Garth Wright spotted photo of great-uncle Nathan Wright on historic Shepparton News editionBy Liz Mellino
It was by sheer chance that Garth Wright spotted a photo of his great uncle Nathan Wright on the 1917 Shepparton News Calendar and Roll of Honour of Fallen Heroes.
The photo of a young Nathan Wright from Pine Lodge sits among dozens of other men from Greater Shepparton who were killed during World War I.
Born in Pine Lodge to Joseph and Anne Wright, Nathan was working as a carpenter before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force.
He enlisted on December 4, 1916 at Royal Park, Melbourne aged 29 as a Private in the 21st Battalion.
On October 4, 1917, exactly 10 months after enlisting, Nathan was reported as Missing in Action during the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge in Belgium.
His name is mentioned at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium alongside the thousands of other soldiers who were killed at this site.
Following his death, Nathan was issued the 1914/1915 Star Medal, British War Medal and Victory medal.
These medals, his memorial plaque and memorial scroll were sent to Nathan’s eldest brother James Albert Wright in 1921 because their mother had died a year earlier.
A letter sent to the Wrights on June 2, 1921 from the Headquarters of the 3rd District Base Victoria Barracks, Melbourne asked where the medals could be sent following Nathan’s death.
The letter read: The late No. 7336 Private Nathan Wright 21st Battalion, upon enlistment nominated as next of kin his mother, Mrs Ann Carter Wright, of Pine Lodge Vic, but it would appear from the file that she is now deceased. As I desire to dispose of War Medals etc. on account of the above mentioned late soldier’s service, I shall be obliged if you will advise me who is now the lineal next of kin.
More than 100 years after his death, Garth Wright has gathered an extensive collection of history on his great uncle.
Enlistment papers, letters and war documents depict the short life of Nathan Wright, and reading over these made Garth question the purpose of war.
‘‘The big thing is all the thousands that died even where Nathan was — we’re not talking hundreds we are talking thousands of men — and we probably wouldn’t have what we have today if it wasn’t for those guys, they all paid the ultimate sacrifice,’’ he said.
‘‘It is unbelievable that so many people could kill so many more people, it’s just incredible.’’
Garth said he cherished the information he had gathered himself and was given from family members because he never heard any first-hand accounts growing up.
‘‘Back in those days nobody spoke about the war, it was never openly discussed. What happened at the war stayed at the war and when the boys came home of course a lot of them had problems but they never actually talked about it,’’ he said.
‘‘It was something not discussed, it was a hard thing.’’
Letters from the Australian Red Cross Information Bureau which were sent to the Wright family after they inquired about Nathan’s death:
W. C. Lawson. 6469. 19.11.17
When I last saw him he was at spot down towards the lake at the bottom of Passchendaele Ridge on October 4. He was lying in a shell hole with a bad shell wound in his left thigh. This was quite early in the morning, about 9.30 or so. I bound his wound up and left him there. There was a heavy barrage between him and the D/S. He could have got back I think had it not been for the barrage. That is the last I know of him. His Christian name is Norman. He came I think from up in the Mallee district in Victoria and was the 18th reinf. man.
This soldier was officially reported as killed in action on October 4, 1917.
Cpl Wells, No. 402, 22nd Machine Gun Company, has forwarded Private Nathan Wright’s wallet to his sister and has stated that he was the soldier lying dead at Daisy Wood and took his wallet from the body and sent it to the sister. We think that probably Cpl Wells may be able to give particulars as to burial etc.
Letter from J. Wells. 402. Sgt.
Re 7356a Nathan Wright. I regret to say that as it is now over six months ago I don’t remember his unit. I found him dead whist looking for my own men. He was then in an open field and I have every reason to think he was buried right there, and not in a cemetery, and more I don’t know or rather I didn’t notice his appearance so I cannot give a description of him. I handed his pay book to Orderly room and sent his wallet to his sister and I found her address inside. Written inside was: Please will the finder send this wallet to this address? Undoubtedly you will know the address as I have forgotten it.