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H J Wright to Mother, 1916

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37 H J Wright to Mother, 25 Jan 1916, Weymouth, England




Australian Camp Weymouth, England

January 25th 1916


My dear Mother,


Just a card to say I am quite well We expect to be moving from here any day now. I will write you a letter next week for I have no news this time, hoping all are well at home, I remain with fondest love to all your loving son Henry.


38 H J Wright to Mother 30 April 1916, Egypt




Dear Mother

Just a card of ANZAC Cove where I have had many a swim fondest love your loving son Henry.





The following letter was received by Mrs. Wright, Winifred street, Essendon, from her son, Henry, who was wounded in the Gallipoli campaign, and who, at present, is in hospital, suffering from wounds received in France:


Northumberland War Hospital,

Gosforth, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England,

July, 1916.


My Dear Mother,

I am going to tell you a little of our journey from Egypt about seven weeks ago; but cannot remember dates, for I have not my pocket book here, all my belongings being at present over in France. We sailed from Alexandria some time in May for Marseilles on board the troopship "Transylvania." Our journey was a fairly long one, for we often went miles off our course on account of submarines. We got a splendid reception from the French at Marseilles. We entrained here for a three days' and three nights' journey through the most beautiful country I ever saw. Our first day's trip was through mountainous country. On the slopes were vineyards and orchards. Everything so nice and green after our camp on the hot burning sands of Egypt. The latter part of the journey we passed through villages and towns, and were treated well by the French people. On this journey we circled right round Paris seeing the famous Eiffel Tower eight miles away.


We eventually landed at Baillieu, about 10 miles from the firing line. We were allowed about eight days' spell here, and had a good look round. It is real countrified, and shows the spirit of the French women, who are out working in the fields from sunrise to sunset, hoeing, hay-making and working horses. We are always greeted with a cheery "Bon jour, Monsieur." The dwellings are all roofed with straw, and are very picturesque. We were billeted in the barns and made very comfortable. After our eight days' spell here, we moved a few miles nearer the firing line. Many of the houses were half battered down with shell fire, but the good half always shelters French women and their families, who make a good living selling fruit, groceries and other eatables that the soldier needs.


I now come to the little adventure which very nearly ended the chapter for me. Now, bear in mind, I am just trying to describe it as it appeared to me. I am afraid it will take a little detailing for you to under stand the job. On the 24th June, our officer lined our company up and explained to us that he had a little adventure on - to raid the German trenches on a certain night; also explaining to us the danger, and saying that no man was to rush headlong into the job. It was voluntary. Needless to say every man stepped out; but as 90 only were needed we were picked - old company men first. Straight away we were packed off to the trenches, and at night the leaders and scouts would crawl out over "No Man's Land," and spy the position on which we were to do our raid. We stayed in this place for three days and nights, then we moved back about 12 miles to go through a course of hard training for the coming event. This training consisted of running, jumping, crawling, bombing, revolver practice and all kinds of physical work.


We also had a hot bath every morning. It was going to these baths that I first saw Charlie (a brother) looking splendid and swaggering along as if he owned part of France; but we were right glad to meet one another, and had plenty of news for each other.


Now, every man worked hard and every day we felt in better fettle. It was a pity we were not allowed a couple of weeks' further training; but on Sunday, July 2nd, was the night fixed for the job owing to the big offensive going on further up the line. Our objective was in the vicinity of Armentieres. My job was a bomb carrier and bomber. I carried 12 of these powerful explosives, a revolver and 12 rounds; also an entrenching tool handle loaded at one end with a fair sized cog-wheel, & very serviceable weapon to use in close quarters on the "kultured" gentlemen. Our dress for this affair was Tommies' clothing, no headgear, and nothing in our pockets by which Fritz would be able to identify us should we be unlucky enough to be caught. We then blackened our faces and hands, to make us appear more murderous, I suppose. At about 11 p.m., we crawled over our trenches and commenced our journey for the mix-up. Now we had to be very careful, for when Fritz sent flares or star shells up they light up "No Man's Land" like day. As it was Fritz swept machine-gun fire several times over our heads, but we lay very low; then on again, twisting, crawling, snake fash ion until we got to within 70 or 80 yds. of his trench. Here we were to stay three minutes, while our artillery opened a heavy fire on Fritz's barbed wire. To describe this bombardment would be impossible. It seem as if all hell was loosed for three hours. When three minutes were up the artillery lifted and concentrated their fire about 50 yards further on. At the same time we made our dash for the trenches, first having to cross a creek four yards wide with water to the armpits. A disappointment awaited us at the barbed wire; it was not cut sufficiently to pass us through. We tore through regardless of cuts and bruises.


It was at this point I received my first wound, which felt like a blow with an iron bar on my right arm; but I managed to keep going, although my arm was useless for bombing. I thought my mates might need the bombs; but as soon as I reached the parapet, I received wound No. 2 in my left knee. I was now in a sorry plight, with a leg and arm useless. I must have stayed here for ten minutes, for I distinctly heard the words "All out; follow the tape!" This was the time arranged to stay in the trenches, and for 20 yds. a luminous tape was laid down to direct us home.


Now, how I ever struggled back through the half-cut barbed wire and crossed the creek again I do not remember; but I do know this that Sergeant Harris*, one of my old battalion mates, brought me in under very heavy fire. As luck would have it, a drain ran through "No Man's Land" muddy and evil-smelling, but a God send to us. I had many a spell, but Sergeant Harris would not leave me. This drain had in the bottom a foot of slimy mud, and the Sergeant dragged me, sledge-fashion, exposing himself to the shrapnel and heavy machine-gun fire that Fritz played over "No Man's Land." I wanted him to go on and come back for me when things were quiet, but he would not hear of it, but kept on cheering me up by saying "only 20 yards to go" (the distance between the German trenches and ours being 420 yds.) We got to our lines at last, and I received first aid. I must have looked a sorry-look ing object, dirty black stinking mud in eyes, nose, ears and mouth, and wet through.


My wounds were a shrapnel wound in the muscle of right arm and bullet through left knee. About the first man I saw was my old mate, Frank Trevillian, shot in the neck; but he was cheery, and said to me, "That was a touch of hell; thank God you are in." I fancy he was wounded in the arm as well, but would not be certain. I felt half dazed. I was taken away on a stretcher, and it seemed to me that I was being carried miles and miles. I was given two stiff rums, and do not remember any more until I was in Bailieu, miles away from the trenches, where they cut my clothes off me, dressed my wounds, injected morphia, then, wrapped in a nice warm blanket, I had a beautiful sleep. When I awakened, I was on board a train bound for Boulogne, which we reached Monday night, and then were taken to the 3rd Canadian General Hospital and received splendid attention and a good warm sponge over. Then we were taken down to the boat and I do not remember any more until we landed at Dover early Tuesday morning.


From there we were taken straight away in a hospital train, and travelling all day, we reached this hospital about 9 p.m. Tuesday night. Newcastle-on-Tyne is about 300 miles from London, and two hours' train journey to Edinburgh. This hospital was before the war an asylum. It is a magnificent building, and a most up-to-date hospital. We got every attention and everybody is so nice. I was X rayed a few days ago and have three pieces of shrapnel near the elbow of my right arm. They entered up in the muscle and worked down. I am to go under an operation in a few days, when the swelling goes down. My knee was found to be clear and was a very lucky hit. The bullet entered below the knee, and came out half-an-inch from the kneecap. It is very painful, and I do not think I will be able to use it for a few weeks. My arm is black and blue and puffed up at the elbow, but I can move the fingers quite freely now, and have managed this writing by propping up the arm on pillows. I will be able to get about in a chair after the operation. Now, do not worry about me, for I am getting on splendidly, and will, no doubt, be up and about ere you get this letter. I have merely stated my part in the af fair. I have not heard the true facts of our casualties, but I believe out of the 90 who took part in the raid 30 were casualties.


P.S.--Frank Trevillian and I were separated at Dover. I am making enquiries to know what hospital he is in. I saw Willie Forde soon after we arrived in France; he was looking splendid, and was then back having a spell with his battalion. I have not seen Bob Bruce or Eddie Hickson since leaving Egypt, but have written to them all.


OUR SOLDIERS. (1916, October 12). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4 Edition: Morning.. Retrieved February 12, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74594398


* Probably 1202 Sgt Augustine John Harris, 14 Inf Bn, of Echuca, later commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, and KIA on 12/04/1917.





39 H J Wright to Mother 13 August 1916





Dear Mother


Was all over this place few days ago 12 of us Australians were shown over by the Dean it is over 800 years old and a very interesting old place the view from outside is most beautiful hoping you will like it, I remain loving son Henry.


Henry Wright to brothers Les and Gordon, 1916 

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