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Tom Wright

Date of birth: 1915
Date of death: 7.9.1944
Area: Brotherton
Regiment: Royal Artillery
Family information: Husband of Kathleen Wright
Rank: Bombardier
Service number: 4595212

War Service

As with most of his peers from the village there are, at present, no details as to exactly when Tom enlisted except for the fact that he was a Bombardier – Service Number 4695212 in the 94th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery. This was formed in November 1941 from the 8th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).
During the course of the war the 94th were located as follows
Nov 41 UK Home Forces
Jan 42 UK Home Forces
Jun 42 UK Guards Support Group
Jun 22 North West Europe Guards Armoured Division
For four hundred years, the Guards regiments acted as individual regiments and not under the present Guards “division” organization. At the outset of the Great War, Lord Kitchener requested of His Majesty King George V that a new elite formation be created from the Foot Guards and Household Cavalry. The battalions of the Grenadiers, Coldstream, Irish, Welsh and Scots Guards were put together into the Guards Division, which was supposed to represent the elite of the British Empire, in both equipment and training. During the Great War, they rose to distinction with a number of battle honours, in spite of not everybody believing in their superior status.
Second World War
Reactivated in 1939, several of the infantry regiments were sent overseas and saw action in both Africa and Dunkirk. The increasing need for mobility and the dominance of mechanized forces on the modern battlefield saw the rest donning the black berets of the British armoured squadrons. They were given tanks and formed the Guards Armoured Division. The original intention for raising the Guards Armoured Division was one of home defence should the Germans succeed in invading the British Isles. Equipped with outdated Covenanter Mark V tanks, the men of the Guards were quick to take on their new roles as an armoured unit. Training intensely for two years, it was not long before their job description changed from defence of the British Isles to the eventual invasion of France.
Tom Wright would have then been involved in the actions described below.
Landing in Normandy on 26th June 1944 the Guards were soon heading to the Caen region as part of VIII Corp, British Second Army, 21st Army Group. Caen, which was supposed to have fallen to the British on D-Day, still stood as a German stronghold. Caen was a key objective in the liberation of France as it was centred on dry open plains bordered by Vimont to the east. Capturing Caen would be key to capturing Paris.
The Guards, along with the 11th and 7th Armoured Divisions endeavoured to take Caen through Operation Goodwood, which commenced 18th July 1944. The Guards were to penetrate German defences to the east of Caen, cut the Caen-Vimont road at Cagny and continue down to Vimont after an intense period of bombing. After Vimont, it was to join the assault on Bourgebus Ridge with the 11th and 7th Armoured to dig out the German defenders overlooking the city.
The aerial bombing was less effective than hoped on the first day. It missed many of the dug in defenders south of Caen and in Cagny and Emieville, east of Caen. These three defensive points were on the Guards’ route and the fast attack that was intended was bogged down.
The Guards Division alone lost 60 tanks to hidden 8.8cm AA guns of the 21. Panzerdivision around Cagny as well as the few remaining Tigers of the 503. Schwere Panzerabteilung near Emieville. Also, the advance of the three armoured divisions was hindered by a counter-attack by Kampfgruppe Hitlerjugend. Luckily, infantry losses were low and the losses in tanks were replaceable from the constant supply arriving on the beaches.
By 19th July the Guards were able to carry on towards the Bourgebus Ridge to assist elements of the 11th and 7th Armoured in digging out the German defenders. However, the Germans held out throughout the operation, though not without losses. The outcome of Goodwood was somewhat in question with the British and Canadian divisions gaining ground, but many of the German defences remaining intact and quite effective. Caen fell within a few days. The real victory of Goodwood was it convinced the Germans that the major breakthrough attempts would be in and around Caen and not by the Americans in Operation Cobra.
After Goodwood the Guards reorganized to create distinct “battlegroups” around each of the named regiments. Thus, the Grenadiers, Coldstreams, Irish and Welsh each had their own armour, infantry, artillery and reconnaissance elements that could be used to form a self-sufficient fighting force. In addition, each battlegroup could then provide support for each other, not only combining arms, but also doubling them in each case.
Operation Bluecoat was intended to take advantage of the advance of the Americans to the west during the first week of August 1944. British and Canadian units would draw German infantry and panzer units away from the American breakout.
The Guards were mostly used in support of the 11th Armoured Division as part of VIII Corps, along with the 15th Scottish Division and the 6th (Independent) Guards Tank Brigade.
However, on 1st August, the Guards were called up to continue the rapid advance that the 11th Armoured had created against the two German infantry divisions (326. and 276.). The next two weeks would see intense bocage fighting as the Germans, reinforced with the 21. Panzer, 1., 9. and 10. SS-Panzerdivisions, fought for every mile of French ground. By 15 August, the German 7th Army began to withdraw only to be caught in the infamous Falaise Pocket. The Guards were able to withdraw for refit, rest and restructuring.
Post Normandy
After their action in Normandy, the Guards went on to liberate Brussels. The British surprised the German garrison as the 5th Guards Armoured Brigade and the 32nd Guards Infantry Brigade advanced simultaneously into the capital, much to the delight of the locals. However, the ensuing celebration slowed the Guards’ advance and allowed many of the German units to retreat and regroup for the later defence along the Siegfried Line.
In September of 1944 the Irish Guards would be honoured with spearheading the “Garden” portion of Operation Market Garden, the combined armoured advance and airborne drop intended to open bridges through Holland, across the Rhine River and into the Ruhr Valley, the heart of German industrial capacity. Initially successful, Market Garden would be bogged down by a very tight operation schedule, unlucky weather patterns and the fact that the Irish Guards were expected to advance along a “one tank front”. This enabled the German defenders to destroy the lead or second Sherman in the line, causing a traffic jam of targets for their anti-tank weaponry.
On 7th September 1944 Tom Wright was killed. He is buried in the Geel War Cemetery, east of Antwerp in Belgium.

Family Life

Tom Wright, the son of Tom (1) and Sarah Jane (nee Cook), was born in Brotherton in 1915.
Tom (1) and Sarah had married on 22nd December 1900 in St Edward’s, Brotherton.
Both were from Brotherton families with Tom’s (1) father being Fred Wright and
Sarah’s being Isaac Cook.
Fred was originally from the mining community of Newton near Fairburn (born 1857) but seems to have moved to Brotherton when he married Maria Hodgson in 1874. He and his family first lived on the North Road but later moved to the High Street, possibly to the house at the top of Austerberry Yard. Fred worked as a ‘coal miner’ and eventually as a Deputy. The family extended to 10 children including Tom, the intriguingly named Late and Jim. The latter most probably being the Jim Wright who resided at the top of Austerberry Yard until the 1960’s.
Fred died in 1929 at the age of 73.
Maria was from the same Hodgson Family as cousins George Rockett and William Hodgson, who were killed in WW2. She was their great aunt being the sister of their grandfather Emmanuel Hodgson. Maria died in 1936.
Tom (1) (born 1876) also became a ‘miner’ and after his marriage to Sarah Cook also lived on the High Street. At present no children other than Tom (2) have been traced.
Tom (2) was born in Brotherton in 1915 and little else is currently known until his marriage to Edith M Kathleen Milner towards the end of 1938. It would appear that they had just one child - a daughter named June in 1943.

Geel War Cemetery looking towards a stone cross with gravestones down each side Geel War Cemetery

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