A FORMER Denbigh police officer has shed light on another side of life at the Kinmel Park camp.

Just in time for the centenary anniversary of the Bodelwyddan camp's infamous riots on March 4 and 5, 1919, Robert H Griffiths has published Riots, Death and Baseball - The Canadians at Kinmel Park Camp 1918-19.

His latest work – already sold out on Amazon and with a ‘Best Seller’ rating - focuses on some of the pastimes enjoyed by the troops awaiting transport home, as well as the extraordinary tales of some of the characters from the First Nations – indigenous Canadians – and ‘The Black Battalion’. It also features extracts from The Journal’s sister title The Denbighshire Free Press.

Mr Griffiths said: "The story of Kinmel Park Camp does still captivate many people, from far and wide, as well as people from the area.”

The book, his third on the subject, follows up the success of his first The Story of Kinmel Park Military Training Camp 1914 to 1918, which despite now being first published in 2014 is rated 19,212 out of more 8.5 million books and has been rated the number book worldwide on ‘The History of Wales’.

The camp gained infamy following the Armistice on November 11, 1918, when it transitioned to a staging camp for more than 17,000 Canadian soldiers nursing sisters awaiting repatriation.

However, from late January and early February 1919, poor living conditions and overcrowding caused discontent amongst the troops leading to riots on the evening of Tuesday, March 4, 1919.

Wrecking and looting followed before a ‘rioting mob’ attacked camps 19 and 20, leading to the deaths of five Canadian troops as well as 57 arrests and subsequent courts martial.

Mr Griffith’s added: “The camp and its surrounding area, and especially the ‘local hotspot’ of Rhyl on Friday and Saturday nights became very much Canadian.

“However, this was the worst rioting and disturbances, with the most fatalities of any which took place in the UK during the First World War period."

Some of the extraordinary people present at the camp include ‘Mike Mountain Horse’ of the Blood Tribe, in Alberta, Canada, who killed three German combatants with ‘his war knife’ before being bayoneted in the abdomen, and who was decorated with Blackfoot and Blood Tribe ‘victory symbols’.

Also at the camp was Joseph Crow Chief, of the same tribe, who was wounded on the first day of The Battle of Canal du Nord, in September 1918 and was also ‘gassed’ in the trenches.

North Wales Chronicle:

Lieutenant Charles Denton Smith, uncle of actor Jay Silverheels who played Tonto in the 1950’s American series The Lone Ranger was another at the camp.

Mr Griffiths further discusses the hundreds of members of No. 2 Construction Battalion - better known as ‘The Black Battalion’ - which caused racial tensions leading to a ‘razor and stones fight’. Among them was the very first black officer in the Canadian and British military, the Rev Captain William Andrew White.

Mr Griffith’s said: “There was also Benjamin Randolph Hagin, a fisherman of Lockeport, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, who met and married Elizabeth Twist, known as ‘Betsy’, from Brickfield Terrace, Rhyl - not the most usual thing to happen in 1919 in Rhyl.

"By telling their stories, it ensures that those who were at Kinmel Park Camp during the First World War period are not forgotten, are not just mere names on War Memorials, or upon long-forgotten gravestones."

To find out more of the camp’s history, Mr Griffiths will give a talk to the Prestatyn History Club at the Ty Caradoc Community Centre on Wednesday, March 13 at 10am.

The book is £9.50 and available via publishers Gwasg Carreg Gwalch of Llanrwst, from the Welsh Books Council and from many bookshops and booksellers including Waterstone and at the Tweedmill in Trefnant.