Guest Blogger: Leonie Fanning, Pioneer Valley Museum, Mirani
The name Wright appears three times on the Roll of Honor for Pinnacle and District, near Mackay. The three brothers from the Pioneer Valley, west of Mackay, signed up in a space of 10 months between October 1916 and April 1917 – Charles (born 1876) on 25 April 1917, Harry (born 1891) on 23 February 1916 and Ernie (born 1894) on 7 October 1916. They were the sons of James and Betsy Wright who moved to Septimus, west of Mackay and became farmers. Charles and Ernie came home but Harry was killed in action on 20 September 2017.
Charles Wright was a drover when he enlisted in Charleville. He had previously tried to enlist in Blackall but his eyesight then was considered to be defective. On 17 January 1918, Charles left for France via Southampton. On 23 January, he was taken on the strength of the 41st Battalion. The 41st Battalion was a sub-unit of the 11th Infantry Brigade which was part of the 3rd Australian Division. At this time the 41st Battalion was in Belgium rotating between service in the rear areas and the front line.
In March 1918 when the Germans launched their last great offensive, the 41st Battalion was rushed south to France and played a role in blunting the drive towards the vital railway junction of Amiens. The 41st Battalion was involved in the battle for Hamel on July 4. It fought in the Battle of Amiens from 8 to 11 August, and then in the Battle of Albert from 21 to 23 August.
On 24 August 1918, Charles was wounded in action while attacking an enemy position and suffered gunshots wounds to the right ear and mastoid area. On 29 August he was treated at the 1st Australian General Hospital in Rouen, and then invalided to England. Charles began his trip back to Australia in March 1919, disembarking at Brisbane in May. He received further medical treatment at 6th Australian Hospital at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane a private medical specialist.
Charles eventually went back to droving but died by his own hand in 1928. The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported on the magisterial enquiry into Charles’s death.
After initial training at Enoggera, Harry, a farmer by occupation, embarked with the 19th Reinforcements on HMAT A50 Itonus in Brisbane on 8 August 1916, disembarking at Plymouth on 18 October. Harry has been appointed a corporal for the voyage but reverted to the ranks on reaching England. He was appointed EDP [extra Duty Pay] Corporal on arrival at Durrington Camp but reverted to the ranks when evacuated sick to Fargo Military Hospital suffering from a Pyrexia [fever] of Unknown Origin late in December 1916. He was again appointed EDP Corporal after returning from hospital and again reverted to private when admitted to Fargo Military Hospital with scabies. Harry was discharged from Fargo Military Hospital to duty at 3rd Training Battalion at Durrington on 19 February 1917 and was appointed EDP Corporal. Harry reverted to private again before proceeding overseas to Etaples in France on 10 April 1917. He was taken on the strength of 9th Battalion on 18 April 1917. After being involved in the Second Battle of Bullecourt, his Battalion participated in the third Battle of Ypres [Passchendaele] from 31 July to 10 November. Harry was killed in action on 20 September 1917.
John Ernest [Ernie] Wright was born and educated in Mount Morgan and was in the cadets until he left school. Ernie enlisted in Mackay and joined the 5th Reinforcements of the 41st Battalion. He embarked in HMAT A55 Kyarra at Brisbane on 17 November 1916 and disembarked at Plymouth on 30 January 1917. At the end of June 1917 the 41st Battalion was ordered to establish a new front line west of Warneton [in Flanders] in full view of the Germans in a period known to the battalion as “the 18 days”. The work was carried on night and day under heavy shellfire.
On 25 July Ernie went to Bombing School at Ravelsberg until 31 July. On 1st August he was appointed Lance Corporal. He was made a temporary Corporal on 24th August and promoted to Corporal in October. The 41st Battalion was involved in the Third Battle of Ypres at Broodseinde, Polygon Wood and Passchendaele. On 17 November 1917 Ernie was transferred to the 3rd Division Wing Australian Corps Reinforcements Camp. He was detached to Bombing School on 20 November. Ernie embarked on S.S. Friedrichsruhe on 8 July 1919, and disembarked in Australia on 4 July 1919.
Ernie resumed work on the family farm and married Emily Rose [Queenie] in 1923. They had three daughters.
More of the story of the Wright brothers is available at the Pioneer Valley Museum. Images supplied by Pioneer Valley Museum.
Niles Elvery, Regional Coordinator, Q ANZAC 100, State Library of Queensland