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Up to Mametz and Beyond, Llewelyn Wyn Griffith

Up to Mametz and Beyond, Llewelyn Wyn Griffith



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Up to Mametz and Beyond, Llewelyn Wyn Griffith

Up to Mametz and Beyond, Llewelyn Wyn Griffith

Up to Mametz is a classic account of life on the Western Front, first published in 1931 and ending with the costly capture of Mametz Wood on the Somme in 1916. A quarter of a century later the same author produced a very different account of his time as a staff officer. This book contains both texts - the first as originally written, the second supported by some of Llewelyn wyn Griffith's letters and other writing.

The two texts are very different in tone. Up to Mametz is the more emotional and literary of the two, 'Beyond' is more dispassionate and analytical. Part of this is because of the time that had elapsed between the two texts, but they also cover very different parts of Griffith's career - in the first he was a junior officer in a front line infantry unit, in the second he was a staff officer, serving at corps level.

Both parts of the book are of the highest quality, and of great interest. The first gives us a compelling view of life at the front, while the second presents a rather more balanced view of the life and roll of the much maligned staff officers.

Chapters
Part One - Up to Mametz
1 - Prentice Days
2 - Command
3 - Givenchy
4 - Mud
5 - Alarms and Diversions
6 - South
7 - Mametz Wood
8 - The Gleaning

Part Two - Beyond Mametz
9 - Salient
10 - ANZAC
11 - Kaiserschlact
12 - Armistice

Author: Llewelyn Wyn Griffith
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 194
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010 edition of 1931 original



Non-Fiction | Up to Mametz and Beyond, Ed. Jonathan Riley

‘Writing now, on the last day of 1957, I cannot hope to be able to recreate on paper the life that I led during the rest of the war.’ The line opens the fifty-eight pages that comprise chapters nine to twelve, entitled Beyond Mametz, of this expanded re-issue of Llewelyn Wyn Griffith’s first war memoir of 1931. The added material, explains Jonathon Riley in his meticulous notes, is the draft for a sequel to Up to Mametz, that Wyn Griffith himself never saw published.

The author declares his stance: ‘the temporary soldier forced into daily contact with it all.’ Beyond Mametz sees him through from July 1916 to the Armistice. His total service in the army comes to four and a half years, three as an infantry officer, then company commander and a general staff officer. The prose is blunt. A new Brigadier is termed ‘a strange specimen…a stupid man, far and away the most stupid man I ever met: lazy, greedy, a bore in the mess.’ He has ‘a prima donna for a General and a disgruntled chief of staff’ with the result that ‘everybody was jumpy, for the corps commander sacked people right and left as the fancy took him.’

The author finds inner solace in the writing of letters and poems to the woman at home. She, characteristically in Great War Britain, has been taken in as a draughtsman at Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead shipyard. The latter part of the war Wyn Griffith calls ‘the stagnant condition of our war-making’, albeit with its short moments of release. A chance movement in the summer of 1918 brings him to a château near Rheims. Its owner is Moet and Chandon and, at two francs a bottle, ‘for the next three weeks we had nothing to drink bit champagne.’

He leaves uniform in February 1919 ‘lucky enough to escape being wounded or sick’. Back in a London hotel he immediately succumbs to the devastating post-war flu epidemic. Jonathon Riley for his notes has researched the symptoms, the death rate- around twenty percent- and its tally of anywhere between fifty and one hundred million worldwide. Wyn Griffith was, he says, indeed lucky to have survived this second time.

Wyn Griffith’s working life was spent in the civil service-he was in the team that created the PAYE system- but he has gifts that would have befitted a writer’s career. Of the officer class he writes ‘we were tenants of an estate of mud.’ From the vantage point of nearly forty years on, and a life of stability and domestic happiness, he writes that ‘the elements of fear, of real and imagined danger, of discomfort and deprivation, of filth and of repulsiveness, of anger and hate, of contempt for the ignorance above which insisted on the continuance of Passchendaele have lost their strength.’ But the balm of time’s passing has not taken away ‘the memory of men who can no longer speak.’

Beyond Mametz completes the chronicle of the first book and Pen and Sword Books have produced a worthy new edition. A short foreword captures the view of the author through the eye of a grandson. The young officer has become the retiree who can crack the crossword in The Times in thirty minutes, a broadcaster, Captain of Wales’ team for the Round Britain Quiz, an enjoyer of Brahms, Wagner and a glass of Guinness.

The publishers provide nine maps, from a survey view of northern France to the campaign movements at the Somme, the third battle of Ypres and the German offensive of March and April 1918. A number of drawings by David Jones are included, from soldiers sleeping, to the wrecked church at Elverdinghe, a captured German machine gun and a pair of dead trench rats. The twenty-six photographs include Germans and New Zealanders, French and British, generals and privates. A full-page picture shows the wasteland of a battlefield near Soissons in 1918. ‘By Western Front standards’ writes the Editor ‘the terrain is relatively unscarred.’

Jonathan Riley’s elegant introduction is written from the perspective of a distinguished and decorated soldier. He traces the author’s life succinctly: birth in Llandrillo, schooling in Blaenau Ffestiniog and Dolgellau, employment with the Inland Revenue, until 4th August 1914, when, aged twenty-four, he is like much of Britain on holiday. Keen to enlist he is prevented by his job being given protected occupation status. With a change in criteria his application for a commission is accepted in January 1915.

Riley as a professional is familiar with army structure and describes the 38th (Welsh) Division and its breakdown into brigades and battalions. He sketches the Allied strategy formulated at a conference at Chantilly in December 1915. The German attack and sustained battle at Verdun alter the thrust of the Somme campaign. In the offensive around Montauban and the capture of Mametz in July Riley describes the scene that ensued in detail. Mametz wood is tangled in undergrowth and the debris of centuries. The four thousand casualties include the death Wyn Griffiths’ nineteen-year-old brother Watcyn.

A war memoir is firstly military history, but it succeeds in literary terms for reasons that surpass the purely military record. Up to Mametz in its slim eight chapters soars on three counts. The first is the quality of Wyn Griffiths’ prose. Inner musings he calls ‘clammy companions on a dark night in a strange place: reason could not drive them away, but fatigue triumphed over all in the end and bought sleep.’

He comes to Richebourg St Vaast, now reduced to ‘an empty shell of a village’ its church ‘little more than a grey scree of stone.’ He describes a small redoubt: ‘a dug-out in this sector was not a hole in the ground. It was a child’s clumsy effort to build a little one-roomed house, with sandbags full of viscous mud for bricks. It had no foundation, no frame, no structure.’

Secondly, there is the documentary aspect with the detail that only a participant can furnish. The food is repetitive- one of the technologies that made feasible the years of trench warfare was the canning of food. To add cheer to the ‘same acid tea, a tin of milk, slabs of close-knitted bread, and a tin of nondescript jam’ he describes the making of a steam pudding without any of the proper ingredients being available. Standard issue biscuits are pounded down to make a flour base.

The arrival of troops from Ireland ‘greatly enriched my life and enlarged my vocabulary their oaths and cursings were romantic imaginings after the banalities and repetition of our English swearing.’ Tunnelling has now been made familiar through Birdsong. Wyn Griffith captures all the tension, each side listening via geophones- ‘a kind of stethoscope’- to the slightest sound from the other. The effects of exhaustion give small mercy in rest. Grabbing a two-hour sleep on a plank he writes that ‘on such a bed flesh was no protection to the bones it was a small envelope containing a jumble of crossing nerves, warring with themselves and raised to a state of red-hot sensitivity.’

The First World War has its uniquely brutal arithmetic of attrition that Wyn Griffith knows well. The life of an infantry office ‘worked out to a mathematical average of a few weeks… I had seen many men come and go.’ The best memoirs make their impact in going beyond their particular place and time. In his final chapter ‘The Gleaning’ Wyn Griffith looks back at the assault on Mametz Wood. ‘The long-stretched agony of the week had scoured something out of every man in the column.’ He sees soldiers’ eyes which are ‘dull and slow-moving, coated with a film that turned their opacity into a revelation of all the anguish that lay behind them.’ He captures in words all that the camera of Don McCullin did in the terrible faces of veterans of a later war.

Certain truths that Wyn Griffith observes endure. He meditates on the melancholy caused by the sight of homes, once lived-in and now smashed and abandoned. In Mametz Wood itself a powerful passage describes a psychological state whereby the senses, overwhelmed by the noise and the piled-up corpses all around, put their owner into a realm of dissociation. ‘A swirl of mist within me had thrown a curtain to conceal the chasm of fear, and I walked on unheeding and unexpectant’ is how this remarkable passage comes to its close.

Memory from the First World War has now gone in the way that the shadow of experience is now receding from the Second World War. Neighbours among whom I grew up, normal family men, had been captured at Dunkirk, embarked on bombing raids, been sunk mid-Atlantic. A quiet man had been on the last ship to escape safely from Croatia. Wyn Griffith writes ‘there were two kinds of men in the world-those who had been in the trenches, and the rest.’ It was true, and true too for those who fight in our wars. The word ‘trenches’ might easily be taken out and ‘Fallujah’ or ‘Helmand’ put in their place.


Additional Information

General Jonathon Riley has discovered Wyn Griffith&rsquos unpublished diaries and letters which pick up where Up to Mametz left off through to the end of the War. With careful editing and annotation, the events of these missing years are now available alongside the original work. They tell of an officer&rsquos life on the derided staff and provide fascinating glimpses of senior officers, some who attract high praise and others who the author obviously despised. The result is an enthralling complete read and a major addition to the bibliography of the period.


Community Reviews

Well, I read this book as a follow-up to David Jones&aposs &aposIn Parenthesis&apos which makes an admirable companion as Llewelyn Wyn Griffith&aposs account is a parallel prose version of &aposIn Parenthesis&apos. Indeed, this edition of the book contains many of David Jones&aposs illustrations.

The Royal Welch Fusiliers seem to have produced a number of writers who have written their accounts of their war experiences: Robert Graves, Seigfried Sassoon, David Jones, and Frank Richards (whose book &aposOld Soldiers Never Die&apos i Well, I read this book as a follow-up to David Jones's 'In Parenthesis' which makes an admirable companion as Llewelyn Wyn Griffith's account is a parallel prose version of 'In Parenthesis'. Indeed, this edition of the book contains many of David Jones's illustrations.

The Royal Welch Fusiliers seem to have produced a number of writers who have written their accounts of their war experiences: Robert Graves, Seigfried Sassoon, David Jones, and Frank Richards (whose book 'Old Soldiers Never Die' is next on my reading list after this.) So, you have multiple viewpoints on the same incidents to compare and contrast. My understanding is that Robert Graves's version is a little less factually solid than others, but I pass this on as a piece of second-hand information rather than something I know for definite.

Llewelyn Wyn Griffith's book doesn't get mentioned with quite the same reverence as Grave, Sassoon or Jones, which might be something to do with the fact that he wasn't known as a war poet particularly or that he became a staff Captain and therefore his story is seen with a more jaundiced eye?

That's certainly unfair. Wyn Griffith's paints a picture as bluntly grim and honest as any of the other writers. His account of the battle of Memetz Wood and its aftermath is brutal and painful. The part of the book which deals with the discovery of his brother's death is heartbreaking, but at no point is Wyn Griffith melodramatic, which actually makes it all the harder to read. Comparing his account of Memetz Wood in the aftermath of the battle with David Jones's account would be a fascinating exercise. The same things are seen and explained in two entirely different styles.

This is a fine, direct book that manages both to explain what happened and analyse Wyn Griffith's own reaction to it. It is particularly self-reflective.

I have read a lot of World War One memoirs and novels. Not just British ones, but French and German ones too. This is a fine addition to that list. It should be better known in my opinion. . more


Up to Mametz and Beyond

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Llewelyn Wyn Griffith&rsquos Up to Mametz, published in 1931, is now firmly established as one of the finest accounts of soldiering on the Western Front. It tells the story of the creation of a famous Welsh wartime battalion (The Royal Welch Fusiliers), its training, its apprenticeship in the trenches, through to its ordeal of Mametz Wood on the Somme as part of 38 Division. But there it stopped.

General Jonathon Riley has discovered Wyn Griffith&rsquos unpublished diaries and letters which pick up where Up to Mametz left off through to the end of the War. With careful editing and annotation, the events of these missing years are now available alongside the original work. They tell of an officer&rsquos life on the derided staff and provide fascinating glimpses of senior officers, some who attract high praise and others who the author obviously despised. The result is an enthralling complete read and a major addition to the bibliography of the period.

Llewelyn Wyn Griffiths was born into a Welsh speaking family in Llandrillo yn Rhos, North Wales. He joined the Civil Service as a Tax Surveyor. Aged 24 on the outbreak of War, he was accepted for a commission in the 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and served in the Battalion or on the staff for the rest of the War. Returning to the Inland Revenue he was responsible for the pay-As-You-Earn tax system, retiring in 1952. He filled many distinguished appointments, such as the Arts Council, and was a regular broadcaster. Awarded an Honorary DLitt by the University of Wales, he was holder of the CBE, OBE, Croix de Guerre and an MID. He died in 1977.


ISBN 13: 9781848843530

Llewelyn Wyn Griffith’s Up to Mametz, published in 1931, is now firmly established as one of the finest accounts of soldiering on the Western Front. It tells the story of the creation of a famous Welsh wartime battalion (The Royal Welch Fusiliers), its training, its apprenticeship in the trenches, through to its ordeal of Mametz Wood on the Somme as part of 38 Division. But there it stopped.

General Jonathon Riley has discovered Wyn Griffith’s unpublished diaries and letters which pick up where Up to Mametz left off through to the end of the War. With careful editing and annotation, the events of these missing years are now available alongside the original work. They tell of an officer’s life on the derided staff and provide fascinating glimpses of senior officers, some who attract high praise and others who the author obviously despised. The result is an enthralling complete read and a major addition to the bibliography of the period.

Llewelyn Wyn Griffiths was born into a Welsh speaking family in Llandrillo yn Rhos, North Wales. He joined the Civil Service as a Tax Surveyor. Aged 24 on the outbreak of War, he was accepted for a commission in the 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and served in the Battalion or on the staff for the rest of the War. Returning to the Inland Revenue he was responsible for the pay-As-You-Earn tax system, retiring in 1952. He filled many distinguished appointments, such as the Arts Council, and was a regular broadcaster. Awarded an Honorary DLitt by the University of Wales, he was holder of the CBE, OBE, Croix de Guerre and an MID. He died in 1977.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Llewelyn Wyn Griffiths was born into a Welsh speaking family in Llandrillo yn Rhos, North Wales. He joined the Civil Service as a Tax Surveyor. Aged 24 on the outbreak of War, he was accepted for a commission in the 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and served in the Battalion or on the staff for the rest of the War. Returning to the Inland Revenue he was responsible for the pay-As-You-Earn tax system, retiring in 1952. He filled many distinguished appointments, such as the Arts Council, and was a regular broadcaster. Awarded an Honorary DLitt by the University of Wales, he was holder of the CBE, OBE, Croix de Guerre and an MID. He died in 1977.


Llewellyn Wyn Griffith and The Great War

Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion January 2014
Delivered By Major-General Jonathon Riley DSO

It is fitting that this Society should begin its programme for the centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War by looking at the London Welsh and in it, one of its most distinguished former members. My credentials for submitting this paper, aside from being having commanded the Royal Welch Fusiliers and later been their Colonel, is that I edited the latest edition of Wyn Griffith’s memoir, Up to Mametz, along with its previously unknown sequel, Beyond Mametz. 1

Up To Mametz has long been rightly regarded as one of the classic texts of the Great War. However, when it was first published in 1931 its showing was rather poor, for it sold no more than one thousand copies, in spite of being well reviewed: it is well-written, easy to read and extraordinarily vivid. But it followed the publication of a series of other war memoirs, all of which received great critical acclaim: Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War in 1928 Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That in 1929 and Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer in 1930. It seems that when he first wrote it, Wyn Griffith wrapped the manuscript in paper and put it away for his children to read in later years. It was only when his friends, the novelist Margaret Storm Jameson 2 and the poet Sir Herbert Read 3 became aware of it, that it was published.

It has since had two successful re-issues and now ranks alongside the works of other Great War writers. Many of the most notable writers, poets, artists and performers of this period also served in the same Regiment as Wyn Griffith, The Royal Welch Fusiliers: Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, David Jones, Frank Richards, J.C. Dunn, Vivian de Sola Pinto and the Welsh-speaking bard Ellis Humphrey Evans, or Hedd Wyn to whom we may also add Arthur Askey, Bill Tucker, Bernard Adams, Edward Vulliamy and Wynn Powell Wheldon. It is almost easier to list the writers and artists of the war who did not serve in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, rather than those who did.

This remarkable flowering of talent in one regiment was not, however, an isolated episode. There is more written by and about The Royal Welch Fusiliers than any other regiment in the British Army. The intellectual tradition – be it in graphic art, performing, poetry or writing – has long existed in the regiment, sometimes it must be said, co-existing uneasily with a strong sporting and anti-intellectual tendency: in the 1920s, for example, it was said of the officers of the regiment that they thought and talked of nothing but hunting, racing and polo! But this intellectual tradition, which embraces officers and enlisted men as well as wives, can be traced at least to the American Revolutionary War period, with the writings of Roger Lamb, Frederick Mackenzie, Thomas Saumarez and Harry Calvert into the Napoleonic period with Thomas Henry Browne and his sister, Felica Hemans – who among many poems wrote The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck – Richard Bentinck, Robert Barclay, Richard Roberts, Thomas Edwards-Tucker and Jenny Jones. There were others during the Crimean and later Victorian period whom we have only just begun to uncover. Later, during the Second World War, we can number Desmond Llewellyn, Kyffin Williams, Jack Hawkins, Tony Farrar-Hockley, Bill Ward and Anthony Crosland. Since 1945 our artistic and literary community has included Veronica Bamfield, William Roache, Jon Latimer, Tim Kilvert-Jones, Morgan Llewellyn and Toby Ward.

Llewellyn Wyn Griffith was born into a Welsh speaking family in Llandrillo yn Rhos in North Wales and he attended Blaenau Ffestiniog County School, where his father John Griffith taught science and music. 4 In 1905, John was appointed headmaster of Dolgellau Grammar School and there the family moved. John remained head until he retired in 1925 after which he was chairman of Harlech festival and editor of the English section of Y Cerddor. John clearly hoped that his son would go to Cambridge but instead, aged 16, he sat and passed the Civil Service Examination. It seems that he sat for a scholarship examination that would have provided funds to help him through his further education, but there were two very strong competitors also sitting for the same scholarship and Wyn Griffith was bested and so instead turned to the Civil Service. His first job was employed in the Liverpool Tax Office of the Inland Revenue as an Assistant Surveyor of Taxes and it was here in Liverpool that he met the girl he later married, Elizabeth Winifred Frimston, also known as Wyn. She was in fact a distant cousin from a St Asaph family – Welsh speaking, although Wyn Griffith noted in his manuscript that the girls of the family “did not speak it from choice”. 5

In 1912, Wyn Griffith was transferred to London, where he embraced the cultural and artistic life with relish, attending the salon of Mrs Ellis Griffith, later Lady Ellis-Griffith, wife of the Liberal MP for Anglesey 6 and it was at this time that he began writing his first essays. At the same time, his father, who had inherited a modest sum, paid for him to study for the bar at the Middle Temple while continuing his work for the revenue.

Wyn Griffith was 24 at the outbreak of the Great War. On 4 August 1914 he was, like many people, on holiday, enjoying the hot weather of that year. He returned immediately to London to enlist but found to his chagrin that he was in a protected occupation the rules were, however, soon relaxed and with a friend he tried to enlist in the Royal Naval Division, an infantry division formed from men who could not be employed with the fleet. When his friend failed the medical examination, both turned instead to a Territorial Army battalion, the 7th (Montgomery and Merioneth) Battalion of The Royal Welch Fusiliers at Newtown – where the medical criteria proved less stringent! Shortly before Christmas, he received a letter from his friend Mrs Ellis Griffith telling him of the raising of the 15th Battalion (1st London Welsh) of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He applied at once for a commission and was accepted in January 1915.

There were in the pre-war Territorial Army regiments of London Irish and London Scottish – indeed they still exist – but there was no London Welsh. 15 RWF was therefore raised as a war-service battalion, in the Inns of Court, as part of the formation of Kitchener’s New Army – an army for the long war that he was the first to recognise. Battalions like it were being raised all over the country Wales played its part: in spite of the paucity of population, The Royal Welch Fusiliers raised the fourth highest number of battalions – forty – of all regiments during the war, beaten only by those with large urban population in: Greater London and Middlesex, and the industrial North. David Lloyd George was active in the campaign to expand the army in Wales, espousing even a Welsh Army Corps. This in the end came to nothing, for two main reasons. First, even allowing for the herculean effort of raising the numbers of troops that it did, Wales could not support a corps of perhaps 40,000 men for several years – especially as the high command of the army would not extract the regular Welsh infantry and Cavalry units from their parent formations to provide the backbone of a new corps. Secondly, Welsh Army Corps would have opened the door for similar formations in Scotland and Ireland. An army corps can be a powerful instrument in the formation of new nations, as those of Australia, New Zealand and Canada showed and at this time, just before the war, the issue of the moment had been Irish home rule. This had been shelved for the duration and no-one in London would support any move that would keep this issue alive while the bigger matter of war with Germany demanded their full attention. An irish army corps would have done just that at a time when it was important to focus loyalty on the British Army. Wales’s contribution to the war was therefore its regular regiments and its two national divisions, the 38th and the 53rd which served in Europe and the Middle East respectively.

15 RWF was inaugurated at a meeting of London Welshmen on 16 September 1914, presided over by Sir Vincent Evans. 7 It was officially recognised on 29 October and for its first few months, drilled in the garden and square of Gray’s Inn: it was here, after the war, that its memorial was placed and here it still remains. The new battalion left London for Llandudno on 15 December under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel William Fox-Pitt of the Grenadier Guards where it joined 113 (Royal Welch) Infantry Brigade in the 38th Welsh Division. It was here that Wyn Griffith joined them. The next eight months were spent in training in North Wales, at Winchester and on Salisbury Plain.

15 RWF and its home-service partner battalion, the 18th (2nd London Welsh) began by enlisting Welshmen living in London, many of whom were second or third generation exiles – it was said, for example, that one scarcely met a dairyman in London who was not a Carmarthenshire Welshman. Wyn Griffith noted in a recording he made on reported speech that most sounded more cockney than Welsh – but they all felt the pull of their homeland. However this was a limited pool of manpower and before long, the battalions were being made up with drafts from all over Wales.

Returning briefly to the intellectual tradition, the 15th contained several extraordinary people. In addition to Wyn Griffith, there was David Jones, whose iconic (but difficult) work In Parenthesis is based on his experiences with 15 RWF. Then there was Bill Tucker, whose book The Lousier War is one of the few accounts we have of life as a P.O.W. in Germany during the Great War Tucker later worked for many years on The Times and helped launch The Times Atlas of the World. Thirdly there was Harold Gladstone Lewis, who wrote Crow on a Barbed Wire Fence. Last, the Welsh shepherd and bard from Trawsfynydd, Hedd Wyn, who was killed on Pilckem Ridge in 1917. He won the bardic chair at the National Eisteddfod at Birkenhead in that year and when called to take his place, it was announced that he was dead. The Chair was left empty and draped in black.

There is, however, no mention in any of their works that, at the time, these men were at all aware of each other in the way that in the regular battalions, Graves, Sassoon, Adams, Dunn and Vulliamy, for example, knew each other. Jones, Tucker and Evans were all privates and it is unusual for private soldiers to know anyone outside their own company in wartime – and Evans would also have been separated from the others by language, which can be both a bond and a barrier.

113 Brigade was one of the three brigades, each of four or five battalions, that made up the fighting strength of the 38th Welsh Division which, including its combat support and administrative units stood at about 18,500 men. However there was scarcely anyone with military experience, save for the few regular officers and N.C.O.’s drafted in to form and train the units. Regular and Special reservists had all been recalled to regular divisions and the Territorial Army had its own divisions – of which the 53rd Welsh was one. Officers in the Service divisions, like 38th, were selected therefore not on any basis of military efficiency but on the basis of patronage – often in the gift of Lloyd George himself. In 15 RWF, Noel Evans, 8 for example, came from a noted Merionethshire family. He was later Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, a J.P., High Sherriff and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County Goronwy Owen 9 was related to Lloyd-George by marriage. He had a very good war, ending as a Lieutenant-Colonel with a D.S.O. and was later Liberal MP for Caernarvonshire and President of British Controlled Oilfields.

After its months of training – which seems to have consisted mostly of drill, route marches, some rudimentary tactical training and weapon training – the 38th Division was in late November 1915 reviewed by Queen Mary Two days later, 15 RWF received a new Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel R.C. Bell of the Central India Horse. 10 The brigade also received a new commander, Brigadier-General Llewellyn Alberic Emilius Price-Davies, whom Wyn Griffith describes as the second most stupid soldier he ever met. Price-Davies had done well in the small wars which preceded 1914 and had won a V.C. and a D.S.O. in South Africa. He was, says Griffith, too dull to be frightened. His recently published letters reveal a more complex character than appeared on the surface. 11 Known as “Mary” by his fellow regulars – Wyn Griffith (wrongly) says “Jane”) he exemplified the thoughtless brutality that is many people’s stereotype of the Great War general officer: unimaginative, slow, fascinated by the minor trivia of latrine buckets and polished brass he was one of those who had to be promoted to fill command appointments in a rapidly expanding army, promoted on the basis that bravery in combat signifies the ability to exercise high command – but for whom the demands of modern war were all too much. 12 Under Price-Davies, the brigade embarked for service in France on 1 December 1915 in pouring rain and it is here that Up to Mametz begins in earnest.

From January until June 1916 the 15th Battalion took its turn at the drudgery of trenches, learning its trade and being slowly transformed from amateurs into something approaching a unit capable of simple tasks. Initially they were placed under the mentorship of regular units and even carried out some limited offensive tasks, such as raiding, in which the first casualties were taken.

In the spring of 1916, Wyn Griffith, a temporary captain, took command of C Company in various tours of trenches around Merville and Givenchy and even managed a short spell of home leave. These tours of trenches were not, as many people think, affairs lasting months. In the desperate days of late 1914 and early 1915 there were recorded instances of units holding the line for weeks at a time but by the spring of 1915, most divisions operated a rotation in which each brigade spent a few days in the front line then a few days in the support line, then days in reserve – these were often the worst period as the men would spend all night on duties like carrying supplies up to the line, or sand-bagging and wiring and other heavy work. This would be followed by a rest period and training, before the rotation began again. In spite of all this, the 38th Division was by no means capable of taking part in a major combined-arms operation against fortified German positions – which was the task they would be given at Mametz.

And so we come to the summer of 1916. Allied war strategy for the year had been formulated during a major conference at Chantilly, where it was agreed that major, simultaneous offensives would be launched by the Russians, the Italians in the Alps, and the British and French in the West, thus assailing the Central Powers around the whole perimeter of the war. Shortly after the conference, General Sir Douglas Haig replaced Sir John French as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. Haig favoured an attack in Flanders, which was easily served by the line of communication through the Channel Ports and which, if it went well, might even drive the Germans away from the Belgian coast from where their submarines were decimating British shipping. However, rather as we are now with the Americans, the British were the junior partners in the coalition with the French and in February 1916, General Joseph Joffre, the French C-in-C, insisted on a joint British and French attack astride the River Somme in Picardy, beginning in August. However, shortly afterwards the Germans launched their attack around Verdun. The French threw all they had into preventing a German breakthrough here, which if it succeeded would open a major avenue of advance towards Paris. Their commitment to the Somme battle was thus significantly reduced and the bulk of the burden shifted to the British and Imperial troops: twenty divisions were now committed as against only thirteen French divisions. Moreover as the mincing machine of Verdun developed, the aim of the Somme offensive changed from being part of a decisive allied blow against Germany, to one of relieving the pressure on the French the date of the attack was brought forward from August to July. 13

Among senior British commanders there was disagreement on how the required effect would be achieved. General Sir Henry Rawlinson, whose Fourth Army would conduct the attack, favoured a “bite-and-hold” approach, which would concentrate resources and which recognised the British inability to exploit a breakthrough even if one were made. Haig’s concept, by contrast, was for a more general attack on a wider front. Much emphasis was based on the ability of allied artillery to destroy German wire and fortifications and allow the infantry to break in, and then break through. In reality, British field artillery was still woefully behind that of the Germans. Most of it was of light or medium calibres – without therefore the weight of shell needed it would be another year before the balance of British artillery shifted to medium and heavy calibres and two years before British gunnery was better than that of the enemy – nor had the huge strides in fuse technology that appeared in late 1917 yet emerged, which would allow artillery to cut wire effectively. Finally, without radio, artillery was still controlled on pre-arranged timings. This meant that the infantry had to keep up with the artillery fire as it shifted, rather than the artillery being manoeuvred to support the infantry. If the infantry were held up, the barrage would move on, leaving them exposed. Air support too was in its infancy and could do little other than deliver machine gun fire, or direct artillery by observing the fall of shot and dropping correction messages tied to weights.

Rawlinson was, too, well aware of the quality of the infantry with which he had to make this assault. The first BEF, based on the regular army heavily augmented by reservists, had been effectively wiped out by the battles of 1914 the Territorial Force, which entered the war in 1915, had also been badly depleted. The bulk of the BEF was now therefore made up of the volunteers who had joined Kitchener’s New Army. Kitchener had formed this army with the intention of having it ready for major operations in 1917: yet now, strategic considerations over-ruled their lack of expertise and these units and formations were to be required to undertake a difficult operation, without enough experience, a year earlier than had been intended, and without the compensation of effective fire support.

With the benefit of hindsight it is not surprising that except for the area around Montaubin, the objectives of 1 July 1916 were not gained. Here, the 7th and 21st Divisions broke into the German lines around Fricourt and captured Mametz village, shown here. But as so often until 1918, they broke in, but could not break through because of the way that the Germans organised their defence in depth. That evening, Haig decided to reinforce success and attack again around Fricourt in order to capture the German second defence line at its closest point between Longeval and Bazentin. Rawlinson had little option but to attack this position, which was a low but commanding ridge, frontally. He decided to do so between the two large woods of Mametz on the left and Trones on the right. The assault would be phased in order to provide the maximum possible weight of artillery fire in support of the assaulting troops. Mametz would be taken first, in order to secure the flank against the inevitable German counter-attack.

Mametz Wood was allocated to XIV Corps under Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Horne. Horne decided to attack the wood from two directions: 17th Division would attack from the West, out of Quadrangle trench, while 38th Welsh attacked across open ground from the east out of Caterpillar and Marlborough Woods. 38th Division was to attack in echelon, that is, with the first assault brigade, 115, leading, followed by the second brigade, followed by the third. The line of assault would take the troops parallel with the German second line trenches and without suppressing artillery fire and a smoke barrage, the troops would be raked by flanking fire from German strong-points in Sabot and Flat Iron copses.

Not long before the start of the Somme battle, Wyn Griffith had been posted as a staff learner to Headquarters 115 Brigade, which consisted of 17th RWF, 10th and 11th SWB, 16th and 19th Welch along with a field artillery brigade, machine-gun company, trench mortar battery and a field ambulance company. The brigade commander, Brigadier-General Horatio Evans, 14 was an old soldier not at all in the mould of Price-Davies. As Wyn Griffith recalled, Evans thought the plan was mad. Not surprisingly, the attack failed to get within 300 yards of the Wood, not least because the supporting artillery fire did not arrive. Wyn Griffith was at this point with Evans, taking down messages and sending them back or forward as required by runners and field telephone

A second attempt was ordered, but Evans was convinced this would end in disaster. He had tried to get through to the divisional commander, Major-General Ivor Phillips, without success, but Wyn Griffith, who had been speaking to an artillery officer, took him to a captured German dugout, where a heavy artillery brigade had established a forward command post. Here, he spoke to the divisional headquarters and after some argument, got the operation called off, thus saving many hundreds of lives – but he knew that it had put an end to his career. He was in fact posted to a home appointment directly after the battle – found wanting in the offensive spirit by the high command, no doubt.

The next afternoon, 113 and 114 Brigades, including 15th RWF, were ordered to attack the Wood again with 115 in reserve this attack was postponed until dawn on 10 July and to everyone’s astonishment, it succeeded. In the afternoon, 115 Brigade was ordered to relieve the two assault brigades and take over the defence of the wood against German counter-attacks. Wyn Griffith recorded that Evans and the Brigade Major, C.L. Veal, went up to the Wood and that he followed slightly later: the photograph attached to this paper is catalogued only as a brigadier general and staff in Mametz Wood, but comparing what detail I can with other likenesses, I believe this is a chance photograph of Evans, Wyn Griffith and a runner at exactly this moment. Soon afterwards, Veal was wounded and Wyn Griffith found himself as acting Brigade Major.

In Chapter 7 of Up To Mametz, Wyn Griffith describes the scene in the Wood in some detail: the shattered trees, the bursting shells, the litter of discarded equipment, the mangled corpses of the dead – an experience that stayed with him all his life and came back to him in snatches of nightmare. Word came through by field telephone that 115 Brigade was to complete the clearance of the Wood as soon as possible. Evans decided to make a surprise attack, without a preliminary barrage – but before he could put this plan into operation, the brigade came under fire from British artillery falling short of the German trenches. This fire not only pinned down the brigade, but put a stop to any prospect of a surprise attack for the Germans were now thoroughly roused.

The brigade signals officer, Emlyn Davies 15 (whom Wyn Griffith calls “Taylor”), had sent relays of runners back to get the artillery fire shifted. One of these runners was Wyn Griffith’s younger brother, Watcyn. Watcyn got through with his message, but on the way back he was hit by a shell and killed at once. Wyn Griffith learned of Watcyn’s death within an hour – and clearly blamed himself. As brigade major, he had ordered the signals officer to get a message through and therefore, in his own words “I had sent him to his death, bearing a message from my own hand, in an endeavour to save other men’s brothers.” Watcyn’s body was never found and he is one of those therefore, whose grave is unknown.

Stunned as he was, Wyn Griffith still had his duty to attend to, but this sense of guilt clearly remained with him for ever afterwards, mixed with the dreadful memories of the Wood. A set-piece attack next morning completed the clearance of the Wood, after which the 38th Division was relieved in the line and pulled back into rest. Robert Graves was with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers when they entered Mametz Wood shortly afterwards and he described the scene thus in Goodbye to All That:

Mametz Wood was full of the dead of the Prussian Guards reserve, big men, and the Royal Welch and South Wales Borderers of the new-army battalions, little men. There was not a single tree unbroken . . . There had been bayonet fighting in the wood. There was a man oif the South Wales Borderers and one of the Lehr Regiment who had succeeded in bayoneting each other simultaneously. A survivor of the fighting told me later that he had seen a young solder if the 14th Royal Welch bayoneting a German in parade-ground style, automatically exclaiming as he had been taught: “in, out, on guard. . . 16

The 38th Division, much reduced in size by casualties, was moved away into rest and this is where Up To Mametz ends. But Wyn Griffith continued to serve in the Army for the rest of the war and it was by chance that I came upon his account of his subsequent service, searching the Royal Welch Fusiliers archive for something quite else. What I found was a short hand-written narrative for family consumption, which picks up where Up To Mametz left off and continues to the end of the war. Some of it found its way into other published works, such as Wyn Griffith’s essay “The Pattern of One Man’s Remembering” in Promise of Greatness. But the manuscript was very short, even when supplemented by another manuscript in which Wyn Griffith described his return to civilian life. I had therefore to annotate it heavily in order to explain the context of events. Even having done that, it had a very incomplete feel to it. I therefore decided, with the family’s consent and assistance, to use Wyn Griffith’s surviving letters and diaries, and some material from his close contemporaries, to ghost-write a sequel, which I called Beyond Mametz. Even this was not easy, for although we know that he wrote every day to Wyn, there was no trace of these letters and I relied on his diaries lodged in the National Library of Wales and on the War Diaries of the various headquarters to which he belonged and which he would have contributed. In doing this I am certain that I was fulfilling his own intentions, for he says in the first chapter of the manuscript that this is the makings of: “. . . the book I had inside me, a book that might have been of some value: the war and the regular soldier and the staff as seen through the eyes of a temporary soldier . . .”

Up To Mametz is one of the iconic accounts of men in combat during the titanic struggles on the Western Front and it is riven through with feelings of guilt. Guilt about Watcyn, guilt that he, Wyn Griffith, survived where so many others did not. Beyond Mametz is different: it provides a record of the life of an officer on the staff – a species which came in for a good deal of adverse criticism both during and after the war from front line officers: “. . . a bloody nuisance, inefficient where it isn’t actually crooked” as John Masters reported the common view or more specifically

The function of the staff is so to foul up operations, by giving contradictory orders and misreading their maps, that wars will be prolonged to a point where every staff officer has become a general. 17

The book however begins with the 38th Division moving into a quiet area near Arras, and then to the Ypres salient. For a while, Wyn Griffith remained on the staff of 115 Brigade, under a new commander, Brigadier General Carlos Joseph Hickie 18 and two new staff officers, Major Arthur Derry 19 and Captain Jim Davies, both of whom Wyn Griffith liked and admired. Then, out of the blue, he was sent as a staff learner to the headquarters of a much larger formation, VIII Corps. Here he met the man he described as the stupidest soldier he ever met – none other than the corps commander, Aylmer Hunter-Weston who had commanded the corps at Gallipoli and remained in command throughout the war. 20 Hunter-Weston was clearly despised by the chief of staff, the able General Leonard Ellington 21 who was in later years Chief of the Air Staff, and laughed at by all the more junior staff officers. He was, like Price-Davies, a buffoon, who displayed all the bad qualities of Great War Generalship and none of the good.

Then, in April 1917, Wyn Greiffith was sent back to his old battalion in the Ypres salient. It was, he admits, “a great shock, and the end of my hopes for promotion.” But he again took over C Company which was holding a section of the line in the Yser Canal sector. Here, only the width of the canal separated the two front lines and the whole area was heavily fortified. The life of an infantry battalion in the line here was minutely described by Wynn Wheldon – a recipient of this society’s medal who was then commanding 14 RWF in the same brigade, in an article in The Welsh Outlook in 1919. Wyn Griffith was of course back under the command of Brigadier-General Price-Davies, whom Wyn Griffith described as “a daily plague to his brigade” however he found the battalion commanded by a very able officer: Compton Cardew Norman, known as “Crump”, an experienced regimental officer, several times wounded, who brought 15 RWF to its highest level of efficiency. 22 He was gruff and reserved, but kindly – Wyn Griffith said of him that “there was an underlying sympathy with a young man bearing a heavy burden of responsibility, though it was well-concealed on a morning parade when we were out of the line.”

Both Wyn Griffith and Wynn Wheldon say that “Welsh was spoken everywhere”, but this may be a misleading impression. While there was undoubtedly a good deal of Welsh spoken in the trenches and the bonding value of this shared culture must have been immense, Wyn Griffith is seeing things, after the lapse of forty years, through somewhat rose-tinted spectacles. It is not possible to determine the nationality of all those who served in The Royal Welch Fusiliers during the War, because of the destruction by German bombing during the Second World War of the personal files of many (not all) of those who had served in the Great War. However, most entries in the records Officers Died in the Great War and Soldiers Died in the Great War, give the place of birth. From this, it is possible to obtain a good indication of the Welshness of the Regiment. During the War, the Regiment raised forty battalions, of which twenty-two served abroad. Of these, fifteen sustained over 200 casualties. In these fifteen battalions, an average of 47% gave Wales or Monmouthshire as their place of birth. The figure was highest in the Territorial battalions at around 60%, and generally lowest in the regular battalions which had, in peacetime, recruited strongly in London and Birmingham. The service battalions in 38th (Welsh) Division averaged just over 40%: in Wyn Griffith’s own battalion, the London Welsh, this figure is a mere 27%. The idea that the Regiment spoke only Welsh during the war is therefore not sound, and in danger of creating yet another myth of the Great War. Nor does it do service to the many patriotic men who gave their lives, and who spoke no Welsh, but considered themselves no less Welsh for it. 23

This interlude with 15 RWF was short, however, for in June Wyn Griffith was told to report to the headquarters of II ANZAC Corps, later renamed XXII Corps when all Australian units were grouped into a single corps and the New Zealanders sent elsewhere. Wyn Griffith remained on the staff of this corps for the rest of the war. Throughout 1917 and early 1918 they were in the Ypres salient where the first major event was the Third Battle of Ypres in which the corps played a major and highly successful part, capturing the eastern part of Messines Ridge in 1918 came the great German offensive of March 1918 – on which Wyn Griffith is curiously silent although he never seems to have doubted that the Germans would be stopped, even when things looked grim and all the gains made around Ypres were reversed. Then the corps was moved south rapidly to reinforce the French in Champagne. The corps then returned north to take part in the great advance of the Hundred Days, which ended with the liberation of Valenciennes – a period when the British Army bore the brunt of the war on the Western Front, when it was probably the most complete and capable it has ever been, and when it was the best combined-arms battlefield force in the world, more than a match even for the mighty German Army.

Wyn Griffith’s account of the war in Beyond Mametz provides glimpses of a number of distinguished senior officers, and sketches of many people who achieved distinction in later years He was able to see how good generalship was exercised, as well as bad, and in particular by the commander of XXII corps, General Sir Alexander Godley. 24 Wyn Griffith painted one particularly vivid picture of Godley fighting the battle around Ypres from a forward dugout, using maps, field telephones and runners the picture attached to this paper is, I think, him doing just this. This sense of how command was exercised at division and corps level at a time is very valuable, for almost all the ingredients of modern war were present except one: battlefield radio. Commanders of the time, and their staffs, were often criticised for what J.F.C. Fuller described as “château generalship” 25 – that is, for stationing themselves well behind the line and not sharing in the sufferings of the troops. In the 1930s and 1940s, the image of Generals was somewhat tarnished by this sort of mythology: there was a widespread feeling in the Army that at the higher levels of command during the war, a General, having made a plan and issued the orders, then frequently took no part in superintending the implementation or adapting it to changing circumstances: he merely waited in isolation for news. This coloured the views of many of the next generation of senior commanders, and accounts for much of their behaviour during the Second World War. Slim, Montgomery, O’Connor, Horrocks and others were always at pains to be seen in the front line. This sort of thing prompted commentators analysing the lessons of the Great War to remark on the necessity of leadership by example at all levels: this, for instance, from a veteran of Gallipoli: “War with impersonal leadership is a brutal, soul-destroying business . . . Our senior officers must get back to sharing danger and sacrifice with the men, however elevated their rank. . . .” 26

This is unfair on two counts. First, as a British General, you were far more likely to be killed in action during the Great War than during the Second World War, or at any time subsequently. Sixty-one British Generals were killed in action between 1914 and 1918, another nine died of wounds. This includes Brigadier-Generals, and among the Major-Generals were ten divisional commanders. 27 Compare this with only five between 1939 and 1945 28 four others died in accidents and six more in aircraft crashes.

This in spite of the obvious reaction to the charge of château generalship, that made it such a point of honour for Second World War Generals to be seen leading from the front. The second count bears directly on this. In order to exercise command, a General had to be able to do three essential things: to find out what was going on to communicate his intentions to his subordinates and to communicate with the staff so that it could solve problems and implement decisions. In the absence of battlefield radio, the means of doing these three things were personal observation, telephone, telegraph, and runner. The first always had value, but in a dispersed or extended battlefield it might be difficult to do, and might leave the General disconnected from his command for long periods. The others all indicate that the most complete information on which to base decisions would have been at the main headquarters. The simple truth is, therefore, that in those days, the closer a General approached to the front line, the less he could command. This argues for personal reconnaissance and visiting outside the periods of heavy fighting, and for remaining at the centre of communications when battle is joined.

Wyn Griffith was an outsider in the military system, with no axe to grind indeed he could be brutally frank when he chose. But in general his account – the account of one who had been a regimental officer on the Western Front – is sympathetic to the staff, and to many Generals – but not all. Wyn Griffith had the misfortune to serve under two particularly stupid Generals as well as several good ones. But even the bad ones were not château generals arguably they spent too much time in the front line. This underlines, therefore, why Wyn Griffith’s account should not be dismissed because it is sympathetic, even though that may go against much of the mythology of the Great War, of the “lions led by donkeys” school of thought which the likes of Hunter Weston and Price-Davies exemplify. This school of thought, which tends to classify every general and staff officer of the Great War in the donkey category clings on, despite the more objective analysis of command on the Western Front begun by John Terraine’s brave collection of essays in 1964, 29 and carried on by others like John Bourne, Gary Sheffield, Richard Holmes and Hew Strachan. Moreover it should not be discounted because it is personal, and because it is contemporary. By using his narrative, and fleshing it out with his letters and diaries as he himself considered doing, but did not complete, it may, in Wyn Griffith’s own words, “[do] . . . full justice to a much-maligned profession, and especially to commands or staff that were the target for all the many published war books.”

While Wyn Griffith was serving on the staff, what became of the London Welsh? In 1917 the battalion took part in the attack on Pilckem Ridge on 30 July during the Third Battle of Ypres. 30 In spite of heavy casualties, especially among the officers, the battalion achieved its objective on Iron Cross Ridge and repelled a heavy German counter-attack before being relieved on 6 August. Among the casualties were Crump Norman, who was wounded, and as we know, Ellis Evans who was killed. The Prince of Wales visited the battalion soon afterwards to congratulate them on their achievements. The battalion then went down to Armentières.

In early 1918, a disagreement developed between Haig and the government at home over the conduct of operations in the forthcoming months. The upshot was that the government withheld further reinforcements from the field army, even though there was no shortage of men, there being around a million trained soldiers in Britain at the time, and about the same in other theatres of war. But the government was fearful of another year of casualties on the scale of 1916 and 1917, should Haig go on the offensive. To maintain the B.E.F. at its full fighting strength of sixty divisions – nearly two million men – at steady state (i.e. during periods outside major phases of operations), required a turnover of almost 10,000 men every month – the equivalent of one division – to replace those killed, wounded, sick, missing, deserted or absent, prisoners and discharges for various reasons. Many of these reinforcements were soldiers recovered from wounds the balance, by 1918, was made up from conscription in England, Scotland and Wales and by volunteers from Ireland and the Empire. Withholding this level of reinforcement meant that field units and formations would rapidly become too small to hold their allocated frontages of the line. Accordingly, Haig ordered that one battalion in each brigade would be disbanded and the men distributed to keep the rest effective. This reduction of brigades from four to three fighting units was one of the contributory factors in the German success in breaking through the British line in March 1918.

In 115 Brigade, the battalion selected was the London Welsh and it left the line on 14 January 1918. After the war, the battalion was, in common with all the other war-service battalions, presented with a King’s Colour – which we still hold. The battalion’s Association continued for many years its members held a great celebration on the 50th anniversary commemoration of its raising in 1964. Now, as we approach the centenary, they are of course all gone.


Griffith, Wyn

Published by Severn House (1981)

From: Pieuler Store (Suffolk, United Kingdom)

About this Item: Condition: good. 100% Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed ! The book shows some signs of wear from use but is a good readable copy. Cover in excellent condition. Binding tight. Pages in great shape, no tears. Not contain access codes, cd, DVD. Seller Inventory # PSG0727806483


ISBN 13: 9781526700551

Llewelyn Wyn Griffith’s Up to Mametz, published in 1931, is now firmly established as one of the finest accounts of soldiering on the Western Front. It tells the story of the creation of a famous Welsh wartime battalion (The Royal Welch Fusiliers), its training, its apprenticeship in the trenches, through to its ordeal of Mametz Wood on the Somme as part of 38 Division. But there it stopped.

General Jonathon Riley has discovered Wyn Griffith’s unpublished diaries and letters which pick up where Up to Mametz left off through to the end of the War. With careful editing and annotation, the events of these missing years are now available alongside the original work. They tell of an officer’s life on the derided staff and provide fascinating glimpses of senior officers, some who attract high praise and others who the author obviously despised. The result is an enthralling complete read and a major addition to the bibliography of the period.

Llewelyn Wyn Griffiths was born into a Welsh speaking family in Llandrillo yn Rhos, North Wales. He joined the Civil Service as a Tax Surveyor. Aged 24 on the outbreak of War, he was accepted for a commission in the 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and served in the Battalion or on the staff for the rest of the War. Returning to the Inland Revenue he was responsible for the pay-As-You-Earn tax system, retiring in 1952. He filled many distinguished appointments, such as the Arts Council, and was a regular broadcaster. Awarded an Honorary DLitt by the University of Wales, he was holder of the CBE, OBE, Croix de Guerre and an MID. He died in 1977.

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Llewelyn Wyn Griffiths was born into a Welsh speaking family in Llandrillo yn Rhos, North Wales. He joined the Civil Service as a Tax Surveyor. Aged 24 on the outbreak of War, he was accepted for a commission in the 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and served in the Battalion or on the staff for the rest of the War. Returning to the Inland Revenue he was responsible for the pay-As-You-Earn tax system, retiring in 1952. He filled many distinguished appointments, such as the Arts Council, and was a regular broadcaster. Awarded an Honorary DLitt by the University of Wales, he was holder of the CBE, OBE, Croix de Guerre and an MID. He died in 1977.

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Sgt. William Williams 19th Btn. Tank Corps

From the age of 12, William Williams went down the mines, leading the pit ponies. Trained as a Male Nurse then enlisted in Royal Welsh Fusilliers. Selected to join the Heavy Machine Gun section which became the Tank Corps as mechanic/driver/gunner. Later became Sgt. 5/11/18 and Tank commander. Returned to nursing at The Priory with many famous patients 'Grandad Bill' wrote his memoirs which included a significant amount of detail of his time in the Tank Corps. This is his account of being signed up and trained:

The army at this time were stopping men at the railway stations and asking for their papers. I had none so thought I would take a chance and wrote for some. The result was, I got my calling up papers to join the army. I reported and was asked if there was a regiment I would like to join. I said the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, there was a London battalion, so I joined that in 1916. I was sent to Kinnock Park, Rhyl. I found some old school pals in other battalions there. I got through my recruits drill after two months. Then one day coming off parade I got the call, '24477 Williams report to the company office'. I reported and was given a pass for four days. Still in the dark of what it was about, on reporting back I was sent with 10 others to be transferred to the Machine Gun Corp (Heavy Section) at Wool in Dorset. The train was full of men going to the same place. When we arrived we were put in huts for the night, all wondering what it was, there were men from every regiment in the British Army there. We found out that it was for what was to be known later as the Tank Corps.

After a success on the Somme with a few tanks it had been decided to raise four battalions and we were the lot. It was a little while before things were settled down, as there was only one doctor there. No medical examinations were given, instead we were taken to what was an old crater on a hillside, and seven men at a time were put on it to run round, up and down. That was the test, if they pulled a man out he was sent back. I got through it so that was my corp for the rest of the war. I met some very nice men there and formed a friendship with Cliff Baldwin, a Yorkshire lad. We were pals for the whole time.

We were soon put into a new kind of training with machine guns, six pounder guns for the gunners, and driving and maintenance tests for drivers, also signalling, Morse code and pigeon training. So we were kept busy. We were put into crews of seven men and one officer. It was all interesting. I was first gunner and Cliff was the first driver. The gunners were sent to Whale Island, Portsmouth for a course with the Navy, as the Army had not any schools to try us, we would be firing from a moving tank at a moving object.


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