Gerald Isaac GRIFFITHS
Rank: Sergeant
Number: 27601
Date of Death: 31 May 1918
Age: 24
Cemetery: Pont-Neuville Communal Cemetery, Tourcoing, Nord, France

Moses Griffiths, a felt hat blocker, married Hannah Adshead at St Mary's Church, Reddish in the spring of 1889. Shortly after, they moved to 17 Station Street, Hazel Grove (and later to 4 Davenport Road). By 1901, when the census was taken, they had four children - Sarah (then 8), Gerald (6) Leonard (3) and Frank (11months). All three sons would fight during the War but Gerald and Leonard did not return.

The family worshipped at the Wesleyan Chapel and Gerald taught in the Primary Department of the Church's Sunday School. It is not known what he did for a living but, on 2 July 1915, he travelled to Salford and enlisted into the Fusiliers. He went overseas on active service in the November.

On 9 April 1918, the Germans opened the second phase of their spring offensive around the border between Belgium and France in what would become known as the Battle of the Lys. The fighting was still going on two weeks later. The 19th Battalion of the Fusiliers was a Pioneer Battalion. They were trained fighting soldiers, but their main job was in the construction of trenches and strong-points. During a major attack, they would follow the leading waves of troops and undertake the consolidation of any captured positions. Between the 22nd and 24th April, they were engaged on this task, digging a communication trench from the rear area towards the front line at the south east corner of Mt. Kemmel (about 6 miles south west of Ypres).

The Regimental History recounts "At 2.30am on the 25th, the German artillery opened a heavy bombardment with high explosives and lachrymatory and mustard gas as had been foretold by a prisoner taken by the French the previous evening. The infantry assault followed at 6am when the Germans over-ran the French positions and, in a little over an hour, had seized Kemmel village and Mt. Kemmel with its invaluable observation".

The Battalion now took up the best defensive position it could, around a farm on a spur of the hill known as Little Kemmel. They were continuously attacked until the enemy succeeded in working round both flanks when surrender or death became the only possibilities.

"In spite of a gallant and prolonged resistance against overwhelming odds, the Battalion had met with disaster owing to a German advance of a rapidity which could not have been foreseen and which should not have been possible."

Thomas Palfreyman and Arthur Wray were two of the 58 men from the Battalion who were killed during the day. Few have a known grave. Gerald was originally posted as "missing" but several weeks later, news came through that he had been taken prisoner. It would be even longer before news was again received from the Red Cross in Geneva that he had died on 31 May. Regimental records published after the War (and now available on the CD-ROM "Soldiers Died in the Great War") indicate that Gerald "died". This designation is normally reserved for a death from natural causes, but John Eaton, in his book "Hazel Grove to Armageddon", states that the notification from the Red Cross included the news that Gerald had died from wounds he had received.

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