To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, staff at West Sussex Record Office have shared their stories of family members who were caught up in the conflict.
My great grandfather James (Jim) Horace Wright was born in Hackney on 22nd April 1891, the son of James and Esther Wright, and brother to Ernest and five sisters.
After having worked on the Great Western Railway at Smithfield Market from 1905 to 1908, he joined B Company, (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) 1st Middlesex Regiment and after his training was sent to serve in India in 1910, not returning until 1913. It was the Christmas of 1913 that he met my great grandmother Rosanna for the first time.
He was called up to war on 4th August 1914 and told to report to Mill Hill Barracks. As an existing member of the Army, he became part of the British Expeditionary Force and as such, was one of the very first soldiers to be sent to France. We are fortunate enough to have a short diary he wrote between 1914 and 1915; although very sparing in detail, it does document the extreme hard work and difficult conditions the soldiers had to endure. The first few weeks of his war were spent digging trenches amidst gunfire, often after a 12 mile walk. Rather poignantly he writes in the front of his diary that it should go to his mother or Rosanna, ‘in the event of my death’. His position in the Army was a Drummer, which also meant he served as a stretcher bearer.
On 25th September 1915, his company was actively involved in the first day of the Battle of Loos. My great grandmother wrote a brief account of what had happened to him, which my family never knew about until we received the diary after my grandfather (his son) had died. Whilst carrying out his duties as a stretcher bearer with three other soldiers (carrying a wounded comrade from the battlefield), a German sniper shot those three soldiers dead, with one of the bullets wounding my great grandfather in the shoulder. It was while he was attempting to find shelter in a shell hole that he was shot again, this time through the ankle.
We will never know how he made it back to his trenches but at some point he was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station and then brought to England on 27th September. He was taken straight to Graylingwell War Hospital in Chichester, where he had a diseased bone removed and was on crutches for some time. I know that he was in Graylingwell until 15th October at least, but he was likely in there for longer. Around April 1916, he was sent to Grantham in Lincolnshire to join the Machine Gun Corps and sent to Palestine, from where he did not return until March 1919. He married my great grandmother Rosanna on 22nd April 1919, his 28th birthday. He died in 1959.
Holly Wright, former Searchroom Assistant