Gladys Wright was born in Louth in 1894. Her father, Edward Wright was a schoolmaster, and the census of 1911 has the family living at Egmont – No. 4 South Street, Louth. Edward Wright went on to become Headmaster of St Michael’s School, where his wife Alice also taught.
In December1916, Gladys married a young man named Victor King, in Richmond, Surrey. Their marriage was to be short lived, however. Victor was Second Lieutenant in The Machine Gun Corps, and on 29th September, he was killed during the Third Battle of Ypres, better known perhaps as the Battle of Paschendaele. His name is one of 34,000 others inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, which indicates that if he was given a battlefield burial, his grave was later lost. A grimmer option is that his body was simply destroyed by shellfire.
Like so many other young widows, Gladys had the rest of her life to live, and at some point between the end of the Great War and the beginning of World War Two, she met and married a man called von Hirschberg. It seems that they tried to begin a new life in what was then Rhodesia, where the von Hirschberg family had lived for decades. Whatever happened to the marriage was never recorded publicly, but by World War Two, Gladys was back in England and serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service – the ATS – a volunteer unit for women. After the war, the ATS became the WRAC, but Gladys chose not to continue with service life and, after another brief spell in Rhodesia, returned to Louth to live with her widowed mother Alice in her house in St Michael’s Road.
Gladys, now in her 50s, was a keen amateur actress and a member of the Louth Playgoers group. The only surviving photograph of her dates from 1949, when she played the role of Mrs Winslow in Terence Rattigan’s 1946 play, The Winslow Boy. One of the strange ironies of this story is that the gentleman playing Mr Winslow in the play was George Todd. When he wasn’t learning his lines, Todd was better known as Superintendent Todd of Louth police. He and his co-star were to meet again a year later in rather different circumstances.
Part two of this story will go live at 6.00pm on Sunday 21st February