Soldiers at Bunyan Canteen, Bedford, 1914-18 [Z1306/12/11/5]
Monday 26th February 1917: The funeral took place today of 22 year old Private Ernest Wright, of Buxton Road, Luton. Private Wright had presented himself for medical examination at Luton under the Derby Scheme and was rejected due to years of asthma having affected his heart. In September last year he was again examined, this time at Bedford, and to the surprise of his family and friends he was catalogued B1, fit for garrison duty abroad. At that time he was employed on very light work by Mr Cox, a hat manufacturer. He appealed to the Local Tribunal on the grounds of domestic hardship and physical disability; at this time he had been in bed for three weeks with bronchial asthma, but a doctor’s medical certificate was ignored his claim was dismissed. He joined the canteen department in October, hoping to avoid strenuous work, and was sent to France where his main duties were washing up and attending fires. He frequently wrote letters home telling how ill he felt.
Last Thursday week Private Wright wrote that he had been vaccinated, and had been so ill he had been sent to hospital as he “could not keep up any longer. I have got it stiff this time, but hope to be out at duty shortly.” On the following Saturday morning his mother received a hospital card informing her that her son had been admitted to hospital at Bury St Edmunds. On the Monday she received a letter from the nurses telling her he was rather ill and that she could visit him. That evening a house surgeon at the hospital telephoned saying it was clear her son had been a lifelong sufferer and that “it was a downright shame that he had ever been passed for service. He will be in this institution for some time, and then get immediate discharge from the Army.” He felt that there was no immediate danger and that Private Wright was improving, but he suffered a relapse and died at eleven o’clock the same night.
The loss of her son is the third tragedy to afflict Mrs Wright within the space of two years, following the deaths of both her husband and her eldest daughter. She also has a 31 year old daughter who has been a helpless invalid since infancy. She has expressed the hope that the Tribunal will do their best to protect other sons from blunders by military medical men. A number of recent cases have been reported in which it is clear that some scandalous decisions have been made by Medical Boards, although it is believed that Bedford has seen improvements.
Source: Luton News, 1st March 1917