Eamon wins the long battle for his grandfather’s WWI medals

Rear (left to right): Sam Lockhart; Eamon Wright Jun.; Tom Walker;  Martin Wright; Harry Briggs. Front (left to right): Teresa and Eamon Snr Wright, and Amanda Clarke. P1090922
Rear (left to right): Sam Lockhart; Eamon Wright Jun.; Tom Walker; Martin Wright; Harry Briggs. Front (left to right): Teresa and Eamon Snr Wright, and Amanda Clarke. P1090922

Eamon Wright was united with some very precious pieces of history last week - almost 100 years after they were first issued to his grandfather.

Eamon, a Magheralin native, had long been aware of his grandfather’s involvement in the First World War and was informed about the soldier’s war medals by an elderly aunt. Although these medals had been issued in 1923, a tragic turn of events had prevented the Wright family from ever receiving them.

Private James Wright of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers ‘C’ Coy, was killed in action at Pommern Redoubt in Belgium by German machine gun fire on August 16th, 1917. James was just 32 years old, and left behind him a widow and six children.

The children were orphaned four years later when their mother, Ellen, passed away, and were subsequently separated to live at different addresses. In the meantime, their father’s war medals were issued but - presumably due to the fact that the family could not be tracked down - were returned as unclaimed in 1923.

In 2006, Private Wright’s grandson began his search for what history had denied the family for over 80 years. Eamon, whose own father John was a WWII veteran, made it his duty to visit the Commonwealth War Grave at Dochy Farm in Belgium. Since that first trip, he has returned on five occasions to pay respects to his grandfather’s memory - and those of other Royal Irish Fusiliers buried there, who would have been comrades of James.

The quest to source his grandfather’s medals was one of very gradual progress, and Eamon was initially unsure where to start. After being directed to Armagh’s Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum, Eamon was guided by the museum’s curator at the time, Amanda Clarke. She referred him to Jeffrey Donaldson MP, who petitioned to the Ministry of Defence on Eamon’s behalf, but it was at this stage that the trail seemingly went cold.