Friday, 17 April 2015

Robert John "Bert" Wright 1899-1978

Robert John "Bert" Wright was only 15 when the war broke out in Europe. While he waited until he was "old enough" to enlist he worked as a sheet metal worker in Marrickville.  He turned 17 on 23 December 1916. A document dated 9 January just 17 days later bears his father's signature and permission to enlist.

The photo below shows Robert all of 5 feet 4 1/4 inches looking like he should grow into his hat and jacket. So his attestation papers show him as aged  18 1/2 years. It appears he snuck his way into the Army by doing three months service in the Militia. The family story goes that he would have joined under another name if his family didnt let him go.  After being pronounced "dentally fit" at 17 1/2 years  he embarked on the "Militades" on 9th July 1917 arriving in Glasgow on 2nd October.

Robert John Wright WWI

It doesn't appear that he was injured at all during his service with records of  only routine treatment of scabies and tonsillitis, diahorea and flu.

Bert's  service number was 3398. His records show his original Battalion was the 8th Reinforcement for the 36th Battalion which was sent to Rouelle, France. In 29/6/1918 he transferred to the 33rd Battalion and on 28/7/1918 he was again transferred to 34th Battalion. Obviously huge casualties caused amalgamation of troop battalions. All were fighting in France.

Probably as a result of  entering the war effort so late in the piece Bert was quite slow in returning to Australia.  The long wait for his demobilisation and return to Australia is shown in this letter in August 1919 where  his concerned mother had written to the Army. It was not until 5 January 1920 that he commenced his return to Australia on the"Cap Verde" which finally arrived on 29 February 1920.
A concerned mother writes to the Army about her boy

Upon his confirmation of discharge in March 1920 records note that he complained of some pain over the heart. This was put down to a curse of the war- excessive cigarette smoking. This  probably contributed to the heart condition he died of in 1978.

He met and married Maude Rose Gadsby at Marrickville in 1923.  They had a daughter - Betty Wright who will was born in 1925 and supplied the cherished photo of this brown haired, brown eyed boy above who was champing at the bit to join the war effort.

Bert enlisted again in World War II by which time he was 40 years old. Although his records are not yet available at the war memorial. We do know he was a transport driver in the Air Force.

Bert in WW2

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