121 Percy – “Talbot” – “Sprigger’ – Griggs
MM, Croix de Guerre
Talbot as he was more widely known was born in Narrandera in 1895 to Gardiner Griggs and Elizabeth Margaret Talbot nee Maybon.
Talbot was a plumber and 19 years old when he enlisted with a few other local fellows also from Narandera , 16 Marcus Clarke and 88 George Casburn.
He was a gifted footballer and all round sportsman , a team player who understood all about mateship, loyalty and what it meant to stick it out through tough times. He would display these same qualities with extraodinary courage and determination throughout the years he spent at war.
Talbot served the entire time at Gallipoli up to the evacuation, suffering with only a septic arm for just a few days. His time at Gallipoli gained high praise from his fellow tent and dug out mate 129 Phil Ayton who wrote home to his family at Narandera whilst laid up in hospital wounded. The two friends had obviously discussed the letter arrangements in case of such circumstances.
Narandera and the War.
LETTERS FROM THE FRONT.
Published in Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser – Tuesday 6 July 1915
Private Talbot Percy Griggs, son of Mr. Gardiner Griggs, of Narandera, No. 121 of the First Field Engineers, was among the first volunteers to enlist from this centre. Last week his sister re
ceived the following interesting letter from his tent mate, written from a Hospital Ship off Gallipoli on May 15th.
“I am writing at your brother’s wish. He is alright, it is not he that is sick, it is I.
I have been a “cobber” of Talbot’s since we enlisted in Sydney, and I have been ever since. Not a bad kid is ‘”Sprigger,” as we call him. We were in the same tent at Moore Park, also at Mena Camp; in fact we have always been together. During the past three weeks of action in Turkey, our dug-outs have been together. We had a warm reception when we landed here, our company being in the first landing party. It was just a storm of bullets lashing the water into foam around our boat as we rowed in Plenty were hit, of course, but Sprigger and I never got it, We hopped out up to our waists in water and rushed ashore and flopped down in the sand, and then on up the hills. We all had our blood up and didn’t care for bullets, though the air was full of them. The noise was awful, and explosive bullets cracking about our ears fairly deafened us. We advanced with the Infantry, and the Turks were rooted out of their positions. Then we had to come back to the beach to do our own work, make piers, cut roads, etc. We are still hard at work, and have been under fire all the time. I have had some narrow squeaks, also Talbot. He got hit on the leg by a shrapnel bullet, but it had lost most of its force and only bruised him a bit. We were both loading a mule at the time the shell burst, and the pellets fell around us. The enemy keep up a constant fire night and day and all the time bullets and shells scream over our dug-outs and fall into the sea. A chap is likely to stop one any time ; just a matter of luck. We don’t care though, and do our work just the same as usual ; it has to be done, you know. A few of our chaps have been wounded, but Sprigger reckons he has a good chance of seeing Narandera again. He skites a lot about Narandera, “The place where they grow men,” he says.
He says you must not worry about him if you do not get any letters. That is why he asked me to write. He hasn’t the time or the chance on shore, and has no paper nor envelopes. As I had to come on board here, he asked me to write and tell you the news. If he gets snuffed out the papers will tell you, but he will get through all right. He has to, as he has promised to take me to Narandera, “the place where they grow men.” Taking things all through, we are doing well, and for my part I wouldn’t swap places with the Governor-General : this will do me, and your brother says
the same. This is our place, not at home doing nothing. After we clean up these Turks, I suppose we will go on to Germany and help to finish things up over there. Then we will be pleased to come back to Sydney and will feel proud of ourselves. Until then we don’t want to come back.
This is a great experience, and will make men of us, I hope. Your brother has stood the test well and is as game as they make them. We both wish we were in the Infantry, because we would get more shooting. As for myself, I am doing well ; had a few squeaks, haversack shot through, another through the breast pocket of my tunic, and then the one that sent me here. A shell burst right alongside of me and I got bowled over. Between tho noise of the explosion and the hissing of the pellets and flying dirt and stones, I thought it had made a colander of me ; but when I got up, I found I had only one bullet through my leg and a skinned elbow. I was lucky, and hope to be back again with the Company in a few days and see how old Sprigger is getting on. He will write as soon as he gets a chance. Sincerely yours, Sprigger’s Mate, Phil Ayton.”
After Gallipoli Talbot returned with the 1st FCE on the ‘Caledonia’ and disembarked at Alexandria on the 27th Dec 1915.
While In Egypt he was promoted to Lance Corp and was transferred to the newly formed 14th Field Coy Engineers under the command of the “original larger than life” figure and now a Major, Henry Bachtold.
Major Henry Bachtold still only 25 years of age was a natural leader of men, a large figure of a man, an athlete and a highly qualified and skilled engineer. He was a man who had seen and done many things from day one at Gallipoli. From taking charge of a small team of engineers and constructing the lifesaving pontoons on landing day, he was also an officer of action who was just as much at home digging tunnels and crawling in the dark in no man’s land laying barbed wire while being enfiladed by machine gun fire. He had witnessed many acts of bravery, and himself no stranger to performing similar acts, however on the 27th and 28th September 1917 he must have seen Talbot Griggs do something which was quite extraordinary.
Henry Bachtold made the following recommendation for Talbot Griggs to be awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre
The Croix de Guerre or Belgian “War Cross” is the military decoration of the Kingdom of Belgium established by royal decree on 25 October 1915, primarily awarded for bravery or other military virtue on the battlefield. This honour was conferred by His Majesty The Kind Of The Belgians to 121 Corporal Percy Talbot Griggs.
Henry Bachtold was right in his assessment of young Talbot. He was tireless and an immensely brave and resourceful young man, and Bachtold seemingly just as impressed with his gallantry and staying power made special mention that “he has only being absent from his unit for 3 months on account of sickness.”
This comment from Bachtold is a break from the general protocol used in a recommendation, however know one else would have been more qualified to pass on this comment and the recommendation other than Major Bachtold.
For another 12 months Talbot continued on the battle field front lines and once again his devotion to duty and tireless efforts were not overlooked. Throughout the period of 25th February to the 16th September 1918 his continued gallant and valuable services were inspiring and on this occasion, another original 1st FCE officer now a Lt.Colonel, Leslie Frances Mather and also CRE of the 5th Aust Divison recommended Talbot for the Military Medal, which was also awarded and gazetted in 1919.
‘For continued gallant and valuable services throughout the period 25th February 1918 to 16th September 1918. During the operations from 8th August till 1st September 1918., this N.C.O. has consistently shown a fine example to his men under heavy fire. His devotion to duty and resource have been of great value throughout these operations, especially on the morning of 1st September, during the advance and attack on PERONNE. It was due to this N.C.O’s efforts and his direction that a foot bridge was established across the moat at PERONNE which enabled Infantry and Stretcher bearers to get in and out of the town.’
Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 75
Date: 17 June 1919
Talbot returned to Australia on the troopship “Devon” on the 25th November 1918. On this same ship were fellow originals 210 Phillip Boardman and 237 Evelyn Lloyd. They would later disembark in Victoria and were taken by rail ‘overland’ arriving in Sydney on the morning of the 28th.
When Talbot returned after the war he no doubt received a hero’s welcome from his home town of Narrendera. The Narrandera community were proud of their boys who went to war and over the decades have never forgotten what their boys contributed .
Talbot returned to his trade as a plumber, advertising his trade in the Freeman’s Journal and it wasn’t long before he rejoined his old team at the ‘NIFC’ – Narandera Imperial Football Club.
For Talbot life seemed to have taken up where it left off nearly 6 years earlier. He returned home in time to be best man at his sister’s wedding, his business was good and he was making headlines in football circles as well as in mixed doubles tennis.
Percy “Talbot” Griggs was a great young Australian who had given so much of himself, and had so much more to live for and certainly so much more to give, he was sadly taken away far too early.
The gas poisoning he suffered in France would start to compromise his health and his health rapidly declined. Despite his strong character and resilience he succumbed to his condition and passed away at the age of 31 in 1926. The following dedidication to this outstanding man was published in the Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser on Friday 8 January 1926
Percy Talbot Griggs.
“Much regret was felt in Narandera on Tuesday last when it became known that Mr. Percy Talbot Griggs, son of Mr. Hugh Gardiner Griggs, of this town, had died after a lengthy illness, an illness contracted while on active service during the Great War.
Mr. Griggs was 31 years of age and a native of Narandera. At the out- break of the war in 1914 he was one of the first from this district to enlist for service. He was therefore one’ of the original Anzacs. After the evacuation of Gallipoli he saw service with the Australian forces in France and Belgium, and was awarded the Military Medal and the Belgian Croix de Guerre for distinguished conduct on the field.
On his return home after the war Mr. Griggs opened a business as a plumber and tinsmith, but after a time, ill health forced him to dispose at his business. Talbot Griggs, as he was affectionately known, was a devotee of the Australian football code. Prior to his leaving for the war he was one of the most popular members of the Imperial football Club, and one of the most prominent players. The long, dreary years of war did not lessen his ardour for the game, for on his return he again donned the colors of the Imperials and displayed some of his former dash as a player. When his illness manifested itself, and he was unable to continue as a playing member, he did not lose his interest in the club, but for one season acted as Hon. secretary, and at the beginning of the last football season he was elected one of the Imperial Club’s delegates on the South Western Districts Football League, a position he held until his death. As a resident of the town few were more generally popular than was Mr. Griggs. As a friend lie was faithful end true, and ever ready to help a friend in need. Even when sickness gripped him, his cheerful disposition did not leave him, and he bore his long illness with the greatest fortitude.
The funeral on Wednesday was largely attended, and numerous floral tributes were evidence of the esteem in which he was held. The coffin, covered with the Union Jack, was borne by his comrades in active service, Dr. H. O. Lethbridge, G. Norman Dixon, W. R. Talbot, and Wm. Smith. The burial service was delivered by the Rev. W. Carlyle Moulton, and the Last Post sounded by Bugler Regan. There was evidence of deep feeling amongst the crowd who paid their last tribute of respect to one who was honoured and loved by all as Dr. Lethbridge, in feeling words, expressed his admiration of the departed. ‘ He came of a family who were respected and esteemed by all. He enlisted in August, 1914, before the need for men was fully realised. He was one of the original Anzacs, was at the land Ing on Gallipoli, and saw the campaign there right through to the evacuation. The man who stuck that through cheerfully, as their comrade did, was a hero. After the evacuation he served in France and Belgium right through the war until the Anzacs were recalled, and was a good soldier, proof of which was given by his being the recipient of the Military Medal and Croix de Guerre. These honors were not easily won by the rank and file. After his return he contracted the complaint that resulted in his death after a lingering ill ness. He knew well what lay before him, but never lost his cheerfulness and never regretted the step he had taken in enlisting. He was of the stuff of which heroes were made, and the speaker was sure that his family, who had experienced heavy troubles lately, were proud of their son and brother, and would never regret that he had given his services, and his life, for the Empire.”
Source: NLA – Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser on Friday 8 January 1926
LEST WE FORGET 1914-1919
The Narrandera War Memorial commemorates those from the district who served in World War One. The Memorial is a circular granite monument which is located close to the Hankisson Fountain.
“Major-General Sir Charles Rosenthal visited Narrandera on Wednesday and unveiled the monument erected by the citizens in honour of those who served in the great war. The monument is of Marulan granite, circular in shape, capped with a brass urn. The names of the 324 volunteers including two nurses and 105 names of soldiers who fell, are inscribed on the memorial.” – The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 23 November 1923.
Percy “Talbot” Griggs will be remembered for ever more.
Story – Copyright©Vance Kelly2015
Sources: – AWM, NAA, NLA
Roy Denning in his book “Anzac Digger” mentions Talbot referring to him as “Grigger”
Marcus Clarke also wrote letters home, later published and references to Talbot and George Casburn and others from the region.
Pictures of his family on Ancestry.com
His sister Agnes married John Neville on 31st March 1919. Agnes applied for his Gallipoli medal in 1967 , she noted that she had his war medals , including Talbot’s MM and the Croix de Guerre.