Gerald Lionel Wood (1883-1961)
Officer with 10th and 2/5th Battalions Durham Light Infantry
Born on 4 May 1883, Gerald Lionel Wood, a public school-educated man, was a native of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, South Wales and son of Lionel Richard Wood, a local civil engineer. He had experienced two years’ service with the 6th battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (6th Territorial Force Battalion, 38th of Foot), in receipt of a territorial commission as a second lieutenant (dated 15 June 1908, London Gazette date 31 July 1908), before war broke out. By 1911 he was boarding in Edgbaston and employed as a bank clerk. He was working as a bank cashier with the National Provincial Bank when he attested on 4 September 1914 at Taunton, as a private, ‘being unwilling to wait for a commission’. Wood was given the service number 11744, and posted to C Company, the 6th (Service) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry.
Wood was recommended for a commission by GH Owen, officer commanding 60th Brigade, for the 11th battalion, Durham Light Infantry (DLI). He was discharged from his battalion for the purposes of taking up a temporary commission on 29 September 1914, aged 31. He was made a temporary lieutenant and posted to the 11th (Service) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, on 20 October 1914. The battalion had formed two months earlier at Newcastle as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army (K2). At this time the battalion was part of the 61st Brigade of the 20th Division, based at Pirbright, Surrey. The battalion, which on 6 January 1915 became the division’s Pioneer Battalion, mobilised for war and landed at Havre on 20 July 1915.
For some reason Lieutenant Wood did not go out with the battalion on 20 July, instead going to France on 1 October 1915, on posting to the 10th battalion, Durham Light Infantry. The battalion was serving at this time as part of the 43rd Brigade, 14th (Light) Division. Lieutenant Wood’s first experience in the line would have been later in October, when the battalion went into the line to hold positions on Wieltje Road, and 200 yards to the north of it. The battalion continued to alternate in and out of the line through a wet and cold winter, marked by difficult trench conditions, waterlogged and collapsing. During his service with the battalion, most probably on 2 February 1916, he was holding a trench in the Ypres Salient when he was buried by shellfire. Upon being dug out, Wood discovered that enemy parties were at the wire in front of his position. The London Gazette citation for his Military Cross attributed his prompt and successful control of fire as instrumental to repelling the attack (supplement to the London Gazette, 15 March 1916). The 10th Battalion’s tour in the Salient, which began on 21 May 1915, ended on 14 February 1916. During this period the battalion incurred a grand total of 36 officer casualties and 718 other ranks, killed, died, wounded, sick, and missing.
Lieutenant Wood served with the 10 DLI for seven months, until he left the front line complaining of pains in his knees, ankles and shins, accompanied by fever, on 21 May 1916. At this point the battalion had been in the Somme sector for some three months, in the line at Agny. After a spell in hospital he embarked for England (Dover), via Dieppe, aboard the Newhaven on 11 June. His diagnosis was trench fever and neurasthenia. On arrival in England Wood was admitted to the Hospital for Officers at 53 Cadogan Square, London. Nervous symptoms and dyspepsia were both marked at this stage.
Wood was on sick leave at home from 27 June to 27 August 1916, under the authority of a Medical Board held at Caxton Hall, London, on 27 June. At this, he was identified as unlikely to be fit for general service for at least three months, and any military activity for two months. He was discharged from hospital on 1 July and his medical notes, whilst acknowledging that he was much improved, recorded that he was still unable to walk any distance owing to fatigue and pain. Following this, Lieutenant Wood was boarded again on 29 August, this time at the Duchess of Connaught Canadian Military Hospital, Taplow, and discharged for a further month.
He once again appeared before a medical board on 13 October, also at Taplow. Here he was finally judged fit for general service. Following this, on 17 October 1916, he joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, at South Shields.
Once fit for active service abroad, Lieutenant Wood was sent to Salonika on 13 January 1917. On 20 March, he joined the 2/5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, who had gone out on 31 October 1916, as a garrison battalion. Around the same time that Wood joined, the battalion became part of the 228th Brigade, attached to 28th Division, and put into action due to a shortage of manpower. On 20 July 1917, Wood was appointed an acting captain with the battalion.
The 2/5th Battalion served on the Butkova Front, one of the quietest parts of the battle line, holding a strong defensive position on the lower slopes of the Krusha Balkans mountain range, above the valley of the Struma. The strength of the enemy positions far across the valley, combined with little enemy activity, contributed to a relatively static front and no doubt held down battle casualties. In any case, the battalion did well enough to secure Colonel Williams-Till, the officer commanding, two mentions in dispatches and a military OBE.
As was not uncommon, Captain Wood contracted malaria in October 1917 whilst at Salonika, and was attended by the Regimental Medical Officer. Another attack followed in December, when he was treated by 84th Field Ambulance. He recovered enough to go on a five week Patrol and Scout Course on 6 January 1918, but had further attacks of malaria in February and May 1918. The consequence of the latter saw him leave his unit on or around 1 June 1918, and transferred to no. 60 General Hospital at Hortiach [now Choriatis].
Wood left the hospital for an officers’ convalescent home in Salonika on 21 June 1918, having relinquished his acting rank pay on admission to hospital. He was then transferred to no. 4 Convalescent Depot, also in Salonika, on 10 July. Two days later, he reported to the Labour Corps Depot, and departed for England, flagged as a malaria case, on 13 July via Itea and Cherbourg, disembarking at Southampton on 3 August 1918. He was ‘not to be available for a theatre of war where malaria is prevalent’.
Whilst home on sick leave from Salonika, Captain Wood requested an extension to the leave, which was expiring on 2 September 1918. This appears to have been granted, as on Monday 26 August he accepted the honorary freedom of Tenby in a ceremony held in the town. Subsequently he appeared before a Medical Board at the Military Hospital, Pembroke Dock, on 30 August 1918, which classified him as unfit for category A and B service for at least three months, but fit for category C1 service (active service with troops at home). He was instructed to report to officer commanding 2/5th Durham Light Infantry (this is possibly an error for the 3/5th Battalion, as the 2/5th was of course still in Salonika). He appeared before a final Medical Board on 6 December at Ripon, which placed him in category C1 for a further 2 months. At this, it was noted that he had had a further attack of malaria (23 September to 3 October, for which he was hospitalised at 1st Northern General) since the last Board. He was graded under 20% disabled and directed to the Dispersal Centre North Camp, Ripon.
Wood was released with effect from 31 January 1919, and was still medical category C1 on dispersal. Having relinquished his commission, he was granted the rank of captain due to having held the rank of acting captain from 20 July 1917 to 31 January 1919. His total service by 6 December 1918 was four years and four months, comprising one year and nine months at home, and two years and seven months abroad.
In later years he resided at The Shingle House, Torcross, near Kingsbridge, Devon. Gerald Lionel Wood died on 21 May 1961.
This information was derived from the officers service records, held at The National Archives, Kew, London: WO 374/76335
Birth date: 4-May-1883
Death date: 21-May-1961
Armed force/civilian: Army
Residence: Tenby, Pembrokeshire
Edgbaston, West Midlands
Employment: National Provincial Bank
Family: Father: Lionel Richard Wood (d. 1923)
Mother: Mary Jane Wood, nee Thomas (d. 1886)
Siblings: Richard Holroyd, Alan Henry, Owen Thomas, twin sister Mary Frances Grismond
15-Jun-1908 Territorial commission, second lieutenant, 6th Battalion (TF), South Staffordshire Regiment
4-Sep-1914 Attested, private, Somerset Light Infantry
29-Sep-1914 Commission, temporary lieutenant, 11th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
Oct-1915 Transferred to 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
15-Mar-1916 Military Cross (London Gazette)
(After period of illness sent to Salonika)
13-Jan-1917 3rd Entrenching Battalion, 228th Brigade
20-Mar-1917 2/5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
20-Jul-1917 Acting captain
(Period of illness during which returned to UK)
30-Aug-1918 3/5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
31-Jan-1919 Released from the army
Medal(s): 1915 Star
British War Medal
Contributed by AHJ, South Wales