Daniel Anderson Wright

Daniel Anderson Wright was born on 8th of November 1889 at Balcutha, the youngest son Frances Ann and John Wright.  As a young man, Daniel was well known in Dunedin and Central Otago as a cyclist, having completed successfully in a large number of important races.


On one occasion he made the fastest time in the Christchurch to Timaru road race receiving a gold medal for the performance. [1]

On 18 November 1915 Daniel Anderson Wright enlisted, ‘for the duration of the war’, in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Daniel Wright’s military records show that prior to enlistment he was based in Dunedin, employed by the Otago Education Department, as a painter. Daniel’s older sister Hanah Dripps (nee Wright), Waikaka Valley, Gore is listed as Daniel’s next of kin. [2]

8/4059 Private Wright entered Trentham Camp as part of D Company, 10th Reinforcements, Otago Infantry Battalion. On 4 March 1916, following basic training at Trentham, Private Wright, D Company, 10th Reinforcements, left New Zealand for service overseas. [3] Private Wright arrived in France, via Suez, on 14 April 1916 and was initially attached to the base depot at Staples of the New Zealand infantry for combat training, before being attached to 14th Company (South Otago) of the 2nd Otago Infantry Regiment at Armentieres. Armentieres was a ‘quiet’ sector of the Western Front and an area used to introduce units to trench warfare. On 30 June 1916 Private Wright was attached to No 2 Machinegun Company and fought as part of this unit through the first battle of the Somme, September–October 1916. The New Zealand Division suffered 7,000 casualties, 1,560 killed, during the 23 days spent in the muddy horror that was the Somme. [4]

On 3 March 1917 Private Wright was permanently transferred from 14th Company, 2nd Otago Infantry Regiment to the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Corps (NZMGC).  The New Zealand Division at this stage was between Ploegsteert and Wulverghem facing the strongly fortified Messines ridge.




Vickers Machine Gun crew France March-April 1917.  8/4059 Private Wright right of picture

‘The Vickers machine gun is fired from a tripod and is cooled by water held in a jacket around the barrel. The gun weighed 28.5 pounds, the water another 10 and the tripod weighed 20 pounds. Bullets were assembled into a canvas belt, which held 250 rounds and would last 30 seconds at the maximum rate of fire of 500 rounds per minute. Two men were required to carry the equipment and two the ammunition. A Vickers machine gun team also had two spare men. [5] ‘

The Battle of Messines began early in the morning of 7 June 1917 with huge mines exploded in the Messines Sector. The New Zealand Division, in a ‘text book’ assault captured the German front lines with minimal casualties. Private Wright however, received a gunshot wound (GSW) to the right shoulder on the first day of the battle and was evacuated to England to the NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst. The wound was not serious and on 19 June 1916, Private Wright was transferred to the NZMG Depot based in the grounds of Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire. The Grantham depot was a training ground for the NZMGC and Private Wright was promoted on 6 November 1917 to Temporary Staff Sergeant, a rank he held while an instructor at Grantham.





November 1917 – February 1918


Temporary Staff Sergeant Wright (Centre) and other NZMGC instructors at Grantham Depot.


T/Staff Sergeant Wright has a wound badge on his lower left arm the unnamed Corporal on the right has been wounded twice.


In March 1918 the Germans launched a large assault on the Somme, resulting in the New Zealand Division needing as many men as possible to eliminate this threat. On 8 March 1918 T/Staff Sergeant Wright reverted to Private Wright and returned to France. On 4 April 1918 Private Wright was again in the front lines attached to B Company of the NZMGC.[6] The German assault was stopped and the allies began to regain captured territory. In July 1918 the New Zealand Division was –

‘Back in the line on 2 July, this time facing Puisieux-au-Mont, the Division gained ground against lively opposition in a series of strong thrusts, preceded by bold daylight reconnaissance and fighting patrols – though not bold enough for the more ardent spirits, who had to be restrained.’[7]

 On the 10th of July 1918 Private Wright was wounded a second time with a gunshot wound in the left armpit area. After battlefield treatment he was removed to the 2nd Stationary Hospital at Rouen, France and then on 19 July 1918, evacuated to the NZ General Hospital at Brockhurst, England. Private Wright remained at Brockenhurst until August 1918 when he was discharge to the Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch where he remained until early October 1918. At this time he was granted extended leave and moved to Edinburgh, Scotland being the home country of Private Watt’s father John. In Edinburgh Private Wright met Agnes Mitchell Watt, a temporary nursing aide at Edinburgh Military Hospital.[7] A relationship between the two developed and Private Wright remained in the United Kingdom until April 1919 before returning to New Zealand where he was discharged from the Amy.

Agnes Mitchell Watt followed Daniel Anderson Wright to New Zealand in 1919/20 and they married in Nelson on 12 November 1920. Daniel and Agnes lived in Reefton for a number of years where their daughter Heather Simpson Mitchell May was born in August 1922, one of six children. In 1941 Daniel Anderson Wright was a self employed painter living with Agnes and three of their children in 41 Lincoln Avenue, Lower Hutt.

On 21 January 1941 Daniel (Dan) Wright was attested as 2/18/786 Private Wright in the 2nd Battalion National Military Reserve (Home Defence). [8] In November 1941, as the immediate threat to New Zealand reduced, Private Wright was placed into reserve.

The Wright family moved to Plimmerton in 1947 purchasing a property at 42 Steyne Avenue. [9]




Daniel (Dan) Anderson and Agnes Mitchell Wright (Plimmerton 1950’s)

Dan passed away on 19 October 1971 and Agnes 22 September 1975.

Their daughter Heather and her husband Arthur Stanley May built in Motuhara Road in 1951 and the story of Heather can be read on this website Family stories.  

There will be stories on Agnes Mitchell Wright (nee Watt) as a WW1 War bride and of Arthur Stanley May as a Fleet Air Arm flyer over the next months.

Allan Dodson – May 2014



[1] 1917 Wounded: Christchurch Press 30 June 1917

[2] 8/4059 Private Daniel Anderson Wright: Military Records – Archives New Zealand

[3] Emarkment records: Auckland Cenotaph database.

[4] The NZ Division-The Somme 1916: An Encyclodedia of New Zealand 1966

[5] The History of the NZMGC – Introduction: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-wh1-march/

[6] 8/4059 Private Daniel Anderson Wright: Military Record - Archives New Zealand

[7] Wright / May family history

[8] 2/18/786 Private Daniel Anderson Wright: Military Records – Archives New Zealand

[9] The Heather May story: Wright/May oral history


In the Field: Wright/May family

At Grantham Depot: Wright/May family

Dan and Agnes at Plimmerton: Wright/May family

Last Updated: 01/05/2014 11:03pm