PO/264/S Private Edward Griffiths, Royal Marine Light Infantry, Portsmouth Battalion was killed in action between the 3rd and 6th May 1915 in Gallipoli, Turkey.[1]  He was 19 years old and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli and on the War Memorial in St. Mark’s Churchyard, Eldon near Bishop Auckland.

Family Background

Edward was born 18 May 1896 at Ffestiniog in Merionethshire, Wales, the son of David and Ellen Griffiths.  There were 6 children, all born in Wales but David:[2]

  • Edward bc.1896
  • Mary Ellen bc.1898
  • John bc.1900
  • Margaret Jane bc.1903
  • Richard Maurice bc.1906
  • David bc.1909 born at Eldon Lane, County Durham

In 1901, 35 year old David (born at Llanfrothen, Merioneth) was employed as a quarryman and 28 year old Ellen (born at Caenarvon) lived at Ffestiniog, Merionethshire, Wales.

By 1911, the family lived at 30 Douglas Terrace, Eldon Lane, Bishop Auckland, County Durham.  David now aged 45 worked as a coal miner (a hewer).  14 year old Edward was also a coal miner, described as a driver i.e. working with pit ponies hauling tubs of coal from the coal face to the shaft bottom to be raised to the surface.  Since David was born at Eldon Lane, it is deduced that the family moved to Co. Durham between 1906 and 1909.  The family later lived at 6 Millbank Terrace, Eldon Lane.[3]

Service Details [4]

22 October 1914:  Edward Griffiths attested.  The medical details inform that he was 5ft.6″ with fresh complexion, brown hair and blue eyes.  PO/264/S Private Edward Griffiths served with the Portsmouth Battalion, part of the 2nd Royal Naval Brigade.

3 December 1914:  He “embarked” with RM Brigade.

28 February 1915: left England with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

The Royal Naval Division [5]

At the declaration of the war on 4 August 1914, there was a surplus of some 20-30,000 men of the Royal Navy Reserve who would not find positions on warships.  It was recognized that this number of men was sufficient to form two Naval Brigades and a Brigade of Marines for operations on land.  The Royal Marine Brigade was dispatched to Ostende, Belgium on 27 August 1914 then on 20 September it arrived at Dunkirk with orders to assist in the defence of Antwerp. The Royal Naval Division was formed in September 1914. At this stage, it had no artillery, field ambulances or other ancillary units.  The two other Naval Brigades moved to Dunkirk on 5 October 1914.  In 1915, after a lengthy period of refit and training, the Division moved to Egypt in preparation for the Gallipoli campaign as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

The Gallipoli Campaign [6]

The 8 month campaign in Gallipoli, Turkey was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.  The Allies landed on the peninsula on 25-26 April 1915, the 29th Division at Cape Helles in the south and the Australian and New Zealand Corps north of Gaba Tepe on the west coast (an area to become known as Anzac Cove).  On 6 August, further landings were made at Suvla just north of Anzac and the climax of the campaign came in early August when simultaneous assaults were launched on all 3 fronts.  However the difficult terrain and stiff Turkish resistance soon led to the stalemate of trench warfare.  From the end of August no further serious action was fought and the lines remained unchanged.  The peninsula was successfully evacuated in December and early January 1916.

Timeline: 1915

  • 9 February – 16 March: The Naval bombardment of the Straits Forts
  • 18 March: The Naval attempt to force the Straits (18 March)
  • 25 April: The Landings at Cape Helles and ANZAC Cove and the deployment of the RMLI to Gallipoli
  • 28 April: The First Battle of Krithia
  • 2 May: The Turkish night counter-attack
  • 6 May: The Second Battle of Krithia
  • 4 June: The Third Battle of Krithia
  • 28 June: The Battle of Gully Ravine
  • 6 – 9 August: The Landings at Suvla Bay and the ANZAC attack on Chunuk Bair
  • 21 August: The Battle of Scimitar Hill and attack on Hill 60
  • 10 – 19 December: Evacuation of ANZAC bridgehead and Suvla Bay
  • 10 December – 9 January 1916: Evacuation of Cape Helles bridgehead

Gallipoli was by no means purely an ANZAC affair.  In fact, both the rest of the British, and the French army contingents on Gallipoli outnumbered the ANZACs in terms of men deployed and casualties lost.  It has proven to be very difficult to determine the losses of both sides in this most appalling and costly theatre.  Perhaps the most realistic estimates are that the Turkish army suffered 300,000 casualties (including the many sick) and the Allies, 265,000. The consequent effect of diverting troops and supplies sorely needed on the Western Front, particularly for the assault at Loos, is impossible to quantify. Conditions on Gallipoli defy description. The terrain and close fighting did not allow for the dead to be buried. Flies and other vermin flourished in the heat, which caused epidemic sickness. In October 1915, winter storms caused much damage and human hardship, and in December, a great blizzard – followed by cataclysmic thaw – caused casualties of 10% (15,000 men) throughout the British contingent, and no doubt something similar on the Turkish side. Of the 213,000 British casualties on Gallipoli, 145,000 were due to sickness; chief causes being dysentery, diarrhea, and enteric fever.

The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force [7]

The British forces involved at Gallipoli, known as the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, were:

  • 29th Division (landed 25 April 1915)
  • Australian and New Zealand Corps (landed 25 April 1915)
  • Royal Naval Division (landed 25 April 1915)
  • 42nd (East Lancashire) Division (landed May 1915)
  • 52nd (Lowland) Division (landed June 1915)
  • 13th (Western) Division (landed 6-16 July 1915)
  • 10th (Irish) Division (landed 6-7 August 1915)
  • 11th (Northern) Division (landed 6-7 August 1915)
  • 53rd (Welsh) Division (landed 9 August 1915)
  • 54th (East Anglian) Division (landed 10 August 1915)

 The Royal Marine Light Infantry (Portsmouth Battalion) deployment to Gallipoli [8]

Initially the Portsmouth and Deal Battalions remained at Blandford while other battalions sailed for Egypt.

  • 11 March the Portsmouth Battalion arrived at Lemnos from England on “Gloucester Castle”.
  • 12 March: The Royal Marine Brigade was under orders of the Royal Naval Division.
  • 18 March at 6.30pm: Royal Marine Brigade sailed for a “demonstration” off Gaba Tepe, which was carried out at 5.30am next day. 1.30pm ships returned to Lemnos.
  • 24 March: Royal Marine Brigade sailed for Alexandria in Egypt. Orders were modified en route and the force sailed to Port Said, arrived 26-7 March.
  • 7 April: Brigade re-embarked at Alexandria.
  • 11-12 April: arrived at Lemnos.
  • 16 April: moved to Trebuki Bay, Skyros, where the Division was concentrating.
  • 23 April: Brigade sailed for Gulf of Xeros.
  • 25 April: Division carried out a feint landing at Bulair, while British 29th Division landed at Cape Helles beaches and the Australian and New Zealand forces landed at beach near Gaba Tepe / Ari Burnu soon to be known as Anzac Cove. The Plymouth Battalion landed at “Y” beach in support of the 29th Division.
  • 27 April: ships carrying the Brigade arrived off Cape Helles at daylight.
  • 28 April 5pm: “Gloucester Castle” and “Cawdor Castle” ordered to move and anchor off Gaba Tepe. Chatham and Portsmouth Battalions ordered to disembark and come under orders of 1st Australian Division on arrival. On completion of disembarkation at 8pm, the Brigade was ordered to take over No 2 Section of defences held by Australian and New Zealand forces. This was the western edge of Lone Pine plateau.
  • 29 April: Deal and Nelson Battalions together with Brigade Headquarters landed at Anzac in the evening and moved up through Shrapnel Gully to the forward defences.

 29 April – 5 May 1915:  The First Battle of Krithia: The Portsmouth Battalion [9]

“The 29th and 30th of April and the 1st May were, comparatively speaking quiet days.  They were chiefly marked, in so far as the invaders were concerned, by the arrival of 2 more battalions of the RND and the 29th Indian Brigade.”

Deal and Nelson Battalions arrived at Helles.

“These additions to the force considerably increased its numerical strength for the moment and they added appreciably to its security.  Some more batteries, British and French, were also landed.  The brief lull, however, was brought to an end on the night of the 1st by the Turks delivering a furious and well directed attack, the full force of which fell upon the Allies’ centre about the junction of the British and French contingents.”

2/3 May:  There was a counter attack by the Turks at night.

3 May:  The Chatham and Portsmouth Battalions were moved up out of reserve to help in the assault by the New Zealand & Australian Division at the head of Monash Valley.

Private Harry Baker, Chatham Battalion, Royal Marine Brigade, RND recalled in an interview what happened as the Turks launched a sustained counter-attack from the front.

“We fired away at all the Turks who kept advancing. They were then about one hundred and fifty yards away and they came up in almost mass formation so we had very easy targets. An Australian came and lay next to me and on his right another man scaled this steep slope and it turned out to be Major Armstrong of the Portsmouth Royal Marines. Captain Richards was next to him and all the way to the right were men shoulder to shoulder lying on the ground. No cover at all, just lying on the ridge.”

As the Turks attacked from their front the complex nature of the landscape allowed a German machine gun in German Officers Trench, just north of Wire Gully, to get a clear enfilade shot at the men lying on the open ridge facing the Chessboard.

“Suddenly a machine gun crackled away at right angles to us, we were firing ahead and it was even behind us. This machine gun went along and that killed every man on the ridge except the Australian and me. We were the only two left. The Australian said, “The bastards can’t kill me, they’ve had lots of tries, they can’t kill me!” I looked again. The machine gun started barking again behind us. That came along it was knocking the sand up and that covered every men again. Every man, it came right along. I felt the bullets thud into the Aussie and he never spoke again. I felt as though I’d been hit by a donkey and I had a bullet through the right foot. When I saw those bullets coming along and I knew that it would be the end of me if they came along far enough. They say your past comes up but I can say truthfully that I hadn’t got much past at nineteen and all I thought of was ‘Am I going to live’, that’s all I thought, that’s what struck me, ‘Am I going to be lucky’, because I couldn’t see how I could be with all these bullets coming along and I waited for it – it was inevitable.”

Luckily for Baker the machine gun stopped after the bullet had slammed into his foot. However he wasn’t out of trouble yet. Even as they were destroyed from behind the Turks in front charged forwards to over-run their position.

“I lay there and I didn’t know what to do. The Turks came and prodded various men with their bayonets, fortunately they didn’t poke me, and I could hear them jabbering away and then they moved away again. “Well,” I thought, “I must do something!” so I gave myself a push off and went bumpity-bumpity right down to the bottom of the ravine over dead men, rifles, bush, all kinds of things.”

Baker was eventually rescued and evacuated. The corpses of his comrades lay up on the ridge, rotting and turning black in the hot sun for the rest of the campaign. It became known as Dead Man’s Ridge.

3/4 May:  Another Turkish night time counter attack resulted in the French suffering many casualties.

5 May:  The Lancashire Fusilier Brigade, 42nd East Lancashire Division, arrived.  Up to the evening of the 5th, Sir Ian Hamilton gave the figure of his losses as just short of 14,000 exclusive of the French casualties.

6 May:  The 2nd Australian Brigade and the New Zealand Brigade (Infantry) landed at Helles.    Heavy casualties occurred in the ranks of the infantry of the 29th Division and the 2 ANZAC Divisions, reducing their strength by about 2/5ths.

6 – 8 May: The Second Battle of Krithia [10]

The Allies were anxious to take possession of Achi Baba and the high ground stretching across the Gallipoli Peninsula.  The town of Krithia lay to the south of Achi Baba.  Forces were re-organized for the attack.

The 2 ANZAC Brigades (as mentioned above) had been transferred from the west coast to Helles and a composite division was made with these 2 ANZAC Brigades and the 1st Naval Brigade which was to be employed as a general reserve during the coming offensive.  The 2nd Naval Brigade was attached to the French contingent.  The Lancashire Fusilier Brigade and the 29th Indian Brigade were attached to the 29th Division.

The Turks had dug themselves in, had emplaced numbers of machine guns and had introduced wire entanglements to strengthen specific points.  They overlooked ground occupied by the Allies since they held Achi Baba and the surrounding country.  The attack of the 6th brought about a battle that lasted 3 days without intermission.  On the first day some ground was gained by the 29th Division and the French on the right but at the cost of many casualties.  On the 7th a little more ground was made with the New Zealand Brigade thrown into the fighting from the reserve.  A certain measure of success was made on the 8th.

“Several Turkish trenches and works had been captured during these 3 days of obstinate combat, in spite of the sturdy resistance of the enemy and the murderous fire of hostile machine guns.  The high ground, however, had not been conquered, the invaders’ left still found itself some distance short of Krithia and the casualties incurred within their ranks had again been serious.”

The Royal Naval Division losses recorded for the 6 May 1915 were 163 men killed. [11] The battalion totals were:

23 – Anson

2 – Chatham

8 – Drake

32 – Hood

3 – Howe

1 – HQ

2 – Plymouth

90 – Portsmouth

2 – Divisional Engineers

163 – Total

There is some doubt over the date of death of Private Edward Griffiths and others of the Portsmouth Battalion.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission date is given as 6 May 1915 however Jack Marshall states that all Portsmouth Battalion casualties were most likely killed in the charge up Razor-Black Hill, Monash Valley 3 May 1915 or they may also have been killed at the ANZAC beachhead on any date between 28 April and 3 May 1915.

Private Edward Griffiths was awarded the 1915-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.

Newspaper Memorial [12]

A Welsh language newspaper published the following memorial:

Battle of Dardanelles

A Boy from Ffestiniog Killed

The sad news came that Edward, 19 years old, son of Dr. David John Griffiths, now living in Durham, who is the son of the late Mr. John Griffiths, Bywydd View and singing director/deacon of the Borwydd, was killed in the Dardanelles.  Edward joined the Royal Marines as war broke out.  We sympathise with the distraught family and in the black cloud is the fact he sacrificed his life for his Country and religion.


Private Edward Griffiths is commemorated on:

The Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey:  It serves the dual function of Commonwealth battle memorial of the whole campaign and place of commemoration for many of those Commonwealth servicemen who died there and have no known grave.  There are also panels for those who died or were buried at sea in Gallipoli waters.  The memorial bears more than 21,000 names. 16381 Private R. Bagley, 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment is commemorated at Panel 55 to 58.[13]

Eldon War Memorial: St. Mark’s Churchyard:  It commemorates 130 men from the Eldon area.  The memorial takes the form of a polished grey granite cross on a hardstone octagonal pillar, height about 12’ designed by Messrs. Allison of South Church and Kellet & Clayton, architects. It was unveiled 24 September 1921 by Lord Gainford, dedicated by the Bishop of Durham.[14]

Eldon Memorial Cottages:  A pair of semi-detached cottages of brick and slate located to the east of St. Mark’s Church.  A plaque dedicates the cottages as follows:

“These cottages were erected by Messrs Pease and Partners Ltd

as a memorial to the workmen of Eldon Colliery

who fell in the Great War.

Opened by Lord Gainford September 24th 1921”

There are 2 other plaques which give the names of 74 servicemen who lost their lives including Edward Griffiths. The cottages were erected for disabled soldiers and having served this purpose would be homes for aged miners thereafter.[15]




GRIFFITHS E. Welsh Newspaper

Welsh Newspaper

GRIFFITHS E. Commemorative Plaque

Commemorative Plaque



GRIFFITHS E. Inscription Helles Memorial

Helles Memorial

Eldon War Memorial

Eldon War Memorial

Eldon War Memorial Griffiths E.

Eldon War Memorial
Griffiths E.




Pte E. Griffiths
& Alf Teesdale

Caenarfon Castle Pte E. Griffiths

Caenarfon Castle
Pte E. Griffiths




 [1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission but note that Jack Marshal “Great Britain, Royal Naval Division Casualties of the Great War 1914-1924” informs that casualties most likely died 3 May 1915 in the charge up Razor-Back Hill or any date between 28/4/15 & 3/5/15 at ANZAC Beachhead.

[2] 1901 & 1911 census

[3] CWGC

[4] Great Britain, Royal Naval Division Casualties of the Great War 1914-1924




[8] &




[12] Family information, newspaper details unknown

[13] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[14] NE War Memorial Project

[15] North East War Memorial Project