WITH THE WELCH FUSILIERS AT WATERLOO
Would you believe it that an ex Welch Fusilier from the Second World War, who lives at 16, Gelert Street, Caernarfon, can trace his family back five generations to his great, great grandfather who fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815?
Thanks to Mr. Tom Glyn Griffith, we can reveal the history of Lewis Griffith, his great, great grandfather of Tal-y-Llyn, Meirioneth, who joined the Welch Fusilier Regiment, aged 19, on April 6th 1814. It is understood that the King had ordered that every town and village in Britain should send young men to join the army and the allocation for the village of Tal-y-Llyn was just one person and that was done through a "ballot system," as it was called, and a young man, not in the best of health was chosen and started to cry,
with the result that Lewis Griffith volunteered to take his place. Two years before the Battle of Waterloo and, as a member of the Militia, he was sent to Ireland and there he met one who was to become his wife. Born in Scotland and a pupil at a Boarding School, Jane Drumble and Lewis became acquainted. Their relationship blossomed and an army officer gave them permission to marry in haste before the regiment was ordered to Belgium to face the forces of Napoleon on the field of battle. Jane's family was not prepared to give consent to the marriage and relationship between her and her family was severed once and for all.
Jane, or Jenny as she was known, published her recollections of being in the company of her husband and child on the battlefield at Waterloo for three days, in the newspaper Cambrian News dated Friday, May 26. 1876. It may be that the account is not totally correct in places, and especially so regarding her age when she first met with Lewis in Ireland circa 1812, stating that she was a fourteen year old at the time. According to her gravestone she was born in Scotland in 1789 and this would have made her 22 or 23 years old. She also gives her age at when the article was published in 1876 as 85 and that would have put her year of birth at 1790 or 1791. However, one must remember that she was relating events that took place 61 years previously at the Battle of Waterloo, and she being an old woman at the time of being interviewed for the article.
Irrespective of this, there is no reason to doubt the facts about the difficulties that she faced to obtain the permission of senior army officers to accompany her husband the whole way to Waterloo. She states that they left Ireland for Bristol by ship and from there went to Winchester, where, after two years in the Militia, Lewis signed up with the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers and a document dated April 6th 1814 is proof of this.
Twice on the journey to the battlefield she was almost forced to leave her husband and twice she was successful in pleading with a senior army officer for permission to stay. The last time it was a Colonel Ellis who granted her permission and he was later killed at the Battle of Waterloo. She stayed close to her husband until his company started to fire at the enemy and then she was forced to leave for her and her child's sake.
She later learned that he had been wounded in the shoulder and had been taken to hospital, but did not know which one or where. She spent days looking for him until at last the child recognized him and shouted "Daddy, Daddy." Seven pieces of shrapnel were removed from his shoulder and the former healthy looking country lad had become as white as a sheet. While Lewis was recovering, Jenny kept busy carrying out nursing duties and washing clothes in the camp. Her recollections of her time at Waterloo were quoted in the Cambrian News as follows: "I did not speak with Wellington, but stood very close to him. He was a very clever man and with a large nose. I saw Bonaparte several times. 'Bonny' looked like a small farmer just.
|Grave of Jenny Jones|
I saw Joseph Bonaparte's severed arm and brought to Brussels, and in France I saw Louis XIII being crowned. My husband did not receive a pension as he was on a limited contract, but received £5 'Blood Money' and a medal, but that was stolen."
Lewis stayed in the army until his contract expired on April 6th 1821 and the family returned to Wales and to Tal-y-Llyn, where they were able to rent a farm house, Cildydd, but it was not they who farmed the land. Lewis found work at a quarry in Corris and in 1837, at the age of 45 he was killed by a rock fall leaving Jenny, a widow, to take care of the children. The family moved to be nearer two hotels in the village, where she was employed as a washer woman.
Jenny remained a widow until 1853 and then she married John Jones, Y Bowls, but instead of the union resulting in improving her financial position, her husband turned out to be lazy and not at all the type of person she would imagined and she had to work even harder to make both ends meet. Towards the end of her lifespan and again widowed, she lived with a Mrs. Mary Griffith, also widowed and was in receipt of 5 shillings per week sustenance from Parish Funds. However, upon her death in 1884, a person calling himself 'a friend' paid for the gravestone and on it recorded the fact that she had been present with her first husband at the Battle of Waterloo. There is some mystery as to whom this person was and some even suggest that it was a member of her well-to-do family.
Well, that is an eye witness report of one who was at Waterloo and the wife of a soldier in the Welch Fusiliers who had fought Britain's arch enemy during the early 19th century. It is strange that a man from Caernarfon, his great, great, grandson, had fought in the same regiment over a century and a quarter later viz The Royal Welch Fusiliers. Fusilier T. Glyn Griffith was given the honour of marching as a representative of the 9th Battalion at the end of World War II in the Victory Parade held in London on June 8th, 1946.
© T. M. Hughes 2010