Boy soldiers killed in 1914 Welsh railway accident

The accident happened as the boys train was passing through Lamphey near Pembroke. Map of 1908.

Two boy soldiers serving with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Border Regiment met with a terrible accident on Saturday, 29 August 1914. They were both aged 17 and were musicians of the band. Newspaper and some official accounts give them as 2nd Battalion, but as neither boy’s service record has survived this remains uncertain.

They were said to be travelling on a train on the Pembroke and Tenby line, leaning out of the windows, having departed from Pembroke. While passing Lamphey Siding the open door of a van of another train struck both in the head. The train’s communication cord was pulled, bringing the train to a halt. A Pte Edward Smith rendered assistance.

Boy 10623 Robert Handel Mendelssohn Griffiths was killed outright. Born at Charminster, Weymouth, to George and Lilly Griffiths. He was baptised in Wyke Regis in 1898. The 1911 census shows him as an inmate of the Gordon Boys Home at Chobham in Surrey, where he was already learning to be a musician. Robert had enlisted on 26 August 1913. Ironically, his father had been born in Tenby.

Boy 10400 James O’Brien was severely injured and taken to Tenby Cottage Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries on 2 September 1914. Born in Kensington but later of Islington, London, he was the son of David O’Brien. He had enlisted on 27 December 1912.

The county coroner’s report said that four boys had been in the compartment, all leaning out of the window. The train had been travelling at 40mph. That night, a train of 17 goods vans had arrived from Pembroke and parked, but the stationmaster reported that the doors were shut and no one had been out to the vans all day. An express train has passed ten minutes before the accident and the van’s door was closed at that time. The driver of the train in which the boys had been travelling, Edward Russell, reported that the door was not open as he has passed it in the locomotive. The coroner concluded a verdict of accidental death.

Both boys were taken for burial in Pembroke Dock Military Cemetery. Griffiths lies in grave R.124 and O’Brien in grave C.11.


British Newspaper Archive
Welsh Newspaper Online
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
National Library of Scotland map collection


Border Regiment