Arthur Charles Wright

Major, Royal Army Medical Corps, service number 116787, Prisoner of War 1940-1945 (also served in First World War)

Arthur Charles Wright's Medal Index Card from the First World War. | The National Archive
Arthur Charles Wright's Medal Index Card from the First World War.
The National Archive
A photograph of the Jacob Grimm school building at Rotenburg an der Fulda, which became Oflag IX A/Z officers' prisoners-of-war camp. | National Library of New Zealand
A photograph of the Jacob Grimm school building at Rotenburg an der Fulda, which became Oflag IX A/Z officers' prisoners-of-war camp.
National Library of New Zealand

Arthur Charles Wright was one of those who fought in both world wars. Then in 1945 at the age of fifty he settled down and lived another thirty two years in Bottesford, where he died aged 82. Born in the reign of Queen Victoria, he saw the crowning of five monarchs, and the enormous changes by which Britain pulled away from being a world-wide colonial power to becoming part of a more integrated Europe.

Introduction

He was born on the 16th March, 1895, baptised on the 11th April at St Leonards, Newark on Trent, son of John Charles Wright and Elizabeth Wright (nee Beech) of No.3, Beacon Hill Road, Newark.

The census in 1911 recorded that the family, still at this address, was comprised of John Charles Wright, a 56 year old company director, and his wife Ann Elizabeth, both in their fifties and born in Lincolnshire, and two sons William John Perkins Wright aged 19, an “engineer’s pupil” born in Nottingham (registration district, which may well have included Newark), and Arthur Charles Wright, aged 16, at school, also born in Nottingham (registration district).

Arthur was married in 1913 at Bingham, to Jane Marston, known as Jeannie, daughter of a farmer and carrier who lived on Long Acre, Bingham, who died in Dec 1919 leaving £2284 in his will.

Arthur Charles Wright died on the 9th July, 1977, aged 82, at The Ferns, leaving £107,823 in his will.

His wife Jeannie lived on at The Ferns after he died. Mrs Peggy Topps recalls that she once did dressmaking for Mrs Wright. She recalls calling at the rear door, through the farm yard at the rear of the house, and being met by Mrs Wight’s maid, Dolly Waterfield, who then took her through very formally to meet the lady of the house. Dolly suffered from joint pains, and eventually the Wrights provided a bungalow for her to retire to on The Paddocks.

Jeannie (Jane) Wright died during the first quarter of 1979.

First World War

His service record has not been located (yet), but there is a Medal Index Card for Arthur Charles Wright, service numbers 1652 and 275028. He was a cavalryman. Villagers today remember him as being well over six feet tall. The first number dates from his time as a Lance-Corporal with the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Sherwood Rangers, perhaps during the years immediately before war broke out. The second number relates to his service as a Private in the Corps of Hussars and then as a 2nd-Lieutenant in the 4th Reserve Regiment of Dragoons. The MIC adds that he was with the Hussars when he entered Egypt on the 27th April 1915, and that he was awarded the 1915 Star in addition to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. We have no further information about his actions in Egypt or anywhere else during the war, nor do we have his discharge date. It seems likely that he returned to Britain and transferred to the Reserves, perhaps remaining with them after the end of the fighting while resuming civilian life.

Interwar Years

Electoral registers show that Arthur and Jeannie lived at Newton, near Shelford, in the first part of the 1920s, with farm land named “The Lawker” in the registers, on the Fosse Road near Bingham.

1921 Arthur Charles and Jeannie Wright  at Newton
1922 Arthur Charles Wright at The Lawker Land, Fosse Road, Bingham (abode Newton, Shelford)
1924 Arthur Charles Wright at The Lawker Land, Fosse Road, Bingham (abode Newton, Shelford)
1925 Arthur Charles Wright at The Lawker Land, Fosse Road, Bingham (abode Newton, Shelford)

However, they were not in the Nottinghamshire registers after 1925, and mentions in the Grantham Journal indicate that they had moved to High St., Bottesford by 1927, as confirmed by the Electoral register of that year.

They remained there up to the start of the Second World War. The 1939 Register indicates that they lived on the High St, Bottesford: Arthur C Wright, b.16/3/1895, farmer and grazier, and Jeannie Wright, his wife, b.1/3/1893. Later that year, on the 3rd November, the Journal carried an advertisement for the auction at The Ferns, where “Mr A.C.Wright, who is rejoining the army” would be disposing of his livestock (horses, cattle, sheep, pigs) and farm implements and machinery (Telephone Bottesford 232). They were selling up the farming business, presumably intending to rent out the land and farm buildings while he returned to the army. He was already 44 years old, and by the end of the war he was almost 50 years old.

Second World War

At the very start of the Second World War, Arthur Wright accompanied by Ernest Jallands DCM joined a contingent of British Legion members who set sail for Poland. Both men were veterans of the First World War. The Poland visit was presumably in connection with international veterans’ celebrations, and had been planned before the outbreak of a new war in Europe was confirmed. However, in the event, the German Army moved swiftly. On the 1st September 1939 they attacked Poland by naval shelling, dive-bombing and tank-lead invasion. Understandably, the Legion visit was abandoned and the british delegates were able to return home. Not long afterwards, Arthur Wright re-enlisted with the British army, with the rank of Lieutenant, and sold his farming business. Ernest Jallands went to work in a munitions factory.

Few military records of Arthur Wright’s WW2 service have been located, and we have none of his personal records of his wartime service other than references to having been a Prisoner of War for five years. His service record may be held in the National Archive, but appear not to have been digitised (yet). It is therefore difficult to be certain as to what happened to him or where he spent his time as a POW. However, we have the Grantham Journal to thank for their article published on the 20th July 1945, A Real Welcome Home, which tells us that a function was held on the Rectory lawn in Bottesford in which the Rector, Canon Blackmore, welcomed back three Bottesford men who had been Prisoners of War, one of whom was Captain A.C. Wright “captured in France just after Dunkirk” (the other two were Gunner Fred Greasley (Tobruk) and Gunner Ernest H. Philpotts (Crete)). An earlier article described how the Legion had welcomed their chairman, Captain A.C. Wright, who gave a graphic account of his five years a POW, but sadly this account has not been preserved.

There is an attestation record of one Arthur Charles Wright who enlisted on the 14th November, 1940, joining the 12th Field Regt Royal Artillery, service number 1099242, but this must surely have been another man of the same name, since the escape from the beaches at Dunkirk was complete by the 4th June 1940. This soldier could not have been captured just after Dunkirk, before he had even joined up.

More promising is a record in the Prisoners of War 1715-1945 database (Find My Past) which records Lieutenant A.C. Wright, service number 116787 in the General List, Prisoner number 1538 at Camp number 09 A/Z.

https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=GBM%2FPOW-GALLIP%2F15-0273_GB-SRY_WO_392-WAR-OFFICE-DIRECTORATE-OF-PRISONERS–1-1943-1945%2F00029&parentid=GBM%2FPOW-EUROPE%2F41082742

This appears to indicate camp A/Z in Military District 9 (Hesse). This was Oflag IX A/Z, which was a POW camp at Rotenburg an der Fulda, in the state of Hesse. Oflag indicates an officers’ camp (as opposed to Stalags, which were for other military prisoners). The ‘Z’ indicates that it was a sub-camp (in effect an overspill camp) in support of the main camp IX A/H at Spandenberg Castle, also in Hesse. The Rotenberg camp was located in a baroque palace which had housed a school, the Jacob Grimm school for girls, before the war. It was destroyed by bombing at the end of the war, fortunately after the prisoners had endured a forced marched further east during late March to early April 1945, ending in their liberation at Wimmelburg.

A prewar photograph of Rotenburg Castle has been published online by the National Library of New Zealand. In addition, one of the inmates, Lt Leighton McLeod ‘Lee’ Hill of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, took photographs of the prisoners’ forced march: images now held by the Imperial War Museum website and also in the Turnbull collection, New Zealand. An excellent account of the history of the camp has been published online by Peter Green, son Alan Green, one of the prisoners:

https://oflag1945.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/newsletter1-1.pdf

There are more records for AC Wright 116787. A Casualty List records: Wright, 2nd Lt, A.C. 116787 General List, missing believed prisoner of war. Another states: Wright A.C. 2nd Lt 116787 Expeditionary Force France. Another refers to him as 116787 Royal Army Medical Corps. Finally, a Casualty List produced in 1945 refers to A.C. Wright, rank W/Lt (what does the W indicate?), captured in France, previously POW in German Hands (Germany) now not POW.

It is therefore concluded that A.C. Wright joined the army and went to France with the BEF as part of the RAMC, and was captured there before he could be evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk. He became a Prisoner of War and was held at Oflag IX A/Z at Rotenberg in Hesse, but was liberated and returned home in 1945. All this tallies with the records of the farmer from Bottesford who was a POW for five years after being captured in France just after Dunkirk, and so it seem most probable that they are the same.

He had joined up late in 1939 as Lieutenant Wright, the rank he held through his imprisonment. However, on return to civilian life he was Captain Wright, indicating that he had received his long delayed promotion. Between 1950 and 1954 he was further promoted to the rank of Major, and is still remembered as Major Wright today.

We would welcome further information or corrections to our account. Strictly speaking, the link between the gentleman from Bottesford and the prisoner at Rotenburg has not been confirmed. There were several men named Arthur Wright in the British army in the Second World War.

In the Grantham Journal

During their years in Bottesford both Arthur and Jeannie Wright led active social lives and served on a variety of committees around the Grantham and Bottesford area, as captured in the pages of the Grantham Journal. These are a selection of some of the records of them:

26/2/1926 Nottingham Wool Sale – sellers included Mr A.C. Wright (Newton).

4/11/1927 A.C. Wright represented Nottingham Corporation Farm in a demonstration of new farm machinery held at Fiskerton.

16/6/1928 Farmer’s Union Meeting held in the School at Bottesford included A.C. Wright (Bottesford)

18/1/1930 A.C. Wright, vice-chairman of the Bottesford & Muston Conservatives Association, attended their annual dinner at the Bull Hotel

8/11/1930 One of the 42 members of the Grantham Officers was Lieutenant A.C. Wright, 4th R.R. Dragoons, at an event for a Proposed Memorial for Lord Brownlow.

29/10/1932 A.C. Wright in a whist drive at Bottesford

21/4/1934 A.C. Wright was Vice-Chairman of Bottesford Parish Council and on the Allotments Committee

3/11/1939 auction of stock and implements by Mr Wright of The Ferns

15/12/1939 A.C. Wright elected chairman of the Bottesford & Muston British Legion

6/9/1940 Mrs A.C.Wright, “The Ferns”, Bottesford, wishes to thank the many friends for their kind enquiries relating to her husband, Lieutenant A.C.Wright, who was reported missing on June 14th and is now a prisoner of war.

1/11/1940 A.C.Wright was listed in absentia as a committee member of the Grantham and District Agricultural Association, patron Duke of Rutland, president Lord Brownlow.

19/5/1944 Belvoir Coffee House – the committee assembled  in the move to bring about a reopening as a Bottesford Sociel Centre included Mrs A.C.Wright.

18/5/1945 Legion Welcomes Chairman – Capt. A.C. Wright, after five years a POW, gave a graphic account of his experiences.

18th May 1945 … Captain Wright (a prisoner of war for 5 years) spoke and gave each child a shilling. He then lit the bonfire and parents and children sang and danced. (Website page 7/5/2015 by Sue Middleton).

On the 20th July 1945, the Grantham Journal described a function on the Rectory lawn in Bottesford, at which Canon A.T.G. Blackmore gave an address, “A Real Welcome Home From The Church at Bottesford to Four Prisoners of War”. The four were: Private Ernest Greasley (Border Regiment) taken captive at Arnhem; Gunner Fred Greasley, captured at Tobruk; Gunner Ernest H. Philpotts, taken prisoner in Crete; Captain A.C. Wright, captured in France just after Dunkirk.

GJ 16/11/1945 Canon Blackmore read out a list casualties (but not including Bert Turner). He also mentioned Capt A.C.Wright, returned POW.

24/1/1947 “Christening of Bottesford’s first Village Hall”. A temporary building, as bricks were needed for houses. Formerly belonging to Elton WI, erection supervised by Horace Doubleday. Freda Lane & partner won the “spot waltz” competition; an iced cake was given by Mrs A.C.Wright and won by Mr Derrick Doubleday, and a novel item won by Capt. A.C. Wright.

14/3/1947 An article indicates that Captain A.C. Wright of Bottesford was Worshipful Master of the Doric Lodge

21/4/1950 Bottesford church council included Captain A.C. Wright.

24/9/1954 Major A.C. Wright, sidesman, and Mrs Wright attended the funeral of George Ernest Marsh, a prominent Bottesford farmer.

23/10/1959 Mr and Mrs A.C. Wright sent flowers for the Golden Wedding anniversary of Mr and Mrs Bolland.


 

Comments about this page

  • Another very interesting article, thank you Neil.
    By coincidence, for another project a couple of years ago I also researched a man who was held as a PoW at Oflag IX A/Z (Rotenburg an der Fulda) and noted a couple of their fellow prisoners who gained later celebrity. Captain “Jim” Lubbock was with the Leicestershire Regiment unit that landed in April 1940 at Namsos near Trondheim as part of Sickle Force, intended to cut short the Nazi invasion of Norway. The operation failed and Lubbock was one of six officers captured on the 2 May.
    My notes go on:
    “In due course Captain Lubbock would be held at the PoW camp Oflag IX/A/Z near Rotenburg an der Fulda, Hesse. One of his colleagues there was the actor Desmond Llewellyn (Lt, Royal Welch Fusiliers), captured in Northern France and later to play the role of Q in the James Bond movie franchise. … His liberation would be slow and tiring in coming.
    As the allies advanced into Germany in March 1945 the camp orderlies were ordered to move the prisoners east to prevent them re-joining their own forces. The men were forced to leave the camp on the 29 March and, carrying a few belongings on old prams and handcarts, they made their way by foot over several days to Muhlhausen where they were put onto a train to Bavaria. They had been joined along the way by PoWs from a sister camp, Uflag IX A/H at Spangenberg including the then Captain Bruce M H Shand, MC, whose daughter Camilla would later marry Prince Charles to become the Duchess of Cornwall. Each night, the marchers were shut into barns where they were given meagre rations. By the 12 April they completed a further march to Wimmelburg, some 110 miles from where they had started. But by then the American troops were close behind and the panicking German guards released and abandoned their captives. On the 13 April the Americans arrived to give much needed medical care to the exhausted but relieved men and within days the freed soldiers were flown home.”

    By Bill Pinfold (28/11/2020)
  • Dear Bill,
    Many thanks for your comments and additional information. Speaking of other POWs, there is a list of notable prisoners from IX-A/H at Spandenberg on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oflag_IX-A/H. One was Pilot Officer Anthony Barber, future Chancellor of the Exchequer. There were also a number who later escaped from Colditz, one of whom was Lieutenant Airey Neave RA, who would become an MP and who in 1979 was killed by a car bomb as he left the Palace of Westminster.
    With best wishes, Neil

    By Neil Fortey (29/11/2020)

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