648376 Pte. George Fraser Griffin was born to George and Ethel Griffin in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on June 30th, 1897. They emmigrated to Canada three years later and settled in the little town of Worthington, Ontario, outside of Sudbury, where George Sr. worked in the mine. George had a brother, Charlie, who was 4 years younger.

On January 26th, 1916, George volunteered into the 159th (1st Algonquin) Battalion of the CEF. He was given regimental number 648376. George was 18 years old, stood 5 foot 7 inches tall and weighed 140 lbs. He was found to be in good physical health, had hazel eyes, dark complexion and black hair (on his attestation papers his hair colour is mistakenly noted as blue). At the time he was a single student and belonged to the Church of England. George's father, George Sr., soon volunteered to the same unit on March 18th. George Sr. was a 39 year old miner and he presumably volunteered to look out for his oldest son. Both men had previous militia experience with the 97th Regiment.

When their training was complete, the 159th left Canada on the S.S. Empress of Britain on October 31st, 1916, and arrived in England on November 1st. George spent a few months in Shoreham, Kent, before the 159th Battalion was then broken up to bolster the strength of the reserve battalions used to reinforce the front line battalions. George was transferred to the 8th Reserve Battalion and arrived in Seaford on February 7th, 1917. He continued his training here until April 21st, when he was transferred to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles. He landed in France the next day and arrived for duty at his unit on May 5th.

The 4th CMR was staying in shelters in Pylones and the next day the 4th moved up to shelters at La Folie Ridge, all the while under fire from German high explosive shells. This would have been a rude introduction to the war as they took 6 casualties just relieving the 58th Battalion. On May 12th George would have watched as 30 planes took part in an aerial battle overhead in which 4 planes were shot down before they were relieved and moved into the Grange Tunnel to spend the night.

The next day they moved to Villers Camp and were held in Divisional reserve. On May 26th, 1917, George was well behind the lines at Toronto Camp. It was 8:30pm and the 4th CMR was enjoying a game of baseball, when another young man, Pte. Clarence McCabe, picked up a blind (unexploded) shell. The shell went off, killing Clarence instantly and George died very shortly afterwards. 7 other men died as a result of that accident, including:

Pte. Charles Hartin and

Sgt. George Knowles both also died immediately;

Pte. Shurley Asselstine,

Pte. Arthur Carroll and

Pte. Bertie Traviss died the next day at no. 6. Casualty Clearing Station;

Pte. James Dunn survived until May 31st and

Pte. Edwin Payne died on June 18th.

10 more were wounded, including: Pte. Thomas Davy and Pte. Morley Gilbert.

George had spent almost a year and a half training and only spent a few days on the front lines before being taken by this tragic accident. He is buried in La Targette British Cemetery outside of Neuville St Vaast, Pas De Calais, France and a picture of his grave can be found on the Maple Leaf Legacy Project website. George's father survived the war.

Credit and many thanks go to Bryan Joyce for the above biography and image.

Bryan has written a book about Clarence McCabe's life, and this can be reviewed and bought via this link: Clarence McCabe