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Soldiers of the Great War; The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative

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Wright, Alfred James

Private 326857
58th Howitzer Battery, Canadian Field Artillery
14th Brigade

Background

Corporal Alfred James Wright was born in Suffolk, East Bergholt, England, on November 12, 1883 to Mary Ann and Robert Wright. James had four siblings, including one brother and three sisters. His sisters were Agnes, the oldest in the family, Florence and Rosa. His younger brother’s name was Charles. While few records reveal how he came to live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, newspapers highlight how he was well-liked and respected within the Fredericton community.

Prior to enlisting, he worked as a clerk at the Lorne Hotel in Fredericton, a place where he also lived. According to the Daily Gleaner, printed April 3, 1918, Alfred was highly respected by many people and was involved in local activities while employed by Thomas Feeney, owner of the Lorne Hotel who would also receive Corporal Wright’s pay during his service. Described as being quiet, unassuming, and greatly admired, he was a member of the Anglican Church during his three years working for Mr. Feeney. At the time of his formal enlistment, Alfred’s attestation papers describe him as standing five feet seven inches tall and weighing 170 pounds. He was also described as having a dark complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair. When he enlisted on April 17, 1916 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Alfred was 32 years old, a member of the local militia, was unmarried, and belonged to the Church of England. Only a few days before leaving for England, James signed his last will naming his mother, Mary Ann Wright. He would never return to Canada again.

Wartime Experience

Alfred embarked for England from Halifax, Nova Scotia on September 11, 1916 with his unit aboard the S.S. Metagama, disembarking in Liverpool on September 22, eleven days after leaving Canada. According to his record of service, on September 30 he was appointed to the rank of Acting Bombardier at Milford Camp for a period of approximately four months before being transferred to the 58th Battery, 14th Brigade during a reorganization process in January of 1917. Alfred would train in England with the 14th Brigade at Whitley Camp until proceeding overseas for Le Havre, France on August 7, 1917. Just prior to leaving, in July, Alfred would be confirmed the rank of Corporal.

Service records show that he would stay with his heavy artillery unit for the fall and winter of 1917-1918, and by January 1918 the 58th Howitzer Battery, 14th Brigade, would be located in and around the city of Leivin, France, a coal-mining town that had been completely ruined by fighting. Corporal Alfred James Wright was with the 14th Brigade on February 21, 1918, when he was dangerously wounded by a piece of shrapnel that had pierced his abdomen after an enemy shell casing had exploded nearby his position. The war diary of the 14th Brigade reveals that the day Corporal Alfred Wright was injured, enemy fire was active and increasing due to good visibility, and there was another casualty, Bdr. J.C. Lowe, 1260338, along with Alfred. According to the commanding officer, “Hun propaganda sheets from aeroplanes states that the Canadian Corps will be wiped out in 72 hours!” While German propaganda would eventually be proven wrong by the fall of 1918, Corporal Alfred James Wright was unable to recover from his wounds and passed away at a nearby Casualty Clearing Station two days later on February 23, 1918. Alfred was 34 years of age.

News of Alfred’s death reached Fredericton quickly, and by April, a letter had been received by his employer, Thomas Feeney, describing what had happened to Alfred. Written by Sergeant C.E. Maimann on February 26, 1918, and reprinted in the Daily Gleaner, April 3, 1918, the letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Feeney, It is my painful duty to let you know that your former employee, Corp. A.J. Wright, died in the early morning of Feb. 23rd, as the results of wounds received on the morning of Feb.21st. I was close to Jimmy when he was hit by a small bit of shell casing, in the stomach, and helped care for him until the M.O. arrived. Jim was one of our best corporals and for a long time was a Bdr. in my sub-section. Little else I cannot say, save that the boys miss him a great deal. But such is the luck of war. I have some mail of Jim’s from Fredericton and am returning it to your address. I know he will be missed, but it can’t be helped and our hearts are with those in Fredericton who miss him a great deal more than we do. With best wishes to all, I am yours sincerely.”

Lest We Forget

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Corporal Alfred James Wright is buried at the Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension in France, just 11 kilometers south-west of Bethune. The cemetery has 1092 identified casualties and it was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

*This biography was researched and written by Ivey Cowland & Dante B., Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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