Theodore Wright VC

b. 15/05/1883 Hove, Sussex. d. 14/09/1914 Vailly, France.

Theodore Wright (1883-1914) who was known as “Dodo” to the family, was born at 119 Lansdowne Place, Hove, Sussex on 15th May 1883. His father William Walter Wright, who was born in Philadelphia, USA, was a Minister in the Catholic Apostolic Church. His mother was Arabella nee Tarbet. His parents married in the Catholic Apostolic Church in Liverpool in 1874. The family lived at Weston House and Talgai at Albury Heath, Guildford, Surrey. Theodore had a brother and four sisters. His maternal grandparents lived in Abercromby Square, Liverpool, where Noel Chavasse VC and Bar would later live.

Theodore Wright VC

Theodore was educated at Clifton College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. At the Academy, he represented the Army at cricket. Having been commissioned on 1st October 1902, he continued training at Chatham, being promoted to Lieutenant in 1905. He served with the Balloon Section at Aldershot, then in Gibraltar until December 1906, followed by the 2nd Fortress Company in Cairo and returned to Aldershot in 1912. Having attended an advanced course at Chatham, he was posted to 56th Field Company at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire as Adjutant 3rd Division Royal Engineers.  He was promoted to Captain shortly afterwards. On the outbreak of the Great War, he disembarked at Rouen, France on 17th August 1914.

On 23rd August 1914, near to the Jemappes Station, near Mons, Belgium, several men including Charles Jarvis VC were attempting to destroy several bridges. Whilst Jarvis was withdrawing from his bridge, Captain Theodore Wright, who was detailed to supervise 57th Field Company’s preparations, arrived. While attempting to cross the 20 metres of open ground south of the canal, Wright was wounded in the head by shrapnel and then departed to find out the situation elsewhere. He met up with Lieutenant Boulnois and found out orders to retire had been received. Wright then set off in a car to give the order to destroy the bridges at Nimy.

Later in the afternoon, Wright headed for the bridge at Mariette with Sergeant Smith, and they discovered that the free ends of the explosive leads only reached the towpath. With longer leads tied around him, Wright managed to reach the girder bridge over the smaller canal and gained shelter. When under the bridge, he swung hand over hand and reached the far bank, but every time he lifted his head he came under heavy fire. It was impossible to reach the leads, and Wright was exhausted and fell into the water.

On the 14th September 1914, at Vailly, on the River Aisne, Captain Wright was assisting the passage of the 5th Cavalry Brigade over a pontoon bridge built by the 56th and 57th Field Companies the previous night. While supervising repairs to the bridge he was constantly exposed to heavy fire and was eventually mortally wounded as he assisted some wounded men to shelter. He was buried in the Vailly British Cemetery.

His Victoria Cross (gazetted 16th November 1914) was presented to his mother by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 16th November 1916. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf. His medals, letters and memorial plaque were passed to his nephew, Peter Heath, who donated them to the Royal Engineers on his death. They are displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham.