Stephen Reginald Wright

Lance Sergeant Stephen Reginald Wright, of the 2nd/4th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales’), Regimental Number 3138, was killed in action on 10th June 1916, aged 24, and is buried at Rue du Bacquerot (13th London) Graveyard, Laventie, France.

Early Life

Stephen was born on 10th February 1892, the only child of Stephen James and Eliza (née Knibbs) Wright, at East Ilsley, Berkshire. Eliza did have another child who died, but we have no documentary evidence to say whether this was before or after she had Stephen.  In 1901 the family was living at Kentwood View, Tilehurst, Berkshire. Stephen senior was the manager of an iron works. He had been born in Slough 1. Eliza was a Board Schoolmistress who was originally from Maidenhead. Tilehurst was a village 2¼ miles south west of Reading, now a suburb of Reading. There was a National School in Tilehurst that had been founded in 1819. It was probably this school that Eliza Wright taught in. By the census of 1911 Stephen senior and Eliza had moved to the School House, Spencer’s Wood, Reading. Spencer’s Wood was a village 4 miles south of Reading. Stephen was working as an Engineers’ Foreman and Eliza was a Headteacher.  It was unusual for a wife to continue to work after she was married, but not only did Eliza work, she also took on greater responsibility when she became Headteacher.

Kelly’s Directory Berkshire 1915 page 233

The infant school was built by Frederick Allfrey in Spencer’s Wood, in 1890. It closed as a school in 1915. The 1911 census has Stephen junior as a student at Winchester Diocesan Training College.

Life in Winchester

Stephen left home for Winchester Training College in 1910 for a two year course that started in September. We know from the College magazine, The Wintonian, that Stephen was a talented musician. The 1910-1914 collection of magazines writes about a Farewell Concert:

Mr S R Wright opened with a well-executed pianoforte solo, ‘The Rustle of Spring’ 2…Mr Wright now obliged again, this time with the song ‘The Deathless Army’.

The Deathless Army was written in 1826 with words by Frederic E Weatherly 3. It was an apt choice for a College Concert because of their involvement in the Territorials.

I am a bolger sold- I mean I’m a soldier bold

I’m not so young as I used to be before I got so old

I am a regular toff I am, I am, I am, I say I am

But you can’t tell what’s inside the jar by the label on the jam.

Chorus

For I am a soldier, a territorial

The girls will say when I’m on parade

“There’s one of the boys of the old brigade”

If ever I go to war I’ll drive the enemy barmy

Hi, hi, never say die

I’m one of the deathless army.

Winchester Training College, photograph courtesy of Alwyn Ladell

The same article also reported that he acted as accompanist throughout the Concert.  A later section in the Wintonian, commended him on achieving the School Teacher’s Music Certificate.

Life as a student was very busy. They had a full timetable of subject lectures and attendance at Chapel was compulsory. Sport played a very important part in student life. There were regular fixtures against football and cricket teams from other local colleges. There was an annual Sports Day and regular meetings of the Harriers, A cross country running club where the route was laid down by a ‘hare’. The students held regular ‘Smoker’ Concerts where the entertainment was of a musical nature or poetry recitals. Indoor sports which included competitions in bridge, draughts and ping pong were enjoyed. There was a debating society when a variety of subjects were discussed.

The other significant aspect of student life at Winchester was the Territorial Force. By 1910 when Stephen began his course the original Volunteer Force at the College had become B Company of the 4th Territorial Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. This was more than just a change of title. The students no longer enrolled, they enlisted in the new Territorial Force. They were subject to military discipline and because of these changes, involvement altered from being automatic to being a matter of choice. Most of the students still chose to enlist.

When Stephen left the Training College he started his teaching career. There is some confusion as to where Stephen’s first teaching appointment took him. The Wintonian Magazine published details of where former students were working or living after they left.  Stephen was reported to be at School House, Spencer’s Wood, Reading. This was the family home. As his mother was the Headteacher at that school it is possible that she gave him his first job, but it could equally be that he was simply residing at home while waiting to begin his first teaching appointment.  The UK Soldiers Who Died in The Great War record gives his residence at the time of his death as Hoddeston.

St Catherine and St Paul Church, Hoddesdon

As he was included on the Hoddesdon War Memorial it seems most likely that he was teaching there before he enlisted.  The Wintonian Magazine, in a later edition, also has him reported as being at Cranbourne, Windsor Forest. There was a school in Hoddesdon called Cranbourne School which may account for this reference with someone at the magazine assuming that Cranbourne referred to a place rather than a school name (Cranbourne, Berkshire is adjacent to Windsor Forest). Without access to school log books it is impossible to untangle these confusing reports.

The Call To Arms

Although Stephen was working in Hertfordshire, he chose to enlist in his home town of Reading. Stephen joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment 2nd/4th Battalion (Princess Charlotte of Wales’). The 2nd/4th was formed at Reading on the 6th November 1914 as a second line unit. It was formed from the overspill from the 1st/4th. After a move to Maidenhead for training, they were treated to lunch by the townsfolk of Maidenhead on Christmas Day. They were attached to the 2nd South Midland Brigade in 2nd South Midland Division in Northampton, in February 1915. Here they underwent further training until April 1915 when they moved to Chelmsford and then on to Salisbury Plain in March 1916. While in Chelmsford they assisted in the digging of trenches for the defence of London.

Frederick Wright, seated, next to last man on the right second row from the front 4

King George V inspected the Division at Bulford, near Salisbury, on 5th May 1916. The Division was warned in May that it would go on overseas service. The Division landed at Le Havre on the 27th May and then entrained for the area of Merville in Northern France, but without the Ammunition Column which temporarily remained in Le Havre.

By June 10th 1916, Stephen had reached the front line. The War Diary reported on that day:

Location – France – Trenches

Relieved 10th SWB 5 between 12:30am and 5:30am. Whole Battn in front line from …FAUQUISSART section3 ½ miles S.E. of LAVENTIE. 2/1 BUCKS battn on our right.1st AUSTRALIAN DIV on left. 2/4 OXFORDS in support in LAVENTIE 2/5 GLOSTERS in support on 2/1 BUCKS. Casualties 2 O.R. killed, 1 wounded. HQ at RED HOUSE…Weather cold and wet.

Trench map courtesy of the national Library of Scotland

We have no documentary evidence to explain how Stephen died that day, but the war diary entry suggests that this was his first time up at the front.

Stephen was buried in grave 28, Row D, Rue du Bacquerot (13th London) Graveyard in Laventie. The village of Laventie is 6 kilometres south west of Armentieres. The cemetery was begun by the 1st Royal Irish Rifles in November 1914, and closed in July 1916. It is also known as the Red House Cemetery. Stephen was survived by his mother.

He is commemorated at Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire and Spencer’s Wood, Berkshire. (see below)

 

Researcher and Author: Dee Sayers

Map showing the area around Laventie

Hoddesdon War Memorial

Gravestone photograph courtesy of cwgc

Wright’s Signature – The Students’ Register photograph by Dee Sayers

Footnotes
  1. Slough at this time was in Buckinghamshire. The county border changed in 1974 and Slough became part of Berkshire.
  2. The Rustle of Spring , a song by Joseph Cooper
  3. Frederic Weatherly wrote the lyrics for Danny Boy
  4. 2nd/4th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment. A group photograph of the Sergeants Mess believed to have been taken in England prior to the Battalion going to France in 1915. Photograph courtesy of The Wardrobe, Home of the Infantry Regiments of Berkshire and Wiltshire (thewardrobe.org.uk)
  5. South Wales Borderers
Sources

Alwyn Ladell photography. (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alwyn_ladell/sets/72157665876163520/ [Accessed 2018].

Ancestry (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk [Accessed 2018].

Commonwealth War Graves Commission, (2018). Home page. [online] Available at www.cwgc.org/ [Accessed 2018].

Geograph (2009). TL3708: St Catherine & St Paul, Hoddesdon, Herts – War Memorial. [online] Available at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1356421 [Accessed 2018].

Geograph (2009). TL3709: St Catherine & St Paul, Hoddesdon. [online] Available at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1348548 [Accessed 2018].

Herts at War (2013). Wright, Stephen Reginald. [PDF] Available at http://www.hertsatwar.co.uk/fluidcms/files/files/Hoddesdon%20Q%20to%20Z/WRIGHT%20Stephen%20Reginald%203138.pdf [Accessed 2018].

Kelly’s Directory (1915). Kelly’s Directory of Berkshire 1915 [online] Available at: http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/cdm/ref/collection/p16445coll4/id/218251 [Accessed 2018].

The Long Long Trail, (2018). Welcome to the long long trail. [online] Available at: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/ [Accessed 2018].

National Library of Scotland (1917). British First World War Trench Maps, 1915-1918: 36.SW Scale: 1:20000 Edition: 8A Published: March 1917. [online] Available at: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464978 [Accessed 2018].

National Union of Teachers. (1920). War Record 1914–1919. A Short Account of Duty and Work Accomplished During the War. London: NUT.

Reading Borough Libraries Berkshire Stories (1917). Berkshire and The War: the “Reading Standard” pictorial record. Volume 2, p.428. [online] Available at: https://www.berkshirestories.org.uk/archive/books/berkshire-and-the-war-the-reading-standard-1916-1919/berkshire-and-the-war-the-reading-standard-volume-2/131076-berkshire-and-the-war-the-reading-standard-pictorial-record-volume-2-p-428 [Accessed 2018].

Reynolds, Churchill and Miller (1916). The Story of the Great War, Volume III. [online] Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29265/29265-h/29265-h.htm [Accessed 2018].

Roll of Honour (2010). Berkshire: Spencers Wood War Memorial. [online] Available at: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Berkshire/SpencersWood.html [Accessed 2018].

Vickers, J. University of Winchester Chapel Memorial Rail image.

The Wardrobe (2018). Home of the Infantry Reghiments of Berkshire and Wiltshire. [online] Available at http://www.thewardrobe.org.uk/home [Accessed 2018].

Wikipedia (2018). Hoddesdon. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoddesdon [Accessed 2018].

Wikipedia (2018). Spencers Wood. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spencers_Wood [Accessed 2018].

Wikipedia (2018). Tilehurst. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilehurst [Accessed 2018].

 

University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office
Reference code Record
47M91W/ P2/4 The Wintonian 1899-1900
47M91W/ P2/5 The Wintonian 1901-1902
47M91W/ P2/6 The Wintonian 1903-1904
47M91W/ P2/7 The Wintonian 1904-1906
47M91W/ P2/8 The Wintonian 1905-1907
47M91W/ P2/10 The Wintonian 1908-1910
47M91W/ P2/11 The Wintonian 1910-1914
47M91W/ P2/12 The Wintonian 1920-1925
47M91W/ D1/2 The Student Register
47M91W/ S5//5/10 Photograph of 5 alumni in Mesopotamia
47M91W/ Q3/6 A Khaki Diary
47M91W/ B1/2 Reports of Training College 1913-1914
47M91W/ Q1/5 Report and Balance Sheets 1904- 1949
47M91W/ R2/5 History of the Volunteers Company 1910
47M91W/ L1/2 College Rules 1920
Hampshire Record Office archive
71M88W/6 List of Prisoners at Kut
55M81W/PJ1 Managers’ Minute Book 1876-1903
All material referenced as 47M91W/ is the copyright of The University of Winchester. Permission to reproduce photographs and other material for this narrative has been agreed by the University and Hampshire Record Office.