A Luton soldier revealed how he had been bandaged by a German while lying wounded for 19 hours in a field, and previously had been involved in the capture of German soldiers, some as young as 16.
Pte Edward Wright, 7050, A Company, 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, who had been at the Devonshire Hospital, Buxton, recovering from the wounds received in France, returned on Tuesday to his home at 38 Guildford Street. His experience of the war commenced with the retreat from Mons and only ended when he was shot through both thighs while scouting near La Bassée on October 17th.
Pte Wright was one of the Reservists called up on August 5th. Up to that time he had been working at the Diamond Foundry. He joined the Army at the time of the Boer War, and while with the colours spent nearly seven years in India. When recalled to the colours he re-joined his regiment at Ayr, and the same day his brother, Driver G. Wright, who had been working for Messrs C. Dillingham and Sons, re-joined at Portsmouth and went across with the 3rd Division Ammunition Column.
After reaching France, the Royal Scots Fusiliers went up to Mons, and from there had to take part in the general retirement. Later he got to Vailly and had had 11 days and nights in the trenches. There the Germans met with a heavy repulse, but what happened just afterwards Pte Wright does no know, as he fell sick and had a few days in hospital. From Vailly the battalion had days of marching and travelling by train and motor.
They were at the Aisne, Lille and finally La Bassée, where he got his wounds. On October 15th they were acting as reserves for the Lincolnshire Regiment in the battle which was then raging, and the 18th positions were reversed, the Royal Scots Fusiliers leading the attack with the Lincolnshires lying behind as reserves.
"The regiment went out at 6.30," said Pte Wright. "Ten of us were out as scouts and we had to go down a little hill and across open ground. In woods a little way ahead and on both sides of this open ground the Germans were in trenches, and as we advanced they started sniping.
"I was the first to get bowled over. Private Watson, who was on one side of me, was wounded, and the lieutenant was killed. One bullet touched my left thigh, but I could walk all right until another went through my right thigh. Then I had to lie there.
"A big fight began, and between 4.30 and 5.30 the French forces retired, leaving three or four British regiments. They were almost annihilated and lost nine officers and 253 men in about 25 minutes.
"I lay 19 hours in the field and a German bandaged me. After being there 19 hours, I woke three or four comrades and we crawled on our stomachs back to the Lincolnshire trenches. Afterwards they took me to a hospital, but that got shelled and blown up, and then they took me down to the 4th Field Hospital. There I was told that I was for England, and might think myself lucky."
Talking of some of the scenes of desolation through which he had passed, Pte Wright said that people at home, however much they read the papers, could not realise what havoc had been wrought. Nor could they realise what it was like to have to shoot with deadly precision at boys of 16.
"I didn't read it in the papers," he said, "because we didn't often get a paper to look at. But I have seen these boys with my own eyes. We have captured them, and have given them half our rations because they were almost starving. It seems almost like murder to have to shoot at such youngsters with intent to kill them."
The people of France were said to be exceptionally kind. Pte Wright has a scarf which was given to him by a little French girl of six, and a little souvenir bearing a figure of the Madonna, given to him by a Catholic Red Cross nurse in the hospital to hang on the cord around his neck with his tally. After leaving the hospital he spent two days at a beautiful shooting-box in the hills.
[The Luton News, November 19th, 1914]