Cecil Griffiths
Cecil Griffiths 1922b.jpg
Griffiths in 1922
Personal information
Full nameCecil Redvers Griffiths
Born(1900-02-18)18 February 1900
Neath, Wales
Died11 April 1945(1945-04-11) (aged 45)
Edgware, Greater London, England
SportTrack and field
Event(s)400 metres, 440 yards, 880 yards
ClubSurrey AC
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)220 yd – 22.9 (1921)
440 yd – 49.8 (1921)
880 yd – 1:53.1e (1926)
1000 m – 2:31.8 (1925)
Mile – 4:25.4 (1922)[1]

Cecil Redvers Griffiths (18 February 1900 – 11 April 1945) was a Welsh athlete who won a gold medal at the 1920 Summer Olympics. He was subsequently barred from competing at the 1924 Summer Olympics due to a ruling that he had competed as a professional during his early career, but continued to successfully race in domestic competitions.[2]


Early life

Griffiths' father, Benjamin, was a former able-bodied seaman born in a workhouse who settled in Neath upon leaving the Royal Navy.[3] He was a successful local businessman, town councillor and committee member of Neath RFC. He married Sarah Trick in 1892.[4]

Griffiths was Benjamin and Sarah's fifth child of six, but only older siblings Ben and Eva survived beyond infancy.[5] Their father died when Griffiths was eight.[6] Griffiths showed promise as a winger for Neath RFC but did not progress beyond the junior sides due to the outbreak of the First World War.

Upon leaving school, Griffiths began work at the Great Western Railway depot in Neath. When he reached his eighteenth birthday in February 1918, he volunteered for the Queen's Westminsters, a Territorial Army regiment in London.[7] The war ended before Griffiths was sent on active service.

Athletics career

While in the army, Griffiths ran in several races, including winning the 440 yards at the 1918 Inter-Services Championships at Stamford Bridge.[8] When the war ended, Griffiths joined Surrey Athletics Club and made his first appearance in the AAA Championships in 1919, finishing third in the 440 yards. Third place in the same race the following year led to Griffiths being selected in the British team for the 1920 Summer Olympics.

Griffiths made his only Olympic Games appearance in the 1920 Antwerp Games, running the opening leg in the British 4×400 metres relay team which won the gold medal.[9] He was also picked to represent Britain in the 400 metres but illness forced him to withdraw before the event.[1]

In September 1920, soon after the Olympics, Griffiths was a member of the British Empire team that broke the 4×440 yards British record in a time of 3:20.8. The following year, Griffiths claimed the Welsh records in 220 yards and 440 yards.[10]

In 1922, Griffiths switched focus to 880 yards. In his first season, he broke the Welsh record at this distance. He won the AAA Championships 880 yards in 1923 and 1925.[11]

At the end of 1923 or in early 1924, Griffiths was banned by the International Amateur Athletics Federation and Amateur Athletic Association for receiving prize money at unregistered races in Neath and Swansea in 1917, the cumulative prizes of which totalled less than £10.[12] As a reinstated professional, Griffiths was allowed to compete in domestic competitions but was prevented from representing the UK in international competitions. This barred him from the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, where it is likely that Griffiths would have competed in the 800 metres and 4×400 metres relay.

Life after athletics

Griffiths retired from competitive running in 1929. He lost his job in the Great Depression that followed the Wall Street Crash and was forced to sell most of his trophies and medals.[13] Griffiths found employment again at the coal depot office of the London Co-operative Society in Edgware. On the outbreak of the Second World War, Griffiths joined his local Home Guard and reportedly saved the life of a comrade who dropped a live grenade by throwing it over a blast wall.[14]

Griffiths died of heart failure in 1945 at Edgware railway station in London, leaving a widow and two sons. He was buried in St. Lawrence's Church in London in an unmarked grave. In 2022 a headstone was installed at the grave.[6][15]

Personal life

Griffiths met his wife, Gladys (May) Rees, at a junior running race in Neath in 1915. They were later formally introduced by May's older brother. They married in St. David's Parish Church in Neath on 25 July 1922 but spent all of their married life in London.[16] Griffiths had two sons, John and Cecil (usually called Rees).

One of Griffiths' uncles, George Trick, was a captain of Neath RFC. A cousin, Kathleen Trick, is thought to be the first identifiable female depicted in rugby kit.[17]


  1. ^ a b Cecil Griffiths. sports-reference.com
  2. ^ "Cecil Griffiths". Olympedia. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  3. ^ Hanna 2014, p. 12.
  4. ^ Hanna 2014, p. 14.
  5. ^ Hanna 2014, pp. 14–15.
  6. ^ a b Murray, Matthew. "Olympics: Headstone bid for champion in unmarked grave". BBC News. Retrieved 29 July 2021.
  7. ^ Hanna 2014, p. 35.
  8. ^ Hanna 2014, p. 38.
  9. ^ "Cecil Richmond Griffiths". Olympic Movement. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  10. ^ "Cecil Griffiths". Welsh Athletics. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  11. ^ "British Athletics Championships 1919-1939". GBR Athletics. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  12. ^ Hanna 2014, p. 153.
  13. ^ Hanna 2014, p. 226.
  14. ^ Hanna 2014, pp. 238–239.
  15. ^ Murray, Matt (13 May 2022). "Cecil Griffiths: Forgotten athlete to get fitting memorial". BBC News. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  16. ^ Hanna 2014, p. 123.
  17. ^ "More on the first female Springbok". Scrum Queens. Retrieved 26 April 2014.