Author: Linda Hulse
On 1st September 1914, fustian cutter George Wright of Thomas Street, Congleton, enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment. He was 23 years old and he and his wife, Mabel had been married for just over a year. George was posted to the 10th Battalion, a new unit which had been formed in response to the war. They were sent overseas a year later, on 25th September 1915,and went into the trenches on 4th October at Ploegsteert near Ypres in Belgium. The Tommies called it “Plugstreet.”
The war diary of the 10th Battalion is unusually detailed, mentioning not just officers but also “other ranks” by their names. From the diary we learn that on 10th October, Lt Patton was accidentally gassed at an exhibition test of gas helmets, that on 13th Pte Lowe was shot in the abdomen and on 14th Lance Corporal Postings was shot through the head and killed – their first death in action.
The 10th Battalion continued rotating in and out of the trenches at “Plugstreet” throughout the winter of 1915-16. The weather was wet and bitterly cold and the trenches frequently filled with water and collapsed.
On 18th December the War Diary notes:
“Thick fog and rain in early morning. Much rifle fire from enemy trenches. Private Wright was killed on duty at 4:30pm.”
However, the telegram his wife received, his military records and his gravestone all record him dying whilst on guard duty on the 19th December. George was one of four casualties the 10th Battalion suffered over two days in the trenches. The British lines around Ypres were overlooked by the German trenches on a ridge. On an average day, when neither side was launching a major offensive, the B.E.F. sustained 500 casualties while simply holding the line – the generals called it “natural wastage”.
George was buried in Hyde Park Corner cemetery; in the next grave is Pte Harold Hancock of Northwich, also of the 10th Cheshires, one of the other victims of “natural wastage” during that miserable 48 hours in the week before Christmas 1915.
Our thanks to George Wright’s descendants for donating George’s Death Penny, documents and photographs.