William Griffiths VC

b. 1841 County Roscommon, Ireland. d. 22/01/1879 Isandlwana, South Africa.

William Griffiths (1841-1879) was born sometime in 1841 in Roscommon, County Roscommon, Ireland and enlisted with the 24th Regiment of Foot (later South Wales Borderers) and was posted to India early in his career.

Griffiths VC Medal SWB Museum

Shortly before the 7th May 1867, at the island of Little Andaman, in the Bay of Bengal, a ship called the “Assam Valley” had anchored, and some of the crew went ashore. Shortly afterwards, news came that the crew had been set upon and murdered by some of the natives, as none of them had returned. In order to ascertain the crew’s fate, a second steamer was sent from Rangoon and landed near the island on the 7th. Some of their crew was attacked by the natives and with a huge storm raging, a rescue mission was organised to try and reach them. With the soldiers in peril on shore, Dr Campbell Mellis Douglas and four fellow members of the 24th including William Griffiths, manned a gig and attempted to reach them.

They very nearly succeeded in their endeavours, but, the boat beginning to fill rapidly, they were forced to retire. They then made a second attempt and were successful in reaching the shore, taking off five men. On these being placed safely on board, the doctor and his four brave men turned once more to the rescue of the rest of the soldiers, and by their strenuous efforts the entire party was eventually taken off the island.

Griffiths alongside his four comrades, was gazetted for the VC on 17th December 1867, and was invested with his medal in Rangoon on 16th April 1868 by Major-General A Faunce, the GOC Pegu. Following his VC investiture, Griffiths continued to serve in the 24th Regiment of Foot, and was eventually posted to fight in the Zulu Wars in South Africa. Griffiths was sadly killed during the Battle of Isandlhwana on 22nd January 1879 and was buried where he fell in a mass grave, which is now only marked by a pile of white stones known as a cairn. His medal is held by the South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon.