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Wright, John Robert    Create Anzac Certificate
Place of Birth: Mudgee, NSW, Australia

Service Number: 447

Place of Enlistment: Sydney, NSW, Australia

Next of Kin: Wright, A (mother)

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My Nan's Brother, John Robert Wright
Submitted by: Graham Denis Parsons

John Robert Wright was born on 17 June 1887 at Buckaroo NSW, which was about 6k NE of Mudgee, to Robert James Wright and Amelia Martin. He was one of ten children born to the couple. His father was a timber splitter at Redbank Creek, who, as family legend has it, froze to death after succumbing to the effects of alcohol, falling asleep at night, under a tree on 1 September 1912 aged 63.

Johns ancestors include great-great-grandfather Joseph Wright a First Fleet convict, and his wife Ellen, nee Gott, a Second Fleet convict, who married on 13 December 1790 at St Philips, Sydney NSW. Wright arrived in Australia on board the Scarborough, and Gott travelled on board the Neptune.

Other ancestors of Johns were Captain John Townson of the 102nd Regiment NSW Corps and convict Sarah Griggs who had a daughter, also called Sarah Griggs, while both were on Norfolk Island in 1793. Townson & Griggs both came from England on board the Neptune with the Second Fleet. Their illegitimate daughter Sarah was John Wrights great-grandmother.

Sergeant John Wright enlisted when he was 27 years old, with the 1st Light Horse Regiment at Sydney NSW on the 22 August 1914, after having served 5 years prior with the 9th Light Horse Regiment. He was 5 foot 10½ inches tall, and weighed 9 stone 13 pound. He had a dark complexion, with brown hair and brown eyes. His religion was Church of England.

The 1st Light Horse Regiment was recruited from the various NSW militia regiments. A Squadron was recruited mainly from the 5th Australian Light Horse and 6th Australian Light Horse. B Squadron came mainly from the 7th Australian Light Horse and 11th Australian Light Horse. C Squadron was recruited mainly from the 9th Australian Light Horse.

The Regiment was raised at Rosebury Park in Sydney in August 1914. It was one of three regiments of the 1st Light Horse Brigade, the first mounted formation committed by Australia to the First World War. The regiment sailed from Sydney on board the HMAT Star of Victoria on the 19 October 1915, and disembarked in Egypt on 8 December.

The light horse were initially considered unsuitable for the Gallipoli operation, but were soon deployed without their horses to reinforce the infantry. The 1st Light Horse Regiment landed on 12 May 1915 and was attached to the New Zealand and Australian Division, the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, or MEF. It played a defensive role for most of the campaign but mounted an attack on the Turkish position known as the Chessboard as part of the August Offensive on 7 August – 200 men were involved, 147 became casualties. The regiment left Gallipoli on 21 December 1915.

During this period John Wright was admitted to hospital at Mudros in July suffering from bronchitis. He was shipped to St Andrews Hospital in Malta on board HMHS Gloucester Castle.

Between mid-July to early-September Wright spent time in various Malta hospitals, St Andrews, All Saints & St Patricks, being treated for pulmonary disease.

On the 5 September he was transferred to Mustapha Egypt before rejoining his unit at Gallipoli on 16 September 1915. On 8 October Wright was promoted to Temporary Squadron Sergeant Major until SSM Davidson returned to duty. The regiment returned to Egypt on the 27 December 1915 on board the HMAT Hororata, and two days later upon SSM Davidsons return, John Wrights rank reverted to sergeant. At that time the regiment was at Wardan Embaba Al Jizah Egypt.

On the 14 January 1916 the regiment proceeded to join the Western Frontier Force in Egypt. Between January and May, it was deployed to protect the Nile valley from bands of pro-Turkish Senussi Arabs. On the 14 May it redeployed with its parent brigade to join the forces defending the Suez Canal. The 1st Light Horse Brigade played a significant role in turning back the Turkish advance on the canal at the Battle of Romani on 4 - 6 August. This battle was quickly followed by the Battle of Katia and then Bir el Abd on 9 August. All the actions in which the 1st Light Horse Regt participated finally led to the defeat of the Ottoman Canal Expeditionary Force, and its retreat to Bir el Mazar.

Some time after the operations of the regiment from 19 July to 5 August 1916, the General Officer of the 1st Light Horse Regiment recommended that Wrights actions be Mentioned in Despatches. The General Officer wrote that WO Wright came under my special notice on several occasions during this period and did very good work. During the period operations on 4th – 5th under heavy fire carrying orders.

John Wright was subsequently awarded his Mention in Despatches citation, which was gazetted in the London Gazette, Second Supplement, No. 30474 on 12 January 1918 Page 804, position 57, and the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. 76 on 23 May 1918 Page 1123, position 40.

Over the next few months the 1st Light Horse Regt took part in the Allied advance over the Sinai leading to the fall of Bir el Mazar, then El Arish, followed by Bir el Magdhaba and finally Rafa in January 1917. The Ottoman forces were expelled from the Sinai, and were poised to be tackled in Palestine.

While based at Romani Sinai, and following the transfer of SSM Davidson in early September, Wright was promoted to Squadron Sergeant Major and he was given the rank of Warrant Officer Class II. On the 27 October 1916 while the regiment was at Hod el Ge’eila Sinai, he was made Temporary Regimental Sergeant Major, while RSM Frost was in hospital. When Frost returned on 22 November, Wrights rank reverted to SSM.

From the 26 January 1917 to 18 February John Wright attended the School of Instruction at Zeitoun Tripoli Lebanon.

A stint of protective duty along the line of communications through the Sinai followed. The 1st Light Horse Regiment’s next major engagement was the abortive second battle of Gaza on 19 April. Following this battle it was recommended on 17 June 1917 that John Wright’s actions be rewarded with a Distinguished Conduct Medal. His Lt Col stated that, This NCO has done very good work during recent operations especially on April 19th, especially in working the led horses of his squadron in the absence of Officers.

Following the promotion of RSM Frost, Wright was promoted to RSM & Warrant Officer Class I on 15 May 1917 while the regiment was serving with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

On 29 October 1917 John Wright was promoted to Second-Lieutenant, but was killed in action five days later during the third Battle of Gaza on the 3 November 1917 at Tel Khuweilfeh Palestine.

Gaza finally fell on 7 November, after a wide outflanking move via Beersheba, in which the regiments of the 1st Light Horse Brigade played a part.

Second-Lieutenant John Wrights body was buried at the Beersheba War Cemetery in Israel in the West Corner, Gum Grove, Row C, Grave No. 31 on the 4 November 1917 by Church of England Chaplain John Boardman.

John was a renowned marksman, and one of his party tricks was to toss a penny into the air and shoot it with his handgun before the coin landed on the ground.

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© Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2013.

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