Mickleham – St. Michael and All Angels Church & War Memorial

David Gilmour?  And what is the significance of the Bleriot?

And so darkness fell.  However, on looking through the small pamphlet for sale within the church (yes, I paid my £2.00) I discovered that I had missed (not surprisingly, as you will see below), the most important burial in the churchyard, at least as far as this website is concerned:

This is the grave of Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Norton-Griffiths, 1st Baronet KCB DSO.  Well-known even before the First World War as a soldier (during the Boer War), entrepreneur, millionaire businessman and MP, ‘Empire Jack’, as he was better known, was, to quote one of his colleagues, “not a man of action, he was action itself.”  Without writing a complete biography, suffice to say that it was Norton-Griffiths, a civilian at the time, who persuaded Kitchener in early 1915 that his ‘moles’, as he called the men who worked for one of his companies driving new sewer tunnels beneath London and Manchester, could dig similar tunnels through the Flanders clay, using a north-country technique known as clay-kicking, far quicker than the Royal Engineers were currently able to do.  The Germans had exploded ten small mines beneath the Indian Sirhind Brigade near La Bassée just before Christmas 1914, and Kitchener, impressed by Norton-Griffiths pitch, immediately demanded 10,000 clay-kickers.  Difficult, considering there were perhaps only a fifth that number in the whole country, but wheels had been set in motion and the rest, as they say, is history.  And as if being the mastermind behind the British tunnelling efforts on the Western Front wasn’t enough, Norton-Griffiths was later responsible for the successful destruction, in 1916, of the Ploesti oilfields in Romania, denying the Germans valuable resources for the remainder of the war.  If you want to find out more about the war beneath Flanders Fields, there are a number of excellent books on the subject that have been published in recent years, as well as a fine biography of Norton-Griffiths, should your interest have been piqued.

John Norton-Griffiths died in 1930, aged 59.  His body was found one morning floating off the Egyptian coast near Alexandria with a single bullet hole to the head.  The official verdict was suicide.

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