Benjamin Wright MM

Police Constable 55, Sergeant

Paul Watts with thanks to Kitty Moores

Benjamin Wright

Early Life.

Benjamin Wright was born on the 19th May 1893 at Gwersyllt, Denbighshire.

His father was, Thomas William Henry Wright, who married his mother, Mary Barclay in 1881 Holywell, Flintshire. They had eleven children all born in Gwersyllt.
1. William James born in 1881 served as Private 18287, Royal Welsh Fusiliers from 1914 until discharged with shellshock in 1918.
2. Charles born in 1883 served as Private 34351, 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards from 1915 went into Section B Army Reserve, was a Police Officer in Manchester, mobilised in 1918 but did not serve abroad.
3. Thomas John born in 1884.
4. Annie born in 1886.
5. Sarah born in 1888.
6. Cicely (Cissy) born in 1890.
7. Benjamin.
8. Amos born in 1894.
9. Harry born and died in 1897.
10. Norman born in 1899.
11. Harry Barclay born in 1902.

During the 1891 census the family were recorded as living at Wheatsheaf, Gwersyllt, Wrexham, Denbighshire. Thomas senior was shown as being employed as a collier. In the 1901 census the family had moved and were now shown as living at High Street, Woodland View, Gwersyllt, Wrexham. Thomas is still employed as a collier.

By the 1911 census the family had moved again and were now living at 2, Albany Terrace, Rhosddu, Wrexham and Thomas is still a collier but Benjamin had left home and joined the Army.

Early Army Service.

His Army Service Record has not survived but the 1911 census records show Private 15113, Benjamin Wright, aged 18 born Gwersyllt, Wrexham, Denbighshire was serving with the Grenadier Guards and living at the Guards Depot at Caterham.

He had very probably, as was very common at the time, enlisted for short service of three years in the Colours and nine in the Reserves. The date and place of his enlistment and his subsequent date of transfer to the Reserve is not known but after he had left the Army, he applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.

Police Service.

His Police Service Record has also not survived but from other sources we know the following. Based on the date he received his pay increases and his rate of pay when he was re-appointed (see below) after the War he most likely would have joined the Police on the 9th March 1914.

He would have completed his Probationary Training at R Division at Headquarters, Hatfield and was then posted as Constable 55 to G Division at Harpenden.

General Order 118 of 21st July 1915 is a list of 96 officers which included the Chief Constable, 43 Constables who were Army reservists who were recalled and 50 Constables and 2 Sergeants who volunteered for military service. Benjamin is shown as PC 55 Wright B. G Division recalled to the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards on 4th August 1914.

Army Service During The War.

From his Medal Roll Index Card, Medal Rolls a transcript of the award of a Military Medal and excerpts from his diary we know the following:

Private 15113 Benjamin was mobilised on the 4th August 1914 and landed in France on the 13th August with 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards. He was promoted to Corporal and later Lance Sergeant.

The following is taken from his own diary which was originally published in 2002 in “Trench Foot Notes”, the publication of the Hertfordshire Police Great War Society. Other than minor corrections the text has been left as it was written.

5th August 1914 I re-joined the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards at Wellington Barracks, London. We were equipped for active Service and then sent to Chelsea Barracks arriving there about 7 p.m. Everybody is quite excited with the War.

6th August until the 12th we were preparing for active Service, training in Hyde Park, and doing long route-marches. Each evening the Band plays the Allies National anthems, and we are allowed out of Barracks for 2 hours each night.

12th August (Wednesday) we leave Chelsea Barracks with many cheers from the people, after shaking hands with the Queen (Alexandra), and marched to Nine Elms Station. Thence travelled for France, via Southampton, going aboard The Cawdor Castle at 9 p.m.

13th August at 2 a.m. the Fire Alarm sounded on the ship, but it was a false alarm, we were all quite happy, and big searchlights are shining on us, and warships escorting us. We travel for 16 hours, and arrive at Havre, France. Marched up great hill to camp. People decorate us with flowers, give us cigars.

After a train journey and marching for a few days Benjamin reached the Front Lines.

Sunday 23rd August, we get up at 2 a.m. We march off and enter the Battlefield of Malplaquet and saw the memorial statute of Waterloo, this is the Belge-Franco frontier, and we march into Belgium at 6 a.m. I can hear the battle in the distance. We get to Geney (Mons) 11.30 a.m. and our first fight begins.

Monday 24th August we were fighting 1 million Germans, who were firing like mad, and the bullets and shells were whizzing, and bursting all round us. This place was 1 mile north of Harveng and called Mons. One platoon of Irish was killed, and many of the Middlesex Regiment were killed and wounded, we force the Germans to retire, and the average killed was about three Germans to one English. We retire from this position, and the people look an awful sight, who march with us for protection. This is the first day of our retreat from Mons, and we have to march quite rapid, the Germans are after us all the time.

The Retreat From Mons.

Tuesday 25th August, we march for 23 miles, and are pursued by millions of Germans. I am very tired, but I still write in my diary. All the civilians are still following us, and we are very hungry, as we have no food, and can get no water, we are thirsty too.

Friday 28th August, I have had no time to make my diary up as we have been marching night and day, but we rest today for an hour or so, on the field where the Franco-Prussian war was fought and take up position. Our Cavalry cut up two Prussian Cavalry Corps. We wait for the Germans but French relieved us.

Saturday August 29th the French have beaten two Army Corps of Germans. We dig underground trenches, and wait for the Germans all day, but they do not come, this place is known as Borous. The French take over this place, and we march on.

Sunday 30th August, we march off from Borous through Barisis. We have now marched 180 miles in eight days and hardly any food. I live on grass, raw potatoes, turnips and carrots a luxury. At night we bivouac in a field, and I am sentry over arms all night. We are pursued by the German Cavalry but there is no fighting, we have just marched through Pasey and Chateau de Affrigue and D’Orleans, and the marching was hot and dusty, lot of the men are nearly worn out, some have fell out and will be captured, I’m still smiling.

Monday 31st August, I dismount off sentry over arms at 5.30 a.m. and we march from Pasey to Cutry and Soucy. We bivouac in a field near Soucy and I do Outpost Duty. We are attacked by the enemy, who were in 100’s of 1000’s, but we repulse them. Our Band is getting smaller.

Tuesday 1st September. (Our Fighting Day) The Germans keep on our heels, so we retire further, we get a surprise attack in a wood named Villiers Cotterets, near Soucy. We retire a little and are reinforced by another division. We charge the Germans, and our Brigadier General (R. Scott-Kerr) is badly wounded and looks an awful site, when put on his horse, and escorted away. We lose a good number of men, we properly beat the Germans, we get lost in the wood, and bullets are flying all over the place. I pick some blackberries and eat them we feel very hungry and tired too.

Wednesday 2nd September, we retire to Meaux, 43 Kilometres to Paris (or about 8 miles) and 279 to Metz. Our 4th Cavalry Brigade has captured eight German Guns, and our artillery has blown up a German transport to bits, we bivouac for the night near Meaux, and have a swim in the canal. We have a little tobacco given us.

Thursday 3rd September, we march from Meaux at 7 a.m. to reinforce the French, the bridge over the River Meaux is blown up. The streets are being barricaded, the people give us a tomato or a pear and flee with us. The people were very good to us as they had not much food.

Friday 4th September, we march through Peterelevee, and see a lot of old French Forts, we do outpost Duty, and dig holes to hide ourselves in. Lieutenant Vernon selects me to shoot German Officers whilst he picks them out with his field glasses, a German aeroplane comes overhead and drops illuminated bombs, which was to show the German artillery where we were. We at once left the place, and shortly afterwards we hear 100’s of shells falling where we had left, we marched all night to Tourneney, and then bivouacked on Saturday, being dead tired and hungry.

Saturday 5th September, we bivouac today, and get some food. Captain Gosling buys a sheep. It is killed and cooked, it is as tough as leather, and I get as much wool as mutton, but hunger makes it nice.
Sunday 6th September (our fighting day) we marched from Tourneney, and now our scheme starts. We all turned on the Germans, and chased them as fast as we could run, capturing many Germans. The Irish Guards have captured 17 German Guns. “Hooray”.

Monday 7th September we still kept chasing the Germans, and captured the transport, also 1000’s of prisoners. When we were walking through the streets, we were walking over dead Germans, some with heads, arms and legs blown off. All the houses which the Germans had occupied are blown down by our guns and are on fire.

A ‘Blighty’ Wound.

Tuesday 8th September (my fatal day) we still kept on chasing the Germans. At about 8 a.m. Lieutenant Vernon, again selected me as his observer and he with his revolver drawn and sword, and me with fixed bayonet, advanced in front of the Grenadier Guards, our Company was leading on the battlefield, we saw 1000’s of Germans with machine guns, and about 80 yards ahead was a loft of a farmhouse with seven German machine guns in it, and they opened heavy fire on Lieutenant Vernon and me. I was then shot by a Dum-Dum bullet in the left arm, the Captain who was following was shot through both legs and died, we were very lucky except Captain Stevens, who died. I could not only fire but 2 more shots as my hand had lost its strength and Lieutenant Vernon told me to get back out of sight which I did do, and got in a wood, bullets flying about in 1000’s. I got away, and put a bandage on my arm to stop the blood, which was coming out quickly. I got near some Royal Field Artillery men and they bandage my arm again. I go up the road, get water for men who are dying, and covered with blood. I make a shade for them with a blanket, I carried on my pack, as the sun was scorching their wounds. I then go in search of food and get some cider apples off a tree. An ambulance passes, and I jump on it, as I can’t fight any more, the ambulance is full of wounded and dying and it looks a terrible sight, no one knows what war is like unless they see it. Chaps are laid at the side of the road dead and their coats put over their faces. We get out of the ambulance and go in an old shed about 10 p.m. Hay is put on the floor, and the groans of the wounded and dying men sounds awful, we are packed in like sardines in a tin. We have a little drop of hot Bovril, or Oxo. It tastes nice. We are visited by the doctor at 2 a.m. who takes out all the bullets he can. Mine cannot be seen and is in pieces in my arm, so I have another rest. A horse dies outside the shed through want of food and rest. Some men of the Coldstream’s die in the night. We are still chasing the Germans.

Wednesday 9th September, we are waiting for the cars to take us to the railway station and they come in the afternoon. We ride for 20 miles to St. Simeon station near St. Dennis we board the Ambulance Train and ride from Wednesday until Friday evening. We are all as happy as birds, whistling and singing as we’ve heard that we were going to England. We stop at each large station, such as Le Mans, where we are supplied with plenty of food, the French people give us this food, which consists of tobacco, wine, coffee or milk, stewed pears, and much chocolate.

Friday 11th September, we board the hospital Ship, Carisbrooke Castle, at St.
Nazaire. Here we had our wounds bandaged. We remain on the ship all day, which is in the harbour all the time. I shall have to go under the X-Rays as my bullet cannot be found.

Saturday 12th September, we get food on the ship, which we have not seen for some time. We have a lot of Germans on the ship and they seemed to be starved to death, as they eat twice as much as we do, in less time than we can eat ours. Our chaps give them cigarettes, and one German sings us a song “I vance had a Kamerad” he could speak good English. The Germans are treated just as good as us, in fact they are bandaged up before us, and they make an awful fuss of a little wound.

Back Home.

Sunday 13th September, we set sail for England at 12 noon, and everybody is quite happy. We are sailing through the Bay of Biscay at 3.30 p.m. The sun is shining, and everyone on board, including the Germans, who could get on top deck attended a service held by the Chaplain. The sea is a little rough in the Bay of Biscay, and I asked one or two of the Germans if they would like to go to Germany or England, so they said, “England best” meaning they would rather go to England. During the passage, the ship rocked a great deal and many of us were sea-sick. (“well I knew it”). We are going through St. Catherine’s Bay, now we go through Shanklin, Isle of Wight, its rough.

Monday 14th September, at 7.30 a.m. we arrive at Southampton Docks, the morning is nice and fine, and I am so pleased to see England again. It seemed years since I was there before. The following are a few little experiences I’ve had just lately: – The worst time we had was at Mons, doing a lot of hard marching not to mention fighting and again in Landrecies when the Germans tried to take us by surprise. We had just marched in Landrecies, very tired and worn out and just settled down for an hours hard earned rest, when to our surprise, the people came in flocks, shouting “Germans, Germans”, and of course they meant the Germans were coming. We were very few seconds un-piling our rifles and loaded them with ten rounds of “Peas”, we waited for the Germans to come round the corner and everybody was smiling and quite happy. I suppose we were thinking of what a warm reception the Germans was going to get, but we were disappointed, as they did not get as far as where we were. It was raining all the time, but we did not take any notice of the rain. We were just as happy as though it was raining Sovereigns. The Germans did not come so we had another rest, but not for long the Germans had come again, we were all as cool as Cucumbers when we were “fell in”, we marched up several streets and finally took up position and got in the windows of houses (upstairs). For hours we were under heavy fire, shelling falling all around us, and rifle Bullets whizzing around us. We were still laughing as it seems natural for us to make the best of a bad job. We done a little damage and, in the morning,, we marched away, acting as rear guards to the Battalion, the streets were barricaded with chairs and trees and there was also a piano to add to the music, and all kinds of furniture, taken from the house. We had one officer killed, and several men wounded, but as per usual? “I’m still kicking, not half.

Tuesday 15th September I was admitted to Armstrong’s College Hospital, at Newcastle Upon Tyne, we were met at the station by grand motor cars and we quite enjoyed the ride. I contract influenza, and they will not operate on me.
20th September (Sunday) I have had the bullet in my arm for ten days now and my arm has been X-rayed. I go under operation at 10.30 a.m. I have eight stitches in my arm and am getting on fine. The operation was good.

Published on the 17th September 1914 was a War Office list showing Private 15113 B. Wright, Grenadier Guards, listed as wounded, from the Expeditionary Force and admitted to the Armstrong Hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was entitled to wear a Wound Stripe as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6th July 1916. The terms of this award having been met by his being named in this list.

Benjamin spent a few days at Hemlington Convalescent Home, Marton-in-Cleveland, Middlesbrough before returning briefly to Newcastle and then being allowed to go home on sick leave.

Published on the 19th June 1915 in the Herts Advertiser:
Police Constables With The Colours
Three Harpenden police officers, viz: Pc’s Neville J. Reid, Hermon Rowlingson and Frank Potton have joined the Hertfordshire Yeomanry. Another police officer from Harpenden who is with the colours is PC Wright, Grenadier Guards, who has been wounded. In addition, the following Hertfordshire constables who were formerly stationed at Harpenden are with the forces: PC Pond, R.G.A. joined from Royston, PC Ward, R.G.A. joined from Tring, PC Whippe, drill instructor at Bedford, joined from Hitchin district, PC Ernest F. Hawthorn, of Wheathampstead has also enlisted.

At the end of his leave he joined the 5th Reserve Battalion, Grenadier Guards at Chelsea Barracks, London. He was asked to be a clerk in the Orderly Room which he accepted. He was later Camp Clerk at Marlow in Buckinghamshire before volunteering for active service again, as Clerk to the 1st Battalion.

On Saturday 5th February 1916 Benjamin marched from Chelsea Barracks to Waterloo Station and caught the 11.55 a.m. train to Southampton where he boarded the SS Lydia at 3 p.m. It sailed for France at 6 p.m. He was Acting Quartermaster Sergeant on the voyage.

Benjamin initially is in a camp just outside Calais where twice during February he meets the Prince of Wales, on the second occasion getting his signature for a telegram. On the 6th March he and the Battalion moved to Watou in Belgium. The weather is bad with three foot of snow.

Between the 15th March 1916 and the 27th April 1916, he and the Battalion move between the trenches around Ypres and a camp near Poperinghe with little variation of the ‘normal life’ in the trenches. The diary ends on the 27th April.

Marriage.

Benjamin obviously returned to England later that year as he married Lucy Chappel on the 1st November 1916 at Ware. They had five children
1. Thomas B.C. born in 1917 at Ware
2. Vera M.J. born in 1919 at St. Albans
3. William Leslie Barclay born in 1921 at St. Albans
4. Diana Cynthia Credwyn born in 1922 at St, Albans
5. Gwyneth Isobel Lucinda Jean born and died in 1923 at Hertford

However, he returned to France and the next record was published on the 20th November 1917. The War Office Daily List No. 5421 showed that Lance Sergeant 15113 B. Wright, Grenadier Guards had been wounded. Consequently, he was entitled to wear a second Wound Stripe as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6th July 1916.

Benjamin was awarded the 1914 Star, The British War and Victory Medals and the Military Medal.

Published on the 11th February 1919 in the Supplement to the London Gazette:
His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the undermentioned Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men:
15113 Corporal (Lance Sergeant) Wright, B., 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards from Wareside.

Like every other soldier Benjamin would have been granted 28 days leave when he was demobilised from the Army. He would have used this time to arrange his re-appointment to the Police, which would have included having a Medical Examination with the Force Surgeon to determine whether he was still fit enough for Police duties. The last day of his leave would have coincided with the date of his re-joining of the Police.

Re-joining he Police.

General Order 39 of 12th February 1919 listed eight Police Soldiers who having been released from H.M. Army were re-appointed to the Force with effect from the dates shown. Benjamin was shown as PC 55 B. Wright of G Division at Harpenden on the 20th February 1919 on £2/7/0 per week. Each officer had to be formerly re-attested. Superintendents concerned had to report to the Chief Constable when this has been done, showing the date and place of Attestation and before whom taken The 1919 and 1920 Electoral Rolls list Benjamin Wright as living at 7, Newcombe Street, Harpenden/

General Order 131 of the 7th June 1919 informed Benjamin that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £2/7/0 to £2/8/0 from the 9th March 1919.

Hertfordshire Detachment To Luton Re Riots.

Benjamin was part of a detachment sent to Luton to help quell rioting between the 20th July and the 5th August 1919.

General Order 177 of the 9th August 1919 announced that the following extract from a letter received from the Head Constable of the Luton Borough Police under date 4th August 1919 was published for information.

“I desire to express to you my high appreciation of the members of your Force on detached duty here for the riot. They proved to be excellent fellows in every way, gave a splendid account of themselves when need arose and conducted themselves in a manner which was credit to any Police Force.”

The Chief Constable is very gratified to have such a good account of the services of the detachment and congratulates Inspector Wright and the Sergeants and Constables. An entry of service on Riot Duty will be made in each man’s record sheet.

Benjamin Wright 1919 Luton Riot Duty

To see the whole photograph go to the Mutual Aid category and the article Hertford County Constabulary Assist With Quelling Rioters.

General Order 58 of the 3rd April 1920 informed Benjamin that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 per week from 9th March 1920.

General Order 67 of the 21st April 1920 ordered Benjamin to be transferred from G Division at Harpenden to G Division at St Albans from the 26th April 1920. He was to occupy the house vacated by PC 69 Stapleton. The Electoral Rolls of 1920 and 1921 list Benjamin and Lucy as living at 46, Arthur Road, Fleetville, St. Albans.

General Order 43 of the 21st March 1921 and General Order 38 of the 16th March 1922 informed Benjamin that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 from the 9th March 1921 and from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week from 9th March 1922 respectively.

General Order 51 of the 16th April 1922 ordered Benjamin to be transferred on the 27th April 1922 from D Division at St Albans to B Division at Hertford, to occupy the house vacated by PS 130 Futter. The Electoral Rolls of 1922 to 1924 list Benjamin and Lucy as living at 14, George Street, Hertford.

General Order 58 of the 8th May 1922 and General Order 50 of the 17th March 1923 informed Benjamin that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 from the 20th April 1922 and from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week from 9th March 1923 respectively.

General Order 75 of the 25th April 1924 ordered Benjamin to be transferred on the 7th May 1924 from B Division at Hertford to E Division at Little Munden. The Electoral Rolls of 1925 to 1929 list Benjamin and Lucy as at living at Dane End.

The General Strike.

General Order 117 of 29th August 1926 concerned the Emergency Regulations 1926 and instructions for 50 Hertfordshire Police Officers to be on standby should the Secretary of State call upon the County Force to draft men elsewhere. The first 20 named would be required to proceed at 8 hours’ notice or less. These included officers from A,B,C and D Divisions and it would appear to qualify to be amongst the 20 you needed to have a motor bicycle available. Benjamin was not one of the top 20 but his entry does show that he either owned or had access to a motorcycle.
There is no record that Benjamin was actually called upon.

It is believed that Benjamin was promoted to Sergeant in 1930 which is supported by the Electoral Roll of that year which lists Benjamin and Lucy as living at the Police Station, Bancroft, Hitchin.

On the 17th January 1934 the Chief Constable cautioned Benjamin for the very minor issue of releasing details of some Police transfers to the Press without authority.

Retirement And Life After The Police.

If Benjamin was Appointed on the 9th March 1914 then he could have retired on the 9th March 1939 on the completion of his 25 years’ service. Certainly, by the time of the 1939 Register (which was compiled on the 29th September), Benjamin and his family are recorded as living at 58, Periwinkle Lane, Hitchin and Benjamin is shown as being employed as a Clerk at the Air Ministry.

Benjamin Wright died on the 8th May 1970 at St. Albans.

This page was added on 23/02/2020.

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