John Griffiths-Colby

Location: Reigate, Surrey
About me...

If you have got this far you must be looking for a public speaker to entertain and inform your chosen audience. I have a wide-ranging background in Journalism, Business Consultancy, Public Speaking and very importantly, Plumbing. I have written extensively for National and Regional magazines, providing satirical and lifestyle columns for the New Statesman and Italian Bike magazines respectively. In my day job as a Business Consultant I deal in business change and I see what works and what doesn’t, in life as well as in business.

About my talks...

All my talks are illustrated, just that; I talk and there are pictures which will illustrate and explain as a background to the subject. I don’t and won’t read from a script or from a Powerpoint slide show. I am reliably informed my talks are funny, a little abstract but ultimately thought-provoking. I will adapt and tailor my talks to your audience as part of the fixed price. I also take commissions for specific material/audiences. My aim is to engage and inform my audience without being too serious. This will be a sideways view of life and the audience will need to think a bit, laugh a bit and take a new thought away with them.

All of my talks are available as remote/virtual presentations (Zoom)


I am based near where the Kent/Surrey/Sussex borders meet and my fee of £120 includes travel expenses within those counties. I am happy to travel further afield but I will need to provide you with a price depending on location. Likewise special commissions will be by arrangement.

My Contact Details:

07890 461 276

Staff Nurse Emily Connell's Autograph Book

Emily Connell was a remarkable woman; hailing from Bootle and having enrolled in the Territorial Force Nursing Service in 1908, she was appointed as Staff Nurse at 3rd Western General Hospital in Cardiff (The hospital where Sapper Clay was treated) when war broke out in 1914. As well as serving there throughout the First World War, she kept an autograph book in which her patients drew and wrote messages. This is the story of her own highs and lows and struggles with the system. It is also the story of the remarkable work the TFNS did with Shell Shock sufferers and sheds light on some of the soldiers who left their incredible pictures and anecdotes in her book.

Finding Sapper Clay

With the First World War centenary very much upon us, this is the story of how the chance discovery of a long-lost medal in a garden in Surrey triggered the search for an old soldier’s family. Uncovering a remarkable series of coincidences, the resulting search for a living descendant would span 19th century brickmaking in Warwickshire, the Somme, Gallipoli, a disastrous gas accident, family and estrangement and bizarrely, would reach further back in time to connect with a landmark in women’s literature – George Eliot’s (Mary Anne Evans’) first story collection published in 1857. Just who was Sapper Clement Cecil Clay R.E.?

For this talk I donate £10 of my fee to the Poppy Appeal.

How Far Can Retro Go?

Out of date, outmoded, out of here – fashion is only predictable in as much as it is fickle and perhaps in knowing that what goes around, will come around. Is Retro really a style or just recycling – how much of it can we digest when we remember it from the first time around? Was it even new then? Also has the ascendance of male grooming and eating out replaced the attractiveness of a bloke who looks like he needs a good meal? It worked so well for James Dean, Jim Morrison, Oliver Tobias and Frank Sinatra – what’s going on?

Change and the Wrong Ways

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once wrote ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’ [the more it changes, the more it is the same thing] and this is quoted about as often as people say ‘the only constant is change’. Large and small companies now have teams dedicated to Change and the media sells us stuff by justifying our need for changing the item we already have. Millions of books are sold with the aim of helping us change our lives, families and personalities. Here I explore the subject of Change and present some wry observations as to why we accept that ‘change happens’ and at the same time ‘nothing changes’ and why we spend a lot of our spare headspace trying to work out how to change things and in particular, those closest to us. In the meantime we, of course, don’t really need to change and usually just end up behaving like our parents.

The Doods Road Great Pigeon Loft

In this third part of the Sapper Clay trilogy we start another gallop through history chasing down medal winners – starting with the house next door to Sapper Clay’s in Reigate, Surrey. What was so important about his neighbours that they required an armed guard in both World Wars? We look at the lives, times and medals won by its secret inhabitants, who they worked for and ask just what it had to do with James Bond and Spike Milligan (Musician, Goon, Author and Comedian)?

Who's Wally?

Walter Stafford Colby came from a long line of Yarmouth fisherfolk and was drafted into the Royal Navy early in World War 2. 80 years on and 25 years since he passed away, we discover that he was a Stoker 1st Class aboard the carrier HMS Indomitable when it was struck by an Italian torpedo during the Invasion of Sicily. Back in service, aboard the frigate HMS Redmill, ‘Lucky’ as he was now known, found himself supporting the D-Day landings, on an Arctic Convoy and hunting subs until the Redmill was torpedoed – this time by U-1105 – only days before the end of the European War. Like many, Wally never told his story, but now we can. And what was so special about U-1105 that after surrendering it went missing for decades until it was found in Maryland, USA?

The Bomber In The Back Yard

On 11 July 1944, Vic Doe was 6 years old when a USAAF B-24 Liberator Bomber crash-landed at his family’s farm on the Isle of Grain, Kent, UK. This is the story of what he witnessed and the enduring friendship between that young boy and an exceptional 24-year-old pilot from Richmond, Virginia. It is also the extraordinary story of this crew from the US 448th Bombardment Group based at Seething, Norfolk, UK. They had only been in England three weeks when flak and fighter damage forced them down. Stumbling out into a field in Kent they were treated to Potato and Leek soup with freshly baked bread – which they never forgot. After 36 missions some -not all – went home. For others their journey continued through Korea and Vietnam. Remarkably this incident, only three miles from the Chatham Naval Dockyard, would echo down one family’s generations to the tragic sinking of HMS Coventry during the Falklands War.
Proceeds from this talk are shared with the Seething Control Tower Museum and the D118 HMS Coventry Association


“A very good story and well presented!”

Bertie – Seniors Club (October 2023)


“Our retired gents’ lunch club near Woking in Surrey enjoyed a light-hearted talk entitled ‘How Far Can Retro Go’ from John in August this year (2023). It was delivered enthusiastically and with panache. I received many positive comments from our members afterwards and we would have no hesitation in recommending both the talk and the speaker to similar clubs.”

David – Woking Lunch Club (August 2023)

John Griffiths-Colby Contact Details:

07890 461 276

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