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australian rowers profiles and history

Horace R Griffin

Ballarat City Rowing Clun (Vic)

Horace Raymond Griffin, Company Sergeant Major, 7th Battalion. KIA 18/8/1916.

Horace (Horry) Raymond Griffin was born in 1886 in Ballarat. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Griffin of Mair Street, Ballarat. His father was a farrier in Mair Street. He was educated at Christian Brother’s school in Drummond Street.

Horry was a popular figure in Ballarat sporting circles; he played football for the Ballarat Imperials Football Club and rowed for Ballarat City Rowing Club. He joined Ballarat City Rowing Club in about 1905 as a 19 year old. In 1906 he was in the winning club trial pairs with J. Barnett. In 1906 there were twenty club pairs vying for the trophy so he was obviously a talented oarsman. He also won his novice four at Ballarat Novice regatta with a crew of J. Crouch, J. Cameron and F. Eason and coached by the genial Graham Coulter. Horry moved to Warracknabeal in about 1907 for a few years and was well known in sporting circles there playing a prominent part in the football, cricket and running clubs there. He was Captain of the Warracknabeal Premier football club in 1908. He returned to Ballarat and in 1909 he was again racing in the club Scratch pairs. His next win came at Ballarat Regatta in 1910 with C. Kelsall in the Maiden pairs. In 1912 he was selected in the club‘s maiden four for Upper Yarra with B. Pollard, J. Henderson and S. Johnson.  He was active and a regular competitor in the club, racing in Scratch fours and Trial pairs right up until November 1913. Horry had started his own tailoring business when he came back to Ballarat and kept rowing and playing football until he enlisted in 1914. He enlisted at Essendon where his sister Ada Cameron lived.

He closed his tailoring business when he enlisted on the 18/8/1914. He was appointed Lance Corporal at Gallipoli on the 30/4/1915 and soon after promoted to CSM on the 15/5/1915. He wrote to his sister and the letter was published in the Ballarat Courier. It described the landing on Gallipoli and how the water was so deep it was over his head and he lost his rifle but grabbed a wounded comrade’s gun and went up the cliff like a “madman”. He suffered a chest wound and pneumonia and was evacuated from Gallipoli to the HMHS Gloucester Castle in the Dardenelles on the 5/9/1915.

In September 1915 he was actually invalided back to Australia with heart strain and was sent to hospital in England and then to back to Cairo. On the 5/8/1916 he was taken on strength for the 7th Battalion and returned to France. Sadly he never returned to Australia. He was first reported wounded in action and then killed in action on the 18/08/1916 less than two weeks after his return to the front and exactly two years to the day since he enlisted. In his war record there is a note received from the Canadian section stating he was “Buried by Captain Ansley and a party from the 15th Canadian Battalion and forwarding effects”. He was 30 years old.

His grave was never located and his name is listed on the Memorial Roll of Honour, Villers-Bretonneux, France. His memorial plaque and British war medal were sent to his sister Ada Cameron. His sister Mrs. Ada Cameron was his next of kin as both his parents had died. 

In 1923 the Ballarat City Rowing Club held somewhat a of a revival meeting in January that year. The club had lost a generation of young rowers and fourteen men, like Horry, had paid the supreme sacrifice. The club obviously were working to revive the club’s fortunes and many older members or families of members donated money to upgrade equipment. They had a boat christening ceremony and christened 10 boats! Some were named after older members and three were named after men who died in the war. The Ballarat Star report stated that “It reflected credit on the club that they were not forgetting the old men who had worked so hard for them in the past.” One of the two practice pairs was named the “HORACE GRIFFIN” and the other the “J.F.SCOTT”. As Horry never married and did not have a family, it was and is fitting that he be remembered by the club. His name is listed on the club’s Honour Board.

Kate Elliott
September 2021

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