Victim of the Great War

The unveiling of the Monument to the Fallen Soldiers of the Great War in the Narrandera Memorial Gardens on November 21, 1923 by Major General Sir Charles Rosenthal.

Percy Talbot Griggs, son of Hugh Gardiner Griggs of Narrandera was one of the first from this district to enlist for service in the Great War and one of the original ANZACs. After the evacuation of Gallipoli he saw service with the Australian Forces in France and Belgium and was awarded the Military Medal and the Belgian Croix de Guerre for distinguished conduct on the field. On his return home after the war Mr Griggs opened a business as a plumber and tinsmith, but after a time ill health forced him to dispose of his business.

Talbot Griggs, as he was affectionately known, was a devotee of the Australian football code. Prior to leaving for the war he was one of the most popular members of the Imperial Football Club, and one of its most prominent players. The long, dreary years of war did not lessen his ardour for the game, for on his return he again donned the colours of the Imperials and displayed some of his former dash as a player.

When his illness contracted during the war years manifested itself and he was unable to continue as a playing member, he did not lose his interest in the club. For one season he acted as secretary and at the beginning of the last football season he was elected one of the Imperial Club’s delegates on the South Western Districts Football League, a position he held until his untimely death at age 31.

As a resident of the town few were more generally popular than Mr Griggs. Even when sickness gripped him, his cheerful disposition did not leave him and was said to have borne his long illness with the greatest fortitude. The coffin at his funeral was covered with the Union Jack and borne by his comrades in active service, Dr H O Lethbridge, G Norman Dixon,W R Talbot and W M Smith. The burial service was delivered by the Rev W Carlyle Moulton and the Last Post sounded by Bugler Regan.

Dr Lethbridge expressed his admiration for Mr Griggs, who enlisted in the Great War before the need for men was fully realised.

The men behind the planting of trees in Victoria Avenue.

It is timely to recall that Australia’s involvement in the First World War began when Britain and Germany went to war on August 4, 1914. The first significant Australian action of the war was the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force’s landing at Rabaul on September 11, 1914. It took possession of German New Guinea at Toma on September 17, 1914 and of the neighbouring islands of the Bismarck Archipelago in October 1914. On November 9, 1914 the Royal Australian Navy made a major contribution when HMAS Sydney destroyed the German raider SMS Emden.

On April 25, 1915 members of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) landed on Gallipoli with troops from New Zealand, Britain and France. This began a campaign that ended with the evacuation of troops on December 19 and 20, 1915. Following Gallipoli, Australian forces fought campaigns on the Western Front and in the Middle East.

Throughout 1916  and 1917 losses on the Western Front were heavy and gains were small. In 1918 the Australians reached the peak of their fighting performance in the battle of Hamel on July4. From August 8 they then took part in a series of decisive advances until Germany surrendered on November 11. The Middle East campaign began in 1916 with Australian troops participating in the defence of the Suez Canal and the allied reconquest of the Sinai Peninsula.

In the following year Australian and other allied troops advanced into Palestine and captured Gaza and Jerusalem; by 1918 they had occupied Lebanon and Syria. On October 30, 1918 Turkey sued for peace.

For Australia, as for many nations, the First World War remains the most costly conflict in terms of deaths and casualties. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.

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