John Griffiths was born in Bryn Goleu, Gwaenysgor in 1900. His parents Thomas and Mary Jane were from the village. According to the 1871 census his father – then 5 years of age – was living in number 2, Bryn Goleu where he too was born. The location of Bryn Goleu is currently unknown. Although for the purpose of each census it is recorded as being in Gwaenysgor, in 1911 Thomas Griffiths gave his address as Bryn Goleu, Meliden.
The 1901 census tells us that Thomas was working as a labourer on the railway in Rhyl. He and Mary had recently started a family. Their two young sons were Isaac Foulkes and John.
By 1911 the marriage had produced 6 children one of whom, Gwilym, had already died as an infant. Isaac, now 13, was a pupil in the County School in Rhyl. Isaac and John’s younger siblings were Thomas Wilfred, Rhoda Nesta and Myfanwy. The census tells us that, with the exception of the two little girls who spoke only Welsh, the remainder of the family was bilingual. This would suggest that Welsh was the main language spoken in the home.
According to the Griffiths Family Tree (Ancestry) a second tragedy befell the family when little Myfanwy died in 1915. She would have been around 8 years old.
In 1917 when John was 18 he joined up. We know very little about his life in the army except that he served in the 16th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and that he was killed in action. There is a discrepancy in the recorded date of death – both ‘UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War’ and the ‘Register of Soldier’s Effects’ give the date as 4th of November 1918. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission documents and the service record card both give the date as the 8th of November.
Whatever the true date, John Griffiths is buried in the British Cemetery in Englefontaine.
Englefontaine was captured by the 18th and 33rd Divisions on the 26th October, 1918. Englefontaine British Cemetery was made by the Burial Officer of the 38th (Welsh) Division in November, 1918, and enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from the following cemetery:- LES TUILERIES BRITISH CEMETERY, ENGLEFONTAINE, was behind the garden of a house, on the North side of the road to Salesches, at a hamlet called Les Tuileries. It was made by the 33rd and 38th Divisions in November, 1918, and contained the graves of 55 soldiers from the United Kingdom. There are now over 150, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, nearly 10 are unidentified. (Commonwealth War Graves website)
John’s parents requested this inscription on his headstone:
D’EWYLLYS DI A WNELER
Your Deed Has Been Fulfilled
John is also commemorated on the Meliden memorial.
So, of their six children Thomas and Mary had now lost three. Furthermore, in 1922 Isaac went to Canada, returned and the following year married a girl from Aberystwyth. Soon afterwards he took her back to Canada where they remained for the rest of their lives.