NANCY GRIFFITHS. RIP

Our Senior Soldier WO11 Bill Griffiths has become a close and dear friend to all 1DCLI of LI Most Wanted Blog notoriety. Since 2006 we have now bulled and bantered our way across the many blog pages and Sjnt Major Bill Griffiths has played no small a part in establishing our credentials for Light Infantry mateship, friendship and support in troubled times. Following the loss of Nancy in October last year, we can offer no less support than Bill would have done in the reverse situation, by offering a permanent written Memorial to Nancy. The following works are Bill’s alone; the composition, the words and the graphics mark his respect for his dear wife of many years.

Miss Nancy Kong. The Hong Kong Defence Force’s answer to Annie get your gun

In 1949, the Hong Kong Regiment was reorganised and became part of the Hong Kong Defence Force, which also included separate Air and Naval units, and a certain young Chinese girl, Nancy Kong who had lived in constant danger and suffered under the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War two, joined up to serve as a Naval Rating determined to do her best in serving as a volunteer.

It was not long before she was introduced to the service rifle, and started learning to shoot using the old Lee Enfield bolt action .303. She initially tried to hold the rifle left handed, and from the very beginning seemed to be a natural, hitting the target with great accuracy. This in itself was quite amazing as she was such a petite young girl, only five feet tall and weighing only a mere seven stone. Her Instructors were impressed and managed to persuade her that she should try shooting right handed so that she could then manipulate the bolt action and enable her to take part in rapid fire.This she did and the effect was outstanding, as she became even more consistent and was soon shooting at distances of over six hundred yards with a high degree of accuracy. It was not long before she was entered into competitions, so confident were her instuctors of her talent and capability.

Nancy trained almost every weekend shooting on ranges on Stonecutters Island, and Kai Tak and also shooting from on board ship at floating targets at sea.

This was one determined and confident young sailor girl, and it was not long before she started collecting trophies in the form of silver cups, medals and silver spoons to mark her success. She was entered in to competitions in the Hong Kong Bisley, often competing against seasoned veterans on the rifle range, and not only held her own as a markswoman, but often beat much more experienced servicemen who had spent many years shooting at competition level.

One story she loved to tell was about the time she was on the range just about to start a competition, and she was on the firing point next to a British Army Colonel, who when he saw her made some rude comment on how ridiculous it was to allow girls on the range and to be amongst experienced riflemen who would probably be upset by their presence. He was definitely upset a little later on when he discovered that Nancy had beaten his score by quite a considerable number of points and won the trophy for that particular event. Nancy just smiled and walked away with her winning trophy.

What a great feeling that must have been for her, especially as the Colonel was nowhere to be seen at the prize giving ceremony. This determined little Wren had been awarded three Riflemens certificates from the National Rifle Association for having made high scores at ranges between 200 and 800 yards. In addition to which in just a couple of years had collected eleven silver cups, six silver spoons, and six medals, one of which was for becoming the Hong Kong Ladies Champion in 1952.

This was just before she married her English husband Bill after meeting him on a blind date in 1950. Nancy was a very proud little sailor girl, and a credit to the Hong Kong Defence Force.

Picture shows Wrens on Remembrance day parade November 1951.

In 1951 The Hong Kong Naval Defence Force was presented with a fully equipped Minesweeper formally ‘HMS Lysander’, and this was renamed ‘HMS Cornflower’ by Lady Grantham at a special ceremony on board the ship. His Excellency The Governor, Sir Alexander Grantham also attended. HMS Cornflower will be used by the Hong Kong Volunteers as a training ship.

(Hong Kong Ladies Champion Nancy Kong second from right being presented to the Governor during his visit to their new ship.)

(‘HMS Cornflower’ With the ships proud new crew waving goodbye to the Governor after his visit.) The Wrens can clearly be seen on the upper deck just above the figure 9 of the ships number.

In 1955 Nancy’s husband was posted back to Hong Kong and of course took Nancy with him, and there she joined a rifle club where for the next three years she continued to display her talent as a competent markswoman, although now just as a civilian member, shooting just for pleasure.

16 Responses to NANCY GRIFFITHS. RIP

  1. Seona MacInnes says:

    I wonder if anyone can help me find out more as I joined up 1955/6 and until today was unable to find any information about HMS Cornflower. On visiting The Royal Naval Dockyard in Portmouth early this year, where my father had been a shipwright, I was given the telephone number of The Association of WRENS by a delightful guard. Today I telephoned and based on the information was able to find this site.

    I loved the life and became an RT operator. Taught Morse code, Semaphore, Aldas lamp, rifle shooting, marching, rowing and blowing the bosun’s whistle. Sadly, on my return to the UK my mother refused to let me join up. Greatest regret of my life, I also played hockey for The Combined Services.

    If there is anyone who can help me I would be so grateful and happy. We spent 2 weeks on Stonecutters Island.

  2. Emma Thompson says:

    Wow, never knew so much about this lady, wonderful to finally find out about her as I was never told any of this while she was alive. RIP wish I’d known her better.

    • Bill Griffiths says:

      Hello Emma, Yes, my Nancy was one in a million and I am shortly due to go back to Hong Kong and will be visiting the Church where we were married sixty one years ago on the 22nd September 1952 and this was on my way back from the War in Korea where we had been for seventeen months. Nancy arranged our Wedding all on her own a complete White, Church Wedding and Reception and all that went with it AND the following morning, we boarded the ship and set sail for the UK, a six week trip which was hailed as our ‘Troopship Honeymoon’ by nearly all the newspapers in UK. What they didn’t mention, was that I was down on the Troop Deck with hundreds of hairy seasick sqaddies, whilst Nancy was up in a cabin shared with three other ladies.

      But we made up for it when we arrived back home with a three month leave from military duties. Thanks for you lovely comment Emma, all best wishes to you. Bill Griffiths

      PS. By the way, last year when I went back to Hong Kong I presented all Nancy’s cups spoons medals and Trophies to the Hong Kong Maritime museum where they can be admired for years to come by people in the country where they were won all those years ago.

      • Emma Thompson says:

        Thank you for your reply and for some more lovely information about her. We share our wedding anniversary as this is the same date my husband and I married almost 6 years ago.

        • Bill Griffiths says:

          Hello again Emma many congratulations to you both, time flies, enjoy every minute of your lives together as we did.

          As I say, time flies and I still find it hard to believe that it is sixty one years since our wonderful wedding. I still love her and miss her so very very much. Keep in touch please. Bill

  3. Bill Griffiths says:

    Hello Sue, your query about Joe Knight. You say he was posted to the Middlesex who were sent to Korea before my Regiment The KSLI and I am afraid I haven’t any real contact with the Middlesex. The Joe Knight mentioned on this blog was I am sure DCLI. Sorry I can’t help. But keep hunting. I wish you luck.
    Bill

  4. Bill Griffiths says:

    Hi Neil. Many thanks for your kind words. Yes Nancy was one in a million and I was the lucky guy to marry her sixty years ago this September. I have lots of new contacts in Hong Kong as a result of having this story published on a special history of Hong Kong Website and I am going back to Hong Kong in December and I am going to present all her trophies Cups, Spoons, Medals etc to The Hong Kong Maritime Museum where people will be able to see and admire them for years to come. Thanks again Neil. God Bless.
    Bill

  5. Neil Swanny Swanson, says:

    Hi Bill. What a good blog page this is Bill about dear Nancy, she was a credit to us all for her exploits with small arms etc, I only wished I was as good a shot as her with all her cups for rifle shooting, puts a lot of us in the shade. I would love to have met her Bill and like you we on the blogs are lucky to have you as a close friend and mate. Neil Swanny Swanson.

  6. Neil Swanny Swanson, says:

    Sue Hunter. In answer to you asking about Joe Knight. The Joe Night you are asking about isn’t the Joe Knight mentioned in our blogs. I know Joe served with us in the DCLI and prior to that the OBLI in Egypt so you must mean another chap with the same name as Joe was our Cpl in 3 Plt A COY DCLI in Bermuda 1954-55 hope this as been a help to you, Neil Swanny Swanson.

  7. Bill Griffiths says:

    Thanks John, she was indeed a wonderful woman ‘one in a million’ and I was so lucky to have her as such a devoted wife for so many years. I miss her so very very much and in September we should have been celebrating our Diamond Wedding anniversary. not many of those about these days and will be even less in a few years time. Thanks again for your very kind words and thoughts. Bless you. Bill

  8. John Billett says:

    ED, Bill,
    What a lovely and touching accolade to Nancy, Bill. Having read this I can see why you were so devoted to her, and obviously Nancy was devoted to you, what a game and brave person she was. We could have made use of her Riflemanship in the Regiment, would have put some of us to shame. After seeing the photos of her I can see why you dedicated ”Nancy with the smiling face” to her. Take great care.

  9. Neil Swanny Swanson, says:

    ED
    This is a very interesting blog you have opened for Nancy (RIP). I am thrilled that you have done this for Bill, he deserves this for his friendship to all of us bloggers.

    ED: Thanks Swanny, all his own work including the graphic front page. Not bad for an Old Chep. The medals and cups that Nancy won are something to be proud of. Nancy is indeed a worthy Honorary Light Infantryman for sure.

  10. Bill Griffiths says:

    ED, Derek many thanks for allowing me to share this story of a most remarkable little lady, my darling Nancy, who unselfishly supported me with 100% love and affection for the sixty one years we were together. I miss her so very much, but I thank God for such a wonderful wife and mother of my five children.

    I hope our bloggers will enjoy this little story and help them to realise that life is short; love and enjoy your partners and loved ones whilst you can. Thank you again Derek.

    Bill

    • Sue Hunter says:

      Dear Bill, I wonder if you can help me? I’ve spent the last couple of years searching for a Joe Knight who served with my father (Len Humphries) in Korea. I’ve seen mentions in your posts of a Joe and Ann Knight and wonder whether this might be the man I was looking for. I see from this site that Joe is now deceased as, sadly is my father (17th June 2011). We have a lovely photo of Dad and the Joe Knight I’m looking for together with some other lads in Korea. Dad transferred from the Royal Fusiliers to the 1st Middlesex and set off for Korea in January 1951. The Joe I was looking for was in the HQ stores, do you have any info which will confirm whether or not I am on the right track? If I am then I can post a copy of a photo that perhaps someone could pass on to Joe’s family together with details of a rather interesting story of the preferred mode of transport one night, ie. a water buffalo. Sorry if this is not the right place to post this but I couldn’t see any other way to make contact.

  11. It is with great pleasure that we publish Bill’s story of Nancy, his dear wife of many years and as he describes, she knew her stuff with the old Lee Enfield. Well Done ‘Ole Mate, a great Memoir to Nancy.

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