Discover the stories and remember the lives of UCC
Old Boys who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War.
Lieutenant Victor Benson Wright ’13
Died: November 18, 1916
Lieut. Benson Wright, son of Mr. Alfred Wright, Toronto, was killed in action, November 18th, 1916, at the age of twenty. He was born in Toronto, was at Upper Canada College from 1905 to 1913, and was at Toronto University at the outbreak of war.
Enlisting in the 9th Mississauga Horse, he obtained a commission in the 75th Battalion, and went overseas in March, 1916. He was slightly wounded in August, after being but a few days at the front, and while in hospital gave some of his blood to aid in the recovery of another officer. He had returned to the front about a month before he lost his life.
Lieut. Wright was machine-gun officer of his battalion, and fell leading his men and working his guns in the victorious advance of Nov. 1 8th. A fellow officer wrote that Lieut. Wright went over in the first wave of the advance. “When he was found he was over on the extreme right, the most dangerous spot in the line. All his guns were working, a feat which no other machine-gun officer accomplished that day, and which was due wholly to his splendid example. He was buried on the battlefield just behind the position which we captured, and to-day we are placing a large cross on his grave.”
Other officers write in the highest terms of his services, adding that he would probably have been decorated, and that he was on the eve of promotion to a captaincy. Major Baynes-Reed, the chaplain of the battalion, says his death was instantaneous, adding that he was “a born leader, absolutely without fear and idolized by his men.”
Colonel Beckett, in a letter to Lieut. Wright’s father, writes :
“December 18th, 1916.
From the very beginning he was absolutely and conspicuously devoid of fear. At St. Eloi he was wounded before I had got into the line. He rejoined us in the training area just before we proceeded to the Somme. His work there was brilliant and would undoubtedly have won recognition and a decoration. He personally posted his guns in shell-holes in front of our line—one was maintained in a German gunpit 200 yards beyond our front. He did as much scouting as the scout officer, and gave valuable information time after time. I cautioned him to be careful—not to take these risks.
Coming out of the trenches one night I was told the following incident by one of the machine runners—not by Benny, who never mentioned it to anyone. The battalion immediately on our right had made an attack and failed. They requested help, and I sent Benny and two of his guns to protect their flank. From where he was he could see our wounded scattered over the field. One kept waving his hat as a signal for help. He was within 40 yards of the German trench. Our machine gunner started out to help him. Benny called him back, saying he must not go alone. So Benny went with him, and they walked in broad daylight over almost to the enemy’s trench and brought the wounded man in. His leg had been shot off. On the day we went over to capture ‘ Desire’ trench, it was the duty of the machine guns to go beyond the captured trench beyond the new one which our men dug 100 yards further still and take up their position in shell-holes to protect the men who were * digging in’ the new trench. It was in superintending the placing of these and the bringing up of ammunition that your son was killed by a sniper from a portion of the trench to the right which the battalion on our right had failed to capture. Alex. Miln was killed in the same manner. Eight of our officers fell here, and nearly 300 other ranks.
That your son had endeared himself to all I need not tell you. But I never suspected the rare qualities displayed by him during the Somme battle. I freely confess it. His methodical, quiet, cool daring, the masterly efficiency with which he placed and managed his section, and the quiet, casual manner in which he reported to me the most valuable information, was a constant source of surprise and gratification.
His batman, Pte. H. W. Evans, No. 163322, is the last one I know of who saw him alive. Evans had been sent back for ammunition and on his return searched until he found him. Your son is buried where he fell, near what is now the front line between Courcelette and Pys. A cross made by our pioneers marks the spot.”
College Times (Summer 1916) pg. 13-16
More information on Lieutenant Victor Benson Wright ’13 can be found at:
Upper Canada College Archives – a small collection of private papers which include wartime letters
Thunder Bay Museum – a collection of Wright Family private papers which include wartime letters
Canadian Virtual War Memorial – includes newspaper clippings
Library Archives Canada
- Copy of Lieutenant Victor Benson Wright ’13 attestation papers
- Kapuskasing Internment (or Detention) Camp
- 75th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force – war diaries