Story as told to Hannah Wright, Cheltenham Borough Council, and Michael Purton, Gloucestershire Echo, at the Municipal Offices on Friday 22nd August 2014, by Private Wright’s great niece, Frances Thomas and her husband John.
“I have brought with me today the framed medals belonging to my great uncle and aunt. For as long as I can remember, the Medals always hung in my grandmother’s front room in the left hand alcove beside the fireplace in Wattsville, near Newport in South Wales.
When they came into my possession, after my grandmothers death in 1987, I longed to know more about the medals and the people whose names were on them.
WHY didn’t I ask my grandmother when she was alive?????? I’m sure we’ve all said that when researching our family ancestors.
The large plague at the top and the two outside medals belonged to my great uncle George Reginald Wright, and the centre medal was presented to his sister Eleanor Kate Wright. Brother and sister of my grandmother Elizabeth Harriet (known as Bessie).
George’s medals are – The British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victoria Medal 1914-19 – both awarded in the First World War. I knew that he had been killed in the war but did not know where or when.
When we started to do Family History we started our research by finding out about the background to George and his medals.
We had no computer at the time so we took the details we had to the local Library where the librarian went onto the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – entering the full details – George Reginald Wright born in Cheltenham, Glos. Parents Timothy Wright and Martha Wright of Cheltenham together with his Regimental Number – result – not known. So the librarian entered George Wright and up came several but only one whose details fitted that of my uncle – SUCCESS.
But surprise, surprise – we had assumed wrongly. As he was from Cheltenham we had assumed that he would have enrolled into the forces in his home town and that he would have joined the Gloucestershire Regiment. But – NO – he had enrolled in Abertillery, Monmouthshire and his address was given as Newbridge, Monmouthshire as his sister – my grandmother – was now married and living in Risca, Monmouthshire and that he had come to the area to work – as a Postman. The website gave us his date of death as well as his age. Also there were the details of where he was buried. It gives full details as to the site of his grave in Belguim.
Having this information I was able to obtain his death certificate.
So George was born in Cheltenham, Glos. on the 2nd July 1897 and died at the age of 20 on the 25th August 1917. You can see on the 1901 census he was 3 years old and at home with his parent in Cheltenham.
We were fortunate to know the Secretary of the Old Comrades Association in Blackwood, Gwent who knew we were trying to trace information about my great uncle. It so happened that after getting the details of where George was buried we met our friend whilst shopping. The following week he was going on a trip to visit War Graves in the area where my great uncle was buried. He offered to visit the grave and place a cross on the grave on our behalf. On his return he explained how difficult it had been to trace the cemetery as it was very isolated and small, with only 143 First World War graves. The cemetery was traced by a Flemish gentleman, who meets parties of visitors who wish to visit graves of relatives. The cemetery was traced on the day the party of visitors were returning home. So a quick dash by car was made. The photographs of the cemetery and the gravestone were taken on that day.
Among the old photographs belonging to my grandmother I have since found a photograph taken of Georges grave in 1948. Also amongst my grandmother’s papers was found the scroll. The scroll was rolled up inside an old chocolate box so it has become rather tatty. We have framed it to try and keep it from getting torn any more.
At a Family History Society Meeting in Blackwood the speaker was a Ray Westlake who had recently published a book entitled “War Memorials in Monmouthshire”. The week of the Branch meeting John and I had been extremely busy and questioned whether or not to attend because as far as we were concerned we had no one whose name would appear on a War Memorial in Monmouthshire. (All our ancestors came from outside the County of Monmouthshire.) But being librarians we had a duty to attend. A good job we did attend because after the talk the book was purchased for the branch library.
On our return home whilst sitting having a cup of tea I unpacked the book from its plastic cover and opened it at random. SERENDIPITY – there on the page in front of me was a War Memorial that is in the main post office in Bridge Street, Newport, Gwent and the last name on the memorial was George Reginald Wright.
Because George was from Cheltenham we had assumed that is name would appear on the War Memorial in Cheltenham – which it does – but we were really surprised and excited to have discovered it in Newport, Gwent so near to our old home. His name appears last on the War Memorial in the Post Office, Newport, Gwent.
When at the Gloucester Family History Open Day a few year ago there was a stand called “Discover Wartime Memories”. We spoke to the gentlemen there and showed them the medals, etc. and one of the gentlemen was able to show us, on a map, details of how the regiment had moved across France and where they were on the fatal day.
We have made a visit to the Warwickshire Regimental Museum in Warwick and have spoken to the curator. We need to make an appointment to be abet to look at records to see if there is anything held there about George and where his regiment served in the First World War. So this is our next move.
From this story you can see that you should never assume anything. Just because you are in another area of the country don’t dismiss it – there may be a connection with your family. Another bit of advice is always go back through the information you already have because like me you may find the information on a photograph or document which you have previously dismissed.
I have also been able to find out more about Eleanor Kate and her medal but that will be a story for another day.”