that he, as well as all the others, will be again with us. I desire to congratulate the relatives of both Privates Griffin and Knight upon the honor brought upon them by the great distinction of the winning of the Military Medal.

 
The intent  of custody as a Prisoners of war was mainly to isolate them from their enemy combatants still in the field however  there was also an opportunity to demonstrate military superiority by prosecuting them for war crimes and punishment,  exploiting them for their labour, recruiting or even conscripting them as their own combatants, collecting military and political intelligence from them, or indoctrinating them in new political or religious beliefs.
Notification of Death
 
29 Aug 1917  
 
 
 
* Reported by Auckland Infantry Regiment as a Prisoner of War and wounded in chest and left leg - 25 August 1917; hospitalized Wuerzburg, Germany,  near Franfurt - (the book "Black Bread and Barbed Wire" by Michael Moynihan gives insight into the treatment of Prisoners of War by the Germans in WW1) (His son Alf Griffin said his father Arthur swam the Rhine River - was this an escape attempt? Do you know anything more?)
 
Camp inspection by the International Red Cross located POW prisoner Arthur Griffin at Lagar Hammelberg War Camp in Bavaria, Germany, used to house Allied prisoners of war.

The wooden barracks were encircled by barbed wire with sentry towers and guards The cold and starvation due to daily forced labour and mistreatment caused the death of many prisoners. (During World War II, Hammelburg was again the site of the POW Camps OFLAG XIII-B and Stalag XIII-C, as well as the attempted rescue of POW's from these camps by Task Force Baum in 1945. The American television sitcom Hogan's Heroes  which  featured a fictional Luft-Stalag 13, said to be near Hammelburg � the German Wehrmacht Heer-operated Stalag XIII-C Hammelburg had a POW camp located there in World War II.) Any prisoners that were forced to labour at or near the front line were not able to be inspected as were under shellfire - they suffered desolate un-hygienic conditions and  were frequently beaten and badly fed. New Zealand soldier, Arthur Griffin was just one of 1,625000 prisoners held captive by Germany and forced to labour for the enemy.

* Released Arthur arrived at Dover - 17 December 1918
* Left on His Majesty's Troop Ship No 219 SS: Port Melbourne from London on 25 January 1919 (It was said that he took the opportunity during this time to visit relatives)
* Disembarked in New Zealand on 7 March 1919
* Discharged on 11 April 1919
 
Taranaki Daily News: Written by Mr D J Hughes  - 4 Jan 1940;  "Arthur Griffin was a German prisoner of war for two and a half years - he was ill-used and made to work in a half-starved state. He was spat upon by school-children and was called an English dog every morning he went to work. When he lagged behind through weakness he was prodded with a bayonet.
When arrested he and his mate were put against a wall be shot. The first fusillade ended his mate's life and the firing squad lifted their rifles to end his when an officer ran out and stopped them. Griffin was then taken before the head men and asked some questions. His papers had been examined and among then was a photograph of his wife, and 11 children.
"Why did you come to the war from New Zealand?" he was asked.
"Because I was told that if the Germans won they would come and take my farm," he replied. He was reprieved, although he begged them to shoot him. Many weary days and nights he suffered before the Armistice came.
Today he is still going strong and he has the tidiest vegetable garden around Normanby. He has also played his part domestically in starting his sons on farms. As an old neighbour and fellow-bushman of Arthur Griffin, I take off my hat to him."
 
Arthur's welcome home was sad and subdued - he was to learn that just before the Armistice in November 1918 just before his release from Germany, his eldest son Ernest had been killed in France on the 8th of Oct 1918; and that the following month, his beloved daughter Eva  died at Hawera on Nov 26 1918 aged just 16 yrs due to the lethal influenza pandemic that struck between October and December 1918 (In just two months New Zealand lost about half as many people to influenza as it had in the whole of the First World War)

OKAIAWA. (From Our Own Correspondent.) Private Griffin, of Inaha, who, by the way, was the father of a family of twelve (11), enlisted early in the war. He had the misfortune to be taken prisoner by the Germans, and the privations he endured have left their mark upon him. Private Griffin had a son killed in the war.  

Arthur was no longer the man who had left his home in 1916 - shell shock was not then recognised, for years he was deprived of an adequate diet  - Src: "A prisoners� convoy coming from a prisoner's camp: �These men � these soldiers � marched, but they were dead; beneath each blue greatcoat was the head of a dead man: their eyes hollow, their cheekbones jutting out, their emaciated grimaces those of graveyard skulls�. Often kept in tents resting in mud, these prisoners were forced into exhaustive work, their entire diet consisting of a meagre bowl of soup made with beans, oats, prunes, beets, codfish or perhaps stewed acorns. Bread was replaced by �KK bread� (from the German �Kleie und Kartoffeln�: bran and potatoes), the ingredients of which remain unclear: potato flour, sawdust or ox blood. Malnutrition was a daily affair for prisoners who existed on little sleep as this would bring the return of the horrors they experienced".

Back home in Taranaki, a returned and freed prisoner, Arthur was a man who had experienced years of malnutrition - this meant after the war, he would have suffered serious digestive problems and had difficulty adapting to his previous dietary regimen. His wife and children could not accept and were unable to understand the changed man who returned - there was no psychological help available for his support - he was rejected. Arthur found he had more convivial company with his mates in regular hotel visits and drink gave him the oblivion he needed for his sleepless nights with flash-backs of vivid horrors of war nightmares. 

Today, Arthur is not remembered by his descendants for his valour - that is forgotten. It is his unacceptable post-war drunken court appearances, for the long walks he took to try to regain his lost health and the former fitness he had excelled in he prior to war, that. Late night excursions would often take him unannounced to visit on a family member's doorstep - unwelcome but a bed would be offered in a sleep-out.  
Arthur became an outcaste - ostracised by his family and left to live at Normanby - later found mutual support boarding with Cockney Seventh Day Adventist friends Albert Hall and wife Violet and their IHC daughter. After Alberts death, Arthur's last days were in the care of Ngahuru Home, Hawera.  He died at Hawera Hospital on 17 Sept 1956. His lawyer Bayley, who wrote his will, told some of the family afterwards that he had no idea that Arthur had children.
* Arthur Griffin's funeral was in the (old) SDA church on Albion Street and he was buried at the Hawera Serviceman's Cemetery, RSA Section 6, Block LXX 1

Below: Award for Bravery: Arthur Griffin - Military Medal Certificate