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James Wright

Lance Corporal James Wright

Birth

James Wright was born in Bulby, Lincolnshire, in 1897. His birth was registered between July and September 1897.

Family History

James Wright was born 1897 in Bulby near Bourne to Soloman Wright, a Groom and his wife Louisa Wells.

Soloman Wright was born around 1843 in Leverington, Cambridgeshire, and married Louisa Wells, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in 1876 in the Bourne area. They originally lived in Hacconby before moving to Bulby.

They had nine children in all; William D (b 1876), George Ernest (b 1881), Arthur F (b 1882), Albert E (b 1886), Walter Harold (b 1888), Alfred Gordon (b 1891), Henry Vernon (b 1895), James (b 1897), Emma Caroline (b 1901).

In 1911 James Wright can be found on the census (April 2nd) living with his parents in Bulby near Bourne. Soloman was listed as a Groom and Yardman and James was listed as a scholar.

Later Soloman and Louisa moved to Hanthorpe and were living there in 1917.

Military History

We are unable to trace the war records for James, as with many from the Lincolnshire Regiment, these could be part of the burnt records that were destroyed in the blitz.

The Soldiers Died In THe Great War roll shows that Lance Corporal James Wright served in the 1st / 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. This index ties the soldier to his parents thus proving that this James is the son of Soloman and Louisa Wright of Hanthorpe.

As James had reached the rank of Lance Corporal it would be logical to assume that he had been in the Army for some time before his death in 1917. Although, because of the lack of a medals roll card or an attestation record, it is not known when James joined the army and so we can only look at the history of the 4th Battalion around the time of James’ death.

As James was just old enough to have enlisted at the start of the war I have added some background information about the 4th battalion.

The following information is taken from the History of The Lincolnshire Regiment by C R Simpson.

At the outbreak of war the Lincolnshire Regiment was made up of 5 Battalions. The 1st and 2nd were the regular battalions, the 3rd Battalion was a militia battalion and the 4th and 5th Battalions were the territorial battalions. The 4th Battalion was based at the Drill Hall in Lincoln whilst the 5th was based in the north of the county.

On the 25th of July, 1914, the 4th  battalion (Lieut.-Colonel J.W. Jessop) and 5th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel T.E. Sandall) were assembled at Bridlington for their usual annual “Territorial Battalion” training, but on the 2nd of August, received orders to return to their Headquarters on the 3rd. By the afternoon of the 4th both battalions had returned to their respective Headquarters and been dismissed with orders to hold themselves in readiness to assemble at their Drill Halls on receipt of the hourly expected orders to mobilise.

These came during the evening. The 5th, the first day of mobilisation, was one of great excitement and activity. At that early period only five Territorial battalions had signed the General Service obligation “ to serve overseas if required in time of national danger,” but on the declaration of war it was not long before the majority of Territorial units throughout the country volunteered for service overseas whenever they were required.

The first duties which fell to the lot of the Lincolnshire Territorials were to guard Grimsby Docks and Harbour, to protect the electric power station, wireless station at Weelsby and the construction of defences at the mouth of the Humber.

On the 10th of August, both battalions reported mobilisation complete and the following day they entrained for Belper, the War Station of the Lincolnshire and Leicestershire Brigade. For the next few days training consisted chiefly of route marching with full equipment. On the 15th, however, a move was made to Luton, which for several months was the home of the North Midland Division, the Lincolnshire being billeted in the town.

On the 15th of September, 1914, the Government called on the Territorials to volunteer for foreign service, and practically all battalions throughout the country answered the call, though for various reasons not all ranks could undertake overseas obligations: Units of which not less than sixty per cent. volunteered were designated“ General Service”, and were ordered to recruit up to establishment and twenty-five per cent beyond it. As soon as units had obtained a sufficiently high percentage of volunteers for service overseas, a second unit of similar strength was formed : the latter were termed “ Second Line ” units ; Later, “ Third Line ” units were formed. The original Territorial battalions then became known as the First Line units. Thus the original 4th and 5th Lincolnshire territorial Battalions became the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions.

The 1/4th and 1/5th Lincolnshire were eventually posted to the 138th Brigade, 46th Division, and went to France with that formation in February 1915.

As we are not sure when James Wright joined the 1st/4th Battalion, we now move straight into the spring of 1917 where we are reasonably sure that James was already fighting with the Battalion.

The 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment spent the spring of 1917 in training before being sent back into front line trenches on the twenty third of April east of Cite St. Pierre, north-west of Lens.

During May trench warfare was of a strenuous nature. We raided the enemy, the enemy raided us. Patrol encounters in No Man’s Land were numerous. The guns of both sides were seldom silent by day or night. Bombing, sniping, trench-mortaring and machine-gunning were constant. The diaries have frequent items such as “ Enemy shelling and trench-mortaring incessant,” or “ Enemy put down heavy barrage.” To all of which the British guns replied with interest.

On the 1st the 1/4th took over part of the front line between Fosse II de Lens and Hart’s Crater. The next morning German ” Sturmtruppen ” raided a bombing post in Netley Street, and the battalion had sixteen casualties. Whilst visiting his advanced post in Nero Trench, 2nd Lieutenant J. Rickey was killed by a sniper. On the following morning the enemy again raided the battalion : at night the 1/5th took over the line.

There is, in the Diary of the 1/4th Lincolnshire, the following entry for the 28th of May : On May 28th the 138th Brigade (Lincolnshire and Leicestershire) was withdrawn from the line, the 4th Battalion, Lincolnshire, taking up billets at Bouvigny Boyelles. Here it was that stirring news reached them. The battalion was honoured by the command to take part in an extensive enterprise on a two thousand yards front north-west, west and south-west of Lens. The next day (29th May) training began in earnest over a replica of the ground over which the attack was to be launched.

On the 6th of June the Commanding Officer announced on parade that the plans had been altered and instead of the proposed operations, the attack was to be a series of destructive raids : zero hour was 8.30 p.m. on the 8th of June. That evening the 1/4th Lincolnshire (Lieut.-Colonel GA. Yool, commanding) marched out of Bouvigny and billeted in the ruins of Cite des Boreaux Levin.

The story of the attack which took place is thus recorded in the Battalion Diary : “ The 8th of June arrived-a perfect summer day. The afternoon was spent in moving up to cellars in Cite de Riaumont, adjoining the assembly trenches. All companies reached these without mishap except D Company, which lost the services of 2nd Lieutenant E.A. Dennis (13 Platoon) wounded by one of the enemy’s shells, which were already finding our stationary zone. Time crept on towards zero. ‘ Sausages ’ enlived the waiting period, as they crashed on and around the ruins which sheltered us. Well before 8 p.m., C, D and B Companies were in position in their respective assembly trenches. In some way the enemy seems to have known our timed movements and intentions.

The intensity of the barrage to which the assembled troops were subjected was an experience no one on the spot is likely to forget. “ D Company fared worst, as, while the bombardment of their sector was accurate to a degree, on the flank sectors it was sufficiently ‘ plus ’ to miss the assembled platoons.

“ At zero-3, Captain R.D. Ellis, commanding D Company; and Captain Wakeley, commanding 4th Leicesters ‘ mopping-up ’ company, were caught by the same shell as they came into position in the rear trench. Both were killed outright.

“ At 8.30 p.m. the synchronised signal to advance was given. C Company on the right, got away without mishap, two platoons south of Cutting and one under and Lieutenant A.B. Hardy, who was wounded almost immediately, to bring covering fire from Cutting. D Company, in the centre, as soon as they T jumped off’ by serried ranks and increased intervals to lessen gaps, showed the effects of their experience in the assembly trenches. B Company, on the left, were a joy to behold as they went over in line. The Cutting was reached.

“ D Company, by this time reduced by half its numbers, and B Company, already caught by the enemy’s  guns, scaled the further slopes of the Cutting together and advanced to their objectives. Captain E.J.S. Maples, commanding B  Company, was at this juncture struck in the forearm by an ugly piece of shell case, but continued the advance with his men. Owing to a portion of their line being oblique to the ‘A’ barrage and the Stokes mortars, which were to deal with this sector, being put out of action, the enemy tried to man his trenches from his dugouts.

C Company, with the platoon of the 5th Leicesters on their right, were completely held up. When the first wave of D and B Companies reached the front German trench his barrage was already on it, and a temporary check occurred until the reinforcing waves came up. Owing to this check, we were unable to keep up with our barrage and the enemy lined his second trench before our arrival there. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued and after a further advance by D Company to the south and B Company to the east, the odds became overwhelming. We fell back first to Ahead, and then to the Cutting.

“ Meantime Sergeant E. Quinton with his platoon got further afield than the rest. It was during this stage of the fight that B Company lost 2nd Lieutenant R.T. Thomson and end Lieutenant H.C. Chase, both of them died gloriously, the former as the result of a second wound and the latter from a shell-burst. Sergeant E. Quinton, B Company, and his platoon, after several attempts to rejoin their comrades, in which they repeatedly bumped up against strong parties of the enemy, finally succeeded in rushing an opposition post and fighting their way back to our line after having been in the German lines for four hours – a triumph of leadership on the part of Sergeant E. Quinton. The demolished bridge on the right flank was at once manned and, under 2nd Lieutenant W.F. Maskell (D Company, 14 Platoon), kept the enemy at respectful distance, telling work being done by the Lewis guns. The front of the Cutting was lined by the remnant of B and D Companies under Captain E. J.S. Maples, and was held until orders for withdrawal to assembly trenches were received, A Company having manned our original line of posts. It was not till then that Captain E.J.S. Maples withdrew from the fight and had his arm properly dressed, some three hours after he was wounded.

“ The  greatest assistance had been rendered throughout by the 138th Machine-Gun Company under Major A.A. Ellwood, a 4th Lincolnshire officer, and particularly by a detachment of two of his guns under Lieutenant Stentiford, manned by the 4th ’ Lincolnshire. The attack on the right had gone well, A Company 4th Leicestershire having reached their objective easily, and sent back twenty-seven prisoners.”

There are no records of casualties, other than those mentioned, either in the Battalion or Brigade Diaries. Throughout the 9th companies reorganized, and at night the 1/4th were relieved by the 1/5th Lincolnshire, the former moving back to Lievin, in support.

During the remainder of June neither the I /4th nor the 1/5th again attacked the enemy, but both battalions lent assistance to the 1/5th Leicesters and the 1/5th South Staffords who assaulted the German trenches on the  28th. Of the  1/4th, A Company was detailed to carry bombs, etc., for the Leicesters, while B, C and D Companies jointIy supplied five parties of one officer and thirty men each for wiring. Of the  1/5th, B Company carried wire from Quarry Dump to the foot of the Slag Heap.

The several attacks made during June were all preliminary to the larger operations which had been planned for the 1st of July.

In this attack all three brigades of the 46th Division were to take part, the Canadians attacking on the right. The 138 th Brigade was to be on the right, the two assaulting battalions being the 1/4th and  1/5th Lincolnshire, right and left respectively.

The attack took place at 2.47 a.m. on the 1st of July. The 1/4th Lincolnshire, on the extreme right of the.Divisional front, with their right resting on the Souchez River, had to advance in a north-easterly direction. A and C Companies were in the front line, supported by B and D Companies. Creeping close up under our barrage, which remained stationary for seven minutes, the two companies reached their objectives with few casualties and little opposition. But on their left the 1/5th were not as fortunate. Their objective was the Cite de Moulin, of which most of the houses were fortified machine-gun posts protected by wire. The right company of the 1/5th, owing to the darkness, veered off to the right, obtaining touch with the 1/4th Battalion, but losing it with the left company.

The right company of the 1/5th had much more difficult country to negotiate, and having become involved in heavy fighting among the houses of the Cite, they were unable to get forward before the barrage left them behind. They fought most gallantly, but were gradually compelled to fall back. This un-covered the left of the 1/4th Battalion, and the latter were now hard put to it to maintain their position. Dawn broke and in a little while daylight revealed the position of the Lincolnshire to the enemy, who very soon turned his artillery on to the outpost and piquet lines formed by the battalion. Gradually their defences were destroyed and the men were forced to withdraw, taking shelter in numerous shell-holes in rear. At IO a.m.

Captain Elliott crawled forward and established his advanced posts in their original positions. There they stayed through a bombardment which lasted, with only a few short intervals, for forty-eight hours. Hundreds of tons of explosives were hurled by the enemy at the devoted troops, clinging qvith great courage and tenacity to their precarious positions. The 1/4th, their flanks open, had been unable to capture their objective.

Another attack, ordered for the night of the 1st/2nd of July, was cancelled. On the 2nd, the Canadians took over the line from the 138th Brigade and the 1/4th moved back to Houvelin and the 1/5th to Bailleul les Cornailles.

The 1/4 do not record their casualties, though the names of two officers, wounded on the 2nd, i.e., 2nd Lieutenants Summerdell and Baker, are given. The 1/5th lost thirteen other ranks killed, three died of wounds, two officers (Captains Hett and Goodall), and eighteen other ranks wounded, and seventeen other ranks missing. The 46th Division was now temporarily withdrawn from the line for a period of rest and training.

The 1/4 (Lieut.-Colonel G.A. Yool) and 1/5th (Lieut.- Colonel H-A. Waring) Lincolnshire, spent five months, August to December inclusive, in the trenches south-east of Bethune, between LOOS and the La Bassee Canal, relieving each other, six days in and six days out of the trenches was approximately the rule at this period. There is an entry in the Diary of the 1/4th relieved on the night of the 3rd/4th August, in the Hulluch-Loos sector that, as the battalion “ had been working and fighting six days and nights in water nearly up to, one’s knees, ambulances were in readiness at Mazingarbe to convey anyone unable to walk.

” The St. Elie sector was taken over from the 1/5th on the night of the 22nd/23rd; here there was such an extensive tunnel system that it was possible to go round most of the sub-sectors without using the trenches.

On the 7th September, 2nd Lieutenant Phyphers of the 1/4th (having done good work on patrol two nights earlier), led a party in a silent raid on the enemy, killing several. Six other ranks were wounded, but were brought in safely. Lance-Corporal Featherstone won the M.M. in this fight, which, took place on the parapet.

On the 8th September, B and C Companies carried out a raid on the enemy’s trenches, south of St. Elie, where they cut the Vermelles-Hulluch road. Captain S.C.W. Disney was in command of the raiding party, and Lieutenants G.H. Quantrill, R.C.B. Harvey, B.G. English and H.E. Hawkeswood commanding the right-front, right-rear, left-front and left-rear parties respectively. One hundred other ranks “ went over ” with great dash, and entered the enemy’s trenches, but found he had evacuated his two front lines, probably warned by the preliminary bombardment.  Captain Disney was reported to have conducted the raid with considerable ability, and Company-sergeant-Major A.C. Needham, Sergeant H. Lewis, Corporal J. Austin, and Private C. Weckles were mentioned for conspicuous gallantry. Two other ranks killed, sixteen wounded, and three missing were the casualties.

The two battalions occupied in succession, after the St. Elie ’ sector, Hill 70, north of Lens, about the middle of November, and in December, Cambrin, south of the La Bassee Canal, near Guinchy.

It is during the time near Cambrin, south of the La Bassee Canal that Lance Corporal James Wright was killed in action on 15th December 1917, aged 20.

Medals

As we cannot find the medals roll record for James Wright it is not possible to state exactly which medals he was eligible for but as he served within the Army and in France then this would make him elligiable for the Victory Medal and the British Medal.

Memorial

Lance Corporal James Wright, 201282, 1st / 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment who died aged 20 on 15th December 1917 is remembered with honour in the Cambrin Military Cemetery.
Grave Ref: M 22.

J Wright

J Wright gate

Please see below for more pictures from Cambrin Military Cemetery.

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