The remarkable Anglo-American group of six awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel R. H. Griffiths, United States Army, late U.S. Volunteer Infantry and Philippines Constabulary, and Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment and the Royal Scots, who was killed in action as a U.S. Battalion C.O. in April 1918
United States of America, Philippine Insurrection Medal 1899, officially numbered ‘23344’, wrap-round brooch suspension, in its original numbered card box of issue, with old ink inscriptions inside, including ‘1st Sergt. 37 U.S. Inf. Vols., Richard H. Griffiths, 1899’
United States of America, Spanish War Service Medal, officially numbered ‘17531’, in its original numbered card box of issue, brooch-pin for wearing
United States of America, Philippine Congressional Medal 1899, officially numbered ‘4456’, with wrap round brooch suspension, in its original numbered card box of issue, with old ink inscription inside, ‘The President McKinley Congressional Medal, Philippines Insurrection, 1899, Richard H. Griffiths, First Sergt., 37th U.S. Inf. Vol.’
Great Britain, 1914-15 Star (Major R. H. Griffiths, Notts. & Derby. R.), in its original named card box of issue, with old ink inscriptions, including ‘Dardanelles Medal (Star), Major R. H. Griffiths (Mrs. Griffiths)’
Great Britain, British War Medal 1914-20 (Major R. H. Griffiths), in its original named card box of issue, with old ink inscription as before but ‘British War Medal 1914-1918’
United States of America, Victory Medal, slide-on clasp, Defensive Sector, with wrap round brooch suspension, in its original card box of issue, with old ink inscriptions to lid and base, ‘Victory Medal 779379 issued to Mrs. Anne M. Griffiths, widow of Lieut. Col. Richard H. Griffiths, U.S. Infantry, 12.1.21’ and ‘Given by Geo. C. Marshall, Major, 1920, in person’
United States of America, Spanish War Veterans Badge 1898-1902, bronze, with ornate bar and eagle suspension, with numbered lid of original box of issue ‘14713’ and old ink inscription, ‘Spanish Am. War Veterans Badge, U.S.W.V.’
United States of America, Philippine Campaign Veterans Badge 1898-1899, bronze, with enamelled ‘8’ to centre and ‘U.S.V.’ suspension bar and eagle above
United States of America, Purple Heart Lapel Badge, gilt and enamel, the reverse inscribed, ‘A. M. G.’,
Richard Henry Griffiths was born in Derbyshire in February 1873, his family emigrating to the United States of America whilst he was still a youngster.
On the declaration of war with Spain in April 1898, he joined the Tennessee National Guard, and in November was embarked for the Philippines, as a Sergeant in Company ‘M’ of the 1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. Quickly witnessing action at San Juan del Monte and the capture of the water works at Luzon, he was also present at the capture of Iloilo and Paney and in various other skirmishes.
Advanced to 1st Sergeant in Company ‘A’ of the 37th U.S. Volunteer Infantry in July 1899, Griffiths saw action at Columba, Santo Tomas, Aluminos, San Diego and elsewhere, including the capture of a wagon train, while in the following year he participated in General Schwann’s expedition through Southern Luzon, and in General Hill’s expedition to Polillo and Infanta, being recommended for a certificate of merit for gallantry displayed on 28 February 1900. Returning to the U.S.A. on the cessation of the main hostilities, he passed the examination for a 2nd Lieutenancy, but did not take up the appointment and instead, after a short period out of uniform, re-enlisted in the U.S. Army Engineers as a Private 2nd Class, in which capacity he returned to the Philippines where, in October 1901, he transferred to the local Constabulary with a commission as a Lieutenant.
Griffiths subsequently attained the rank of Major and, with the advent of hostilities in Europe in August 1914, sailed for London to offer his services. Duly commissioned in the Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment in March 1915, he was advanced to the temporary rank of Major that September and seconded to command, and evacuate from Gallipoli, the badly mauled 1/5th Battalion of the Royal Scots, who had suffered heavy casualties since the landings in April. This duty done, and after a period of re-mustering in Egypt, he was embarked with the Battalion for France in March 1916, where he remained in command until relieved. Reverting to the rank of Captain, he then re-joined the 2nd Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and was severely wounded in the Ypres Salient in June 1916, losing part of his shoulder blade.
Returning to duty out in France in February 1917, Griffiths resigned his commission that November, when he accepted a Majority in the United States Army and was posted to the 18th U.S. Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, which was occupying positions north-west of Toul. Subsequently commended for his ‘cool calm and efficiency in the trying days of January and February 1918’, he was advanced to Lieutenant-Colonel and given command of the 3rd Battalion, 18th Regiment. About this time, a New York Times correspondent wrote:
‘When his command was going into the line, Lieutenant-Colonel Griffiths sat astride his horse at a crossroads over which German shrapnel was bursting heavily, and was unconcerned as if a thousand miles away from the war. He spoke to his men sharply, but in a low voice, telling them not to forget who the enemy was, what he had done, and to punish him. He had been a constant visitor in the trenches and shell-holes held by his troops, taking long chances to get to all of them, making sure that they were getting everything they wanted and were well cared for.’
Griffiths was killed in action during the final days of April 1918, near Villers-Turnelle, when a German high-explosive shell landed in front of his dugout just as he had emerged.
A correspondent overheard a group of men discussing their Colonel earlier that day: “There’s the old man, and believe me, if you are looking for a soldier and a gentleman, there he is. Every man in this outfit would go straight through Hell if Griffiths gave the order to march.”
A Corporal was killed by the same shell and a number of others were wounded, the Corporal falling across his Colonel’s body. They were buried nearby.
As verified by the recipient’s MIC entry, he was never issued with the Victory Medal by the British authorities, the relevant column being endorsed: ‘Transferred to American Army. To be administered by Washington, U.S.A.’; in so far as his earlier American awards are concerned, his Philippine Congressional Medal was sent to him on 30 July 1910 (Medal No. 4456), and his Philippine and Spanish War campaign issued to his widow on 18 November 1926, the respective Serial Numbers differing to those on the above described awards.
Sold with original British Consulate (Paris) passports for both Griffiths and his wife, with portrait photographs, issued in November 1917 and July 1915 respectively; together with a file of research, including copied application forms for the American awards.
Ex. Hal Giblin Collection, Christies 10 November 1992, lot 322.
Generally good very fine and most probably unique $4750
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