Harold de Cray Griffiths

Harold de Cray Griffiths was born in Mossley Hill, Liverpool, Lancashire on 2 September 1903.

He was the son of Thomas Robert and Lily Griffiths of 32 Hilden Street, Haulgh, Bolton and later at 30 Bromwich Street.

His father, Thomas Griffiths, was a professional soldier and served as an adjutant in the Royal Artillery (Territorial). Although listed as being a retired Captain on the 1911 Census he served with the 5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in France during the First World War, rising to the rank of Major.

The family had lived in India and Burma, as well as several places in Britain where Thomas was stationed. Harold was one of of ten children, three of whom had died by 1911.

Harold began his education at Miss Usher's School, Chorley New Road, Bolton. He attended Bolton Church Institute from 3 May 1911 to 14 April 1916.

Griffiths family tree - pdf

Harold's War

Harold served as a Sergeant (Air Gunner) with 57 Squadron. At 41 he was unusually old to be flying front line operations. The odds against surviving as RAF aircrew were very poor. The odds against surviving as an air gunner were even worse.

57 Squadron's base was at East Kirby Airfield, Spilsby, Lincolnshire. It flew night bombing missions, using the Avro Lancaster I and III planes, as part of Bomber Command Main Force. The squadron flew on 348 raids, with 108 Lancasters lost in action plus 31 in accidents.

It appears that on 22 May 1944 Lancaster III ND960, Code DX-I, was on a minelaying mission (“gardening”) to hinder the German fleet in Kiel Bay. It was attacked at about 4,300 metres (13,000 feet) by a Messerschmitt 110 night-fighter, disintegrated in the air and the main part crashed in a field belonging to Skovgard Farm near Assens on the island of Fyn; one of the mines exploded. All the crew were killed. Ten minutes later one more mine exploded, killing the Danish farmhand Jørgen Andreas Brandt who had rushed to the crash site just after the aircraft had fallen to the ground.

During the morning the body of Air Gunner Sgt Harold De Cray Griffiths was found 500 metres from the crash site and in the same area was found the body of Rear Gunner Sgt Cyril J. Woodmass still inside his turret. A number of human remains were found spread over several kilometres. In the afternoon the German Army collected the two bodies and human remains found in the area and buried them in Assens cemetery at 22:30 hours.

After the war they were identified as Pilot F/L Arthur T. Richards, Flt. Engr. Sgt Arthur W. Bugden, Navigator F/O William T. Woodall RCAF, Air Bomber F/O George Ferguson and W/Op Sgt Thomas Edwards. A memorial stone and garden was set up by the local community in 1946.

Harold's older brother, John Stanley Griffiths, had been killed in the First World War on 19 February 1915 whilst servng as a midshipman on HMS Triumph.

 

 

 

Harold de Cray Griffiths

Sergeant (Air Gunner): 2211356

57 Squadron
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Born: Mossley Hill, Liverpool
2 September 1903

Died: Denmark 22 May 1944

Link to CWGC Casualty Details

Royal Air Force

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