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.