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Remembering Fred Griffiths

Posted on 10 August 2017  - 04:00

A century after the start of one of the bloodiest battles of World War One, the country pays tribute to those who died in the Battle of Passchendaele. In three months of fighting, half a million Allied and German soldiers were killed with many more wounded or missing.

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The conflict - officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres - was fought from July 31, 1917, until the November that year when the relentless rain caused the thick mud for which the occasion is also well remembered.

Among those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in that battle was former Spurs and Wales goalkeeper Fred Griffiths.

Born in Presteigne, Fred played locally in junior football before emerging at Blackpool. He made his senior Wales debut against Scotland at Aberdeen in February, 1900, and later that year played against England, making him the first Blackpool player to win an international cap.

He then moved south to join Millwall Athletic before joining our Southern League side in April, 1901. Fred was signed as understudy to our FA Cup-winning ‘keeper George Clawley but had an extended run in the side in the middle of the season when Clawley was injured.

Griffiths moved to Preston North End in March, 1902, and by the following September had joined West Ham United, ending his career with New Brompton in 1904.

Fred was working as a coalminer when he enlisted in the 15th Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), where he reached the rank of Sergeant. The unit had originally been raised as a bantam battalion in Nottingham in 1915, which was ironic as Fred was 6’2” and described by author Bob Goodwin in his ‘Spurs Alphabet’ as “a fearless goalkeeper with an imposing frame and presence.”

By 1917, Fred’s battalion was part of the 35th Division that was called into the Battle of Passchendaele where sadly he was killed in action on October 30, 1917. He was aged 44. Four others of his battalion died that day with another 15 wounded.

We continue to salute his brave memory and those of his comrades.

By John Fennelly