James Griffin was a 40-year-old widower with no children when he enlisted in Casula on 13 December 1915.
Born in Orange in 1875 James was the second eldest son of James John Griffin and Ellen Agnes Carroll. For many years he was employed at Dalton Brothers flour mill in Summer Street.
On 30 April 1902 James married Elizabeth Fitzgerald at St Joseph’s Church in Orange; Elizabeth died less than two years later, on 1 February 1904, of asthenia, chronic phthisis and consumption.
James moved to Sydney following his wife’s death, and secured work as a labourer with the tramways.
In March 1916 James returned to Orange to farewell his friends and family before embarking for overseas service. The Leader reports that “a choice supper” was served at his father’s house in Anson Street, after which James was presented with “a handsome wristlet watch”. When the party drew to a close just before midnight, the ladies subjected James to “a fierce kissing bombardment”.
Private Griffin embarked HMAT Nestor A71 in Sydney on 9 April 1916. He spent time briefly in Egypt before continuing on to camp in England. In September he proceeded to France, and, on 26 September was taken on strength with the 19th Battalion.
At 6.45am on 14 November 1916 the 19th Battalion formed part of a British attack on the German front line near Flers in the Somme Valley. Heavy autumn rain had turned the area into a quagmire; soldiers were sucked down by the cloying mud and were easy targets for German machine-gunners and riflemen. It was on this day that Private Griffin was reported as missing in action. Over a year later, on 8 January 1918, the AIF declared James to have been killed in action on 14 November 1916.
In October 1918 James’ identity disc was forwarded to his father in Orange. It was not until May of 1921 that James’ father was informed of his son’s final resting place – Warlencourt British Cemetery; and in 1922 James snr was issued with his son’s war medals and memorial plaque.
James Griffin is commemorated on St Joseph’s Church Orange Honour Roll and on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph. A plaque commemorating James appears on his wife Elizabeth’s grave in Orange Cemetery, Catholic Section TE, Grave 273.
James Griffin memorial plaque, Orange Cemetery. Image courtesy Orange Cemetery.
The Leader reports that yesterday’s War Chest Button Day sales were hampered by rain and sleet. Button Day
French forces retake Fort Thiaumont at Verdun
Arrangements for the upcoming Military Carnival in Orange continue. A special train is organised to bring more than 300 soldiers from Bathurst Camp to Orange for the event; a monster procession along Summer Street will take place following a civic reception and military parade. It is anticipated that the two-day carnival will raise funds for the comfort of soldiers at Bathurst Training Camp and boost recruitment. The Military Carnival
War Chest Button Day. The Orange Red Cross sells buttons to raise funds to help soldiers on the front line
French troops repulse a German attack on Hill 304 at Verdun and take the German first and second line trenches at Tahure in Champagne
Self-styled ambassador of the Irish nation and organiser of the Easter Rising, Sir Roger Casement, is found guilty of high treason and is sentenced to death. He is sentenced to hang at Pentonville Prison on August 3, 1916. The Trial of Sir Roger Casement
Buy a button! Buy a button for the soldiers at the war;
A gold ‘un for a century, or silver for a score;
Oh, please to buy a button, Sir, and do not look askance;
‘Twill buy a stick of chocolate for somebody in France.
Buy a button, buy a button or the fund will go to smash;
Mr. Budden’s bought a lorry, and he’s nearly out of cash;
He is blowing up the rhino just as quickly as he can,
So won’t you buy a button to assist, him, Mr, Man?
I have written of Tom Henley in the days gone by; and then
It wasn’t always eulogy, that trickled from my pen;
But I doff my hat to Henley, who has faced the choking sand
To take the boys their puddings in a damned uncomfy land,
Didn’t Tom look well in khaki ‘ere he started on the trip?
But, bedad, he did his duty when he went aboard the ship,
Though he might have stuck to business and have made a tidy cheque
Or he might have stayed in Sydney getting Griffiths in the neck.
Buy a button! Buy a button, and we’ll send a bob to Tom,
Who has chanced the sly torpedo and the aviators’ bomb.
Buy a jolly lot of buttons and we’ll send a cable out;
“We’re selling plenty buttons, Tom, keep splashing it about.”
Buy a button for a soldier who has sucked an empty bowl.
Till his mouth is dry as aches and a curse is in his soul.
At every Orange corner will the War Chest set its traps,
And the fellows who are running it are pretty decent chaps.
When off to Heliopolis a draft has barely gone,
Budden cables: “Send some money, for the last two thousand’s gone;
I hope my friends are all O.K.; please give ’em love for me;
Tell ’em Henley’s riding camels and he can’t sit down to tea.”
The secretary chews a pen and rubs a puzzled head;
He has to get a move on or the joint will soon be dead;
He stares at this, he stares at that, at last he sees a way,
And he writes to all the papers that he’ll have a Button Day,
Buy a button! Buy a button for the jellies, jams and soups
That are packed on Henley’s camels when he goes to see the troops;
Buy a button! Buy a button for the man behind the gun,
For the rowdy boys from Sydney, who will make the Germans run.
Buy a button for the laddie who has lost an arm or leg.
Buy a button! Buy a button! Is there any need to beg
For the sake of our Australia and the Freedom you hold dear,
Buy a Button! Buy a Button! Buy a Button! DO YOU HEAR
Youngest Australian Victoria Cross recipient JWA Jackson. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
18-year-old John William Alexander Jackson from Hay wins the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to an Australian serviceman in France. Jackson displays a “splendid example of pluck and determination” when he captures a German prisoner and rescues several men at Bois Grenier, near Armentieres, despite having his arm shattered by an exploding shell. (His arm was later amputated). Jackson remains the youngest Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
Allied troops commence a week-long artillery bombardment of German defensive positions along the Somme River in northern France, in preparation for a major British-led offensive on 1 July. More than 1.5 million shells are fired along a 25km front in an attempt to destroy German trenches and barricades, clearing the way for an infantry advance.
French counter-attacks regain some ground in the Battle of Verdun; German troops occupy part of Fleury, their farthest point of advance to date
Russian forces drive Austrian troops from Bukovina
General Jacob Louis Van Deventer’s South African Mounted Brigade defeats German troops on Lukigura River in German East Africa
German forces resume their offensive near Verdun, targeting Fort Souville. At 10pm they fire 110,000 grenades containing poisonous phosgene gas. One by one the French guns fall silent. The Germans take the village of Fleury just two miles north of Verdun, but French counter-attacks prevent any advance south. Verdun has become a battle of attrition for both sides with a death toll approaching 500,000.