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Remembered Today:

John Gilbert Wright 2nd or 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers


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I am hoping that somebody may me able to help me with my puzzling research of my uncle, John Gilbert Wright who served in the Royal Fusiliers, 2nd or 8th Battalion, Private 10443.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission states he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial as John Gilbert Wright. 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers.
On his medal card he is GILBERT WRIGHT and it states he was presumed dead on 12th May 1916.
The Theatre of War first served in was (2B) Balkans from 16th June 1915.
His Medals read Victory Roll TP/104 B5 Page 463 / British ditto / Star Roll TP/63 B2 Page 110
His address before enlisting was 10 Spencer Road East Ham, London.
Unfortunately his service records seem to be one of those destroyed, but I have been able to ascertain that 2nd Battalion served at Gallipoli and then were sent to France. Then it becomes a puzzle. I have the War Diaries for both the 2nd and 8th Battalion.
At the time he was killed the 2nd Battalion were working in trenches at Mailly-Maillet. Casualties that week were 18 sick, no mention of any killed.
The 8th Battalion was in training at Marles les Mines.
Would appreciate any help with this.
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His medal rolls shows that he switched battalion. Overseas service was:

2nd Battalion, TOW 2 ( b ), 25-5-1915 to 21-8-1915 (the 25th being presumably the date of arrival with departure on the 16th)

8th battalion, TOW 1 ( a ), 8-12-1915 to 12-5-1916

I would guess that he became ill on Gallipoli and was evacuated back to the UK then to France with 8th battalion on recovery.

Steve.

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Many thank Steve for your information.

So I now know that he didn't travel out to, or back from, the Balkans with the main body of 2nd Battalion.

The War Diary for the 8th Battalion shows that a draft of 120 men and 2 officers were received on 15th December 1915, so I assume that would have included Gilbert.

And it puts him in billets, 'in training' on 12th May 1916 the day he was 'presumed dead.'

The diary that day states, 'In billets, Company training. Brigade order states that 12th Division is in GHQ Reserve from 10 am on 10th till 10 am on the 20th May. Under 9 hours notice to move.

Do you think it is possible he could have been sent elsewhere?

Judy

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Although the medal roll and CWGC say 8th Royal Fusiliers, the entry on Soldiers Died says 8th Battalion of the London Regiment. While it would be unusual at that stage of the war for an attachment between Regulars and Territorials it may have been possible that he was attached to the Londons?

Steve.

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I think the answer is that he was with the 1/8th Londons - I have some evidence but I am out of lunch hour. Remind me later to get back to you!

Steve.

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Thanks Steve,

The War diary I have is for the 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers also known as the City of London Regiment.

Do you think it could possibly be this one I need:- 1/8th (City of London) Battalion (Post Office Rifles) ? Having Googled it - It looks like they may have been in action around the date of Gilbert's death.

Judy

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Judy,

My apologies, I looked earlier at the ICRC POW records and saw reference to the London Regiment (in relation to Albert Chaney), but it seems that now I have had a chance to look through the list it looks like all of the men on the list were serving with 8th Royal Fusiliers at the time of their captured on 11th May 1916.

Attached is an extract from the Casualty List published in the Times of Monday 5 June 1916:

post-6536-0-53424000-1422985869_thumb.jp

The first thing to note is that Gilbert Wright is on it noted as Missing, which of course fits with him being presumed dead.

It was usual for men reported Wounded, Killed or Missing at the same time in the same battalion to be reported at the same time and on the same list, but it was not always the case so we have to be careful. However, we can draw some evidence from the other men on the list.

L/15478 William Berryman

  • Served with 1st Royal Fusiliers, 8th Royal Fusiliers and 1st Royal Fusiliers attached to 180th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers per medal roll (no dates shown)
  • Embarked to France with 1st Royal Fusiliers on 7 Sep 1914
  • MIC marked Prisoner of War 25-6-1916 (note that this date is well after he was reported missing!)
  • He has an ICRC POW card here: http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/1310888/3/2/
  • The main card shows him as "C" Company of 8th Royal Fusiliers and captured on 11-5-1916
  • Card PA/4999 on the ICRC reports him as captured with on 11-5-1916 at Hulluch
  • Card PA/8342 shows 8th Royal Fusiliers as the battalion, but the Royal Fusiliers has been pencilled in later
  • No service record

GS/541 Albert Chaney

  • Medal Roll shows service overseas with 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers from 31 May 1915 to 1 December 1918 (discharge on re-enlistment)
  • ICRC card shows 541 A Chaney "8th Londons"
  • The only reference on the ICRC card R/53569 does not exist http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/3672163/3/2/
  • No service record found (probably with MOD due to re-enlistment)

GS/1526 William Harris

GS/5 John Howes

L/15960 John Hedley Phillips

  • Medal roll shows served overseas with 4th Royal Fusiliers from 21-8-1914 and later with 8th Royal Fusiliers
  • MIC for 1914 Star shows missing on 12-5-1916
  • Cannot locate an ICRC record
  • No service record found

GS/669 Frederick Raymond

So on weight of that evidence, it looks like at at least some of the 8th Royal Fusiliers were involved in fighting at Hulluch on 11-5-1916. Which brings us round to where we started!

Steve

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If we accept that some of the men of 12th Division were still in the area of Hulluch on 11/12 May 1916 then the action in which they were killed or captured is likely to have been the German attack on the Kink Salient that occurred at that time:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_of_the_Kink_Salient

The only logical answer I can think of is that he was one of a group of men attached to the Royal Engineers, possibly to a Tunnelling Company in the area, such as 170th Company as mentioned in the link above.

These men of the 9th Royal Fusiliers (same Infantry Brigade as the 8th) are also shown as killed when they should not have been in the area:

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/726928/BAILEY,%20ALBERT

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1769613/STACEY,%20WILLIAM%20CHARLES

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2942636/FOSTER,%20EMANUEL

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/731815/HIERONS,%20THOMAS%20WILLIAM

Steve.

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The medal roll of one of the 9th Battalion men is interesting:

L/16494 Emanuel Foster shows postings to 9th Royal Fusiliers attached 171 {Tunnelling} Co. R.E., and 9th Royal Fusiliers attached 170. {Tunnelling} Co. R.E

http://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=iwoservicemedalawardrolls&MS_AdvCB=1&rank=1&new=1&MSAV=2&gss=angs-d&gsfn=eman*&gsfn_x=XO&gsln=foster&gsln_x=XO&cpxt=1&catBucket=rstp&uidh=5k3&cp=11&pcat=39&fh=0&h=557852&recoff=5+6&ml_rpos=1

So I wonder if our 8th and 9th Battalion men were all attached to 170th Tunnelling Company with the men listed with Gilbert Wright being amongst the 39 POWs taken from 170th Company as noted on the WIkipedia link, and with our four 9th Battalion men and Gilbert Wright not making it...

Thomas William Hierons medal roll is more detailed:

  • Served in France with 9th Royal Fusiliers from 31 May 1915 to 13 December 1915
  • Attached to 36th Infantry Brigade "W.P." from 14 December 1915 to 19 January 1916
  • Returned to 9th Royal Fusiliers from 20 January 1916 to 2 February 1916
  • Attached to 170th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers from 3 February 1916 to 11 May 1916 when Presumed Dead

http://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&MS_AdvCB=1&db=IWOServiceMedalAwardRolls&rank=1&new=1&MSAV=2&gss=angs-d&gsfn=Thomas+William&gsfn_x=XO&gsln=Hierons&gsln_x=XO&dbOnly=_F8007A65%7c_F8007A65_x%2c_F00061C3%7c_F00061C3_x%2c_F000836E%7c_F000836E_x&uidh=5k3&pcat=39&fh=0&h=1283088&recoff=5+6+7&ml_rpos=1

Steve.

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Steve, all this information is amazing. I really can't thank you enough for going to all that trouble.

I have to digest it all now, but can't believe that you have found the probable answer to something which has puzzled me for so long.

I will have a look for war diaries of other companies. There may be something there.

Judy

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No problem. It is nice to start to raise the veil on some of these mysteries!

I would be looking at the war diaries for 170th and 180th Tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers, probably in that order.

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4553701

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7350360

Neither war diary is online, however.

The Tunnelling Companies did tend to be the Engineer units that had men attached to them for fairly long periods, though I don't know whether these men would be actually tunnelling or on duty defending the tunnellers against attack from the Germans.

It might be worth asking through a new topic the Units and Formations part of the Forum if anyone has these war diaries for those couple of days.

I've also just noticed that Bailey, Stacey and Hierons appear in the same issue of the Times but the previous (Sunday's) list, along with another man 8455 William Roth/Ruth who ended up as a POW. Hierons appears on the ICRC site as a POW taken prisoner from 9th Royal Fusiliers attached to 170th tunnelling Company.

Steve.

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Yes, I found the 170th Tunnellers diary wasn't online, although it says it is being digitised. But I will have a look when I next go to TNA......when it warms up a bit, if I can wait that long!

I did download 46th Infantry Division Headquarters diary, to cover options. Has a brief report but no further concrete evidence, as was expected. Very interesting secret orders in the lead-up to it.

You have really got me interested in these tunnellers.

My daughter was on the dig at La Boiselle a couple of times, before it all went pear-shaped (http://www.laboisselleproject.com/). Maybe she can ask one of them about the tunnellers.

What a fantastic story it is. I'd love to know about all those poor men now.

I'll come back to you if and when I found out more, but you are obviously much better at this than me. I find military history quite hard to get my head around. Convict transportation is my thing.

Judy

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These quests do sometimes veer off in odd directions, though I suspect you didn't expect it to go underground!

Steve

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  • 4 weeks later...

Steve, I just thought I would let you know that I am now in possession of the 170th Tunnelling Company War Diary.

On 11th May it records that 9 RE’s and 7 attached infantry are missing who were working in the mines at the time.

And on a report it states that an officer proceeded up Gordon Alley with the intention of withdrawing the men who were working in the mines at the time, but he met some of the infantry who were being bombed back by the Germans. Attempts to reach them by other routes failed.

In War Diary for 8th Royal Fusiliers it says on 23rd February in billets at Béthune. ‘D’ Company found working party of 100 men who proceeded to Vermelles by motor lorry and worked under RE.

It's the 'best guess' I have of when he went to 170 Tunnellers. There were smaller parties sent to RE earlier, could have been one of those.

I shall be going to the Battlefields this year, so can now visit a grave of sorts...or at least the area. Last time I went, it was just a mystery.

Thanks for all your help.

Judy

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Judy, I hesitate to try to add anything to Steve's remarkable research. You did earlier ask about drafts to Gallipoli. The 2RF lost heavily in Jine 1915 and there seem to have been fariy regular drafts from 5RF, the Reserve at Dover, and 7RF the Special Reserve who were at Falmouth. Your uncle arrived 16 June, my grandfather arrived, from 7RF, on 21st. Research I've done for enquiries to the Fusilier Museum have shown that 2RF became the temporary home for many men of most of the other battalions which weren't at that time in France.

David

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Thank you David. As you say, Steve's research was remarkable but I welcome all contributions to help piece together my uncle's service. I do like to know it all! I was thinking of going to the Fusilier Museum at the Tower. Do you think I might find more information if I do? He was at Gallipoli for such a short time that I wonder if he was wounded or sick. I am still trying to find information about ships, possibly hospital ships on the return journey.

Judy

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