MURDER MYSTERY IN PORTHCAWL

Late on March 12th  Police Superintendent May received details that a woman in Porthcawl had been shot by a German prisoner on the run. The woman, Mrs Lily Grossley, was not dead but doctors were fighting for her life.

In her initial police statement, she claimed that German prisoners had shot her when she refused to give them her handbag. Her husband, Howard Grossley,  was also involved in the incident, but he was unharmed and the prisoners had run off.

However, by the next morning Tuesday 13th March 1945, police had started to unfold an unusual story.

Howard Grossley was a Canadian soldier with a wife in Canada. Mrs Lily Grossley was not Mrs Grossley at all. Her real name was Lily Griffiths, and  she and Howard Grossley had been living together and were the parents of a two year old son. 

Howard Grossley was A.W.L. (Absent Without Leave) from the army and was staying in a guest house in Porthcawl which is only a few miles from Island Farm.

Howard Grossley gave a police statement that claimed that on the night of the12th March 1945, he and Lily were taking a late night walk. Whilst walking down a lane near to the guest house, they had been threatened by German POWs who tried to steal Lily's handbag. In defense Howard Grossley had used his revolver, which he was carrying, to threaten the POWs away. However, as the POWs had made their escape down the lane, Howard Grossley had fired a shot and in so doing had inadvertently shot Lily Griffiths.

Initially, Lily Griffiths backed up Howard Grossley's statement. But as the realisation that her injuries were more serious, she changed her statement, maybe in an attempt to help Howard from imprisonment.

In her revised statement, Lily Griffiths stated that Howard Grossley was extremely depressed because:

Lily Griffiths stated that, whilst walking, Howard Grossley said that he was going to end his life. During a wrestle for the gun, as Lily tried to stop Howard killing himself, he had inadvertently shot her.

Lily Griffiths died Friday 16th March 1945 as a consequence of the gun shot (collapsed and septic lung) and Howard Grossley was charged with her murder.

Howard Grossley
was held at Cardiff Prison and stood trial on the 11th and 12th July 1945 at the Glamorgan Assizes Swansea charged as:

"Howard Joseph Grossley on the 12th day of March 1945, in the County of Glamorgan, murdered Lily Griffiths"

He pleaded "Not Guilty". The presiding judge was J. Singleton and Howard Grossley was represented by Messrs. Stockwood & Williams of 3 Court Road, Bridgend.

Witnesses:

  1. Arthur Gordon Thomas - Police Detective Sgt - Canton Cardiff
  2. Catherine Davies (Lily Griffiths' sister) - Wife of Clifford Davies - Cwmaman, Aberdare.
  3. Jennie Blodwen Atkinson - Guest House Owner and Wife of Ernest Atkinson - Porthcawl
  4. Shirley Jones - Single woman - Porthcawl
  5. William Rees Thomas - Taxi Proprietor - Porthcawl
  6. John Carter Clare - Watch repairer - Porthcawl
  7. Lilian Elizabeth Harvey - Single Woman - Porthcawl
  8. Lilian Violet Newlyn - Wife of Henry Charles Newlyn - Porthcawl
  9. Frank Stanley Rowe - Mason - Porthcawl.
  10. Jethroe Gough - Doctor of Medicene - Whitchurch , Cardiff
  11. Authur James Speck - Gas Fitter - Porthcawl
  12. Thomas Lewis - Police Constable - Porthcawl Police Station
  13. Thomas Nicholas - War Reserve Contable (W.R.C) - Porthcawl Police Station
  14. William Matthews - Police Inspector - Porthcawl Police Station
  15. Robert Hodkinson - General Practitioner - Porthcawl
  16. Beryl Edwards - Nurse - Bridgend & District Hospital
  17. Lancelot Douglas Bailey - Police Detective Inspector - Port Talbot
  18. William Heap - Police Detective Sgt. - Bridgend
  19. George Edward Lewis Carter - Staff Chemist - Cardiff
  20. Francis Edward Morton - Firearms Shooter & Tester - Birmingham

The trial lasted two days and on the 12th July 1945, Howard Grossley was found guilty of the murder of Lily Griffiths. He appealed and his appeal was heard on 21st August 1945. However, the verdict of murder was upheld and Howard Grossley was sentenced to death by hanging 5th September 1945 (aged 37 years). His body was buried within the Cardiff Prison Cemetery....or was it ?

If Howard Grossley's body is what lies buried in the grounds of Cardiff Prison, then who is the person honoured in Brookwood Memorial War Cemetery in Surrey ? He shares the same name and service number as Howard Grossley but apparently died EXACTLY two years earlier in combat....

Brookwood War Cemetery, Surrey
Highlighted by red arrow, Howard Grossley's name
(GROSSLEY J.H)
exists on cemetery wall

Click here to see the above on the actual War Graves Comission web site

Related Link: 6th October 2003, BBC News web site: Howard Grossley's body is to be exhumed to permit the building of a new cell block at Cardiff Prison. Click here to view BBC web page.

NAME: Bombardier JOSEPH HOWARD GROSSLEY

Regimental Number: D-106883
Rank: Bombardier
Unit: RCA (Royal Canadian Army) 2nd Division

Personal

DATE OF BIRTH:       25th September 1907
PLACE OF BIRTH:    Verdun, Quebec, Canada
DATE OF DEATH:     5th September 1945 - (Judicial Hanging – on strength of Forces H.Q. 405-G-1301)

PLACE OF DEATH:   Cardiff Prison (Remains buried within precincts of Cardiff Prison Cemetery)

NATIONALITY:         Canadian
RELIGION:                 Roman Catholic
HEIGHT:                     5’7”
WEIGHT:                   150Lbs
EYE COLOUR:          Blue (Wore glasses)
FOSTER FAMILY:    Frank Viens (14 E Spring Street, Winooski, Vermont, USA
NEXT OF KIN:          Mrs Marie Goulet Grossley (Wife), Burlington, Vermont, USA.
CHILDREN:               son

Qualifications
MILITARY:                                      None
BUSINESS OR PROFESSIONAL: None
TRADE OR CIVIL:                         Chauffeur
TECHNICAL:                                  None
LANGUAGES:                                French, Spanish & English

Educational Qualifications
HIGH SCHOOL: 3 years Burlington High School, Graduated in 1921
COLLEGE:          None
UNIVERSITY:    None
4 years public schooling

Hobbies:
Music, Swimming, golf, Soccer and hockey

Abbreviations:

C.A.S.F.    - Canadian active Service Force
S.O.S.      - Struck Off Strength
T.O.S.      - Taken On Strength
R.C.A.      - Royal Canadian Artillery
A.W.L.      - Absent Without Leave
#1.C.A.H.U  - No 1. Canadian Artillery Holding Unit
C.M.H.Q.    - Canadian Medical Head Quarters
S.I.Q.      - Sick in Quarters
N.C.O.      - Non Conscripted Officer
P.L.        - Personal Leave
C.V.S.M.    - Canadian Volunteer Service Medal

Service Record

Reference given 12th January 1943:

Well built, clean cut N.C.O somewhat worried about his general state of health and the care of his son worries him. Separated before he joined up, he made a false statement about his marital status. The Government caught up with him, cut off the allowance, which he is now paying back to the Government. He is now unable to do much for his son. Apart from these problems he is happy in his work.

Decorations and Awards

Howard Grossley's medals and awards were forfeited upon his execution.

Although the medal was usually awarded to Canadians for six months service in Britain between 03 September 1939 and 08 May 1945, the exact terms were: Service in the forces in non-operational areas subjected to air attack or closely threatened, providing such service lasted for three or more years. Service overseas or outside the country of residence, providing that such service lasted for one year, except in territories threatened by the enemy or subject to bomb attacks, in which case it was six months prior to 02 September 1945.
The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal was granted to persons of any rank in the Naval, Military or Air Forces of Canada who voluntarily served on Active Service and honorably completed eighteen months (540 days) total voluntary service from September 3, 1939 to March 1, 1947.  A silver bar (often called a clasp), a maple leaf at its center was awarded for 60 days service outside Canada. A silver maple leaf is worn on the ribbon in undress.
The War Medal was awarded to all full-time personnel of the armed forces and merchant marines for serving for 28 days between 03 September 1939 and 02 September 1945. In the Merchant Navy, the 28 days must have been served at sea.

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