|Date of Birth||April 26, 1900|
|Place of Birth||Norman, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Anne Wright (mother), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Labourer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||December 3, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||15|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 5, 1978|
|Age at Death||78|
|Buried At||Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Plot||Old Rugged Cross Plot 951 Grave 0001|
Private Robert Hamilton Wright enlisted in December 1915, at age 15, and served in France and Belgium for more than a year. He was sent back to Canada in February 1918 due to being a minor.
Robert was born on 26 April 1900 in the village of Norman in northwestern Ontario. His parents, William Hamilton Wright and Annie Thompson, were both born in Campbellton, New Brunswick. They were married in 1892 in Rat Portage (now called Kenora) and they had ten children: Myrtle, Emily, William (Bill), Robert (Bob), James, Charles, Margaret (Maggie), Alzada (Sadie), Pearl and Agnes. Robert’s father was a farmer and later worked for the railroad.
Robert turned 15 years old in the spring of 1915 and the war entered its second year that summer. He enlisted on 3 December 1915, signing up in Kenora with the 94th Overseas Battalion and giving his age as 19. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and the Kenora volunteers were sent there in May 1916 to train with the rest of the unit. They left for Quebec two weeks later and spent a short time at Valcartier Camp in Quebec. Robert came down with the mumps while he was there and he was in the hospital for nine days. From Valcartier they headed to the east coast, embarking from Halifax on 28 June on the SS Olympic and landing at Liverpool on 5 July.
A week after arriving in England Robert was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion. Two months later he was attached to a front line unit, the 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion, and sent to France. The Canadians were at the Somme that fall and on 8 October the 16th Battalion took part in an attack on Regina Trench, suffering heavy casualties. Robert arrived and joined them as a reinforcment a day or two later. It was the battalion’s last operation at the Somme and in mid-October the men moved north to the Lens-Arras sector, across from Vimy. Over the next few months they trained and had regular rotations in the trenches and support lines. Robert suffered a gunshot or shell wound to his arm on 4 December and he was sent to No. 2 Canadian Field Ambulance. The injury wasn’t too serious and he was back on duty the next day.
Early in 1917 the Canadians began preparing for their next major operation, the assault on Vimy Ridge. The battle would begin on 9 April but three weeks before that, on 18 March, Robert was transferred to the 1st Division Headquarters. He served there for almost a year and spent at least some of the time at the 1st Division munitions dump. During 1917 the Canadians fought at Vimy Ridge and Arleux (April), Hill 70 (August) and Passchendaele (October-November). By January 1918 Robert’s mother had contacted government authorities and a copy of his birth certificate had turned up, showing his actual age to be just 17. At the time soldiers were required to be 19 to serve in a front line unit. Robert was sent to England and attached to the Manitoba Regiment Depot to await his return to Canada. He sailed from Liverpool at the end of February, arriving in Halifax two weeks later. On 21 March he had a medical exam in Winnipeg and he was discharged on 4 April, due to being a minor. It was three weeks before his 18th birthday.
Robert was called Robbie as a child and Bob in his adult years. After his discharge he likely returned to the Kenora area for awhile, where his family was still living. He was married in Winnipeg on 29 September 1920 to 19-year-old Gertrude Louise Brown. Bob and Gertrude made their home in Winnipeg and they had two sons, James William (born in 1922) and Raymond George (born in 1926). Around 1928 Bob started his own retail grocery business, Wright’s Meat Market, and he ran it for twenty years. He also operated Dodd’s Camps in the Kenora area for four years in the 1950s. During the Second World War he served on the Wartime Prices and Trade Board and his son James served in the navy. In 1955 Bob and Gertrude moved to Calgary where they were involved in James’ business, Pinecrest Foods. In 1975 they came full circle back to Winnipeg where they resided until Bob’s death. They had two grandchildren, Lorraine Mae and Robert Herbert (named after his grandfathers), and three great-grandchildren, Doran Robert, Ryan Timothy and Marcy Joanne. Their son James owned Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs racetrack for twenty years and he was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
Bob passed away in Winnipeg on 5 November 1978, at age 78, and he’s buried at Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens. He will always be remembered for being blessed with a good nature, a sense of humour, gentle manner, being able to recite by memory all the books of the Bible, and his great love for his family, especially his dear wife ‘Gertie’.
By Becky Johnson
Photos and information provided by Bob’s granddaughter Lorraine.