The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. E W Wright
Eric William Wright was born in Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire on 21st September 1919 and educated at Cambridge County School and Technical College. He joined the RAFVR in June 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot.
Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his training and arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 2nd June 1940. After converting to Hurricanes he was posted to 605 Squadron at Drem on 6th July.
Wright shared a Me110 on 9th September, shared a Do17 on the 12th, damaged a Ju88 on the 13th, destroyed a Do17 on the 15th, probably destroyed a Me110 and damaged a Me109 on the 27th and damaged a Ju88 on the 28th.
He shared a Me109 and damaged another on 7th October, probably destroyed a Me109 on the 15th, damaged Me109's on the 22nd and 26th, destroyed one on the 27th, probably destroyed another on 1st November and shot one down on the 15th.
He was awarded the DFM (gazetted 26th November 1940) and was commissioned in December 1940.
Wright damaged a Me110 on 25th March 1941. He went to the Far East with the squadron in December 1941.
In January 1942 he was posted to 232 Squadron, the squadron embarked on the aircraft carrier Indomitable, flying off to Java at the end of January 1942 en route to reinforce the beleaguered squadrons at Singapore.
Wright took command of 232 when the CO was killed on 7th February 1942.
Soon afterwards Wright was given the job of reforming 605 Squadron from the remnants of 258 and 488 Squadrons. He damaged two Japanese aircraft on 9th February and 1st March.
With only a few aircraft left, on 1st March Wright was ordered to pass his remaining Hurricanes to a group selected to stay behind and take his remaining pilots to Tjilatjap, on the south coast, from where they were to board a boat for Australia. Two Ford V8s were commandeered, and the party drove through the jungle at night, only to find that the last boat had been sunk. In vain they searched along the coast for other craft.
A few days later the island fell to the Japanese, and Wright and his pilots soon found themselves in the native jail of Boei Glodok. After a period at Batavia filling bomb holes on the airfield, Wright and his party were shipped to Japan via Taiwan in the hold of a ship carrying iron ore. For a time they worked as farm labourers before Wright was sent to Habu, on Innoshima Island, to work in the shipbuilding yards.
Late in the war he was moved to a camp holding Dutch prisoners, where conditions were more brutal. After the second atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki the PoWs awoke to find that the Japanese had left. In September Wright was taken to Guam and returned to England via the United States and Canada, completing the final leg of his journey in the Queen Mary.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 1st October 1946) in recognition of gallant and distinguished services rendered during operations against the Japanese in Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, terminating in March 1942.
Wright stayed in the postwar RAF and in April 1948 he flew one of the six single-engine Vampire F3s of 54 Squadron which made the first Atlantic crossing by jet aircraft.
Taking off from RAF Odiham, and flying via Stornoway, Iceland and Greenland to Goose Bay in Labrador, the distance of 2,202 miles was completed in a flight time of eight hours 18 minutes. They went on to the United States, where they were feted by their USAF hosts and the press and undertook a number of air show appearances, including the grand opening of Idlewild Airport.
On his return Wright was appointed to command 54 Squadron.
After spending a year at the Central Fighter Establishment Wright was appointed wing leader at Linton-on-Ouse with command of three fighter squadrons. In late 1956 he converted to the Hunter and took the Tangmere Wing to Cyprus for the Suez operations.
He was then given command of the RAF's first Bloodhound ground-to-air missile squadron. In 1960 he was promoted to group captain and spent three years at Headquarters Fighter Command, where he was heavily involved in the introduction into service of the supersonic Lightning fighter.
In 1963 Wright moved into an entirely new flying environment as commander of the Vulcan bomber base at Coningsby in Lincolnshire, before moving to another Vulcan base, at Cottesmore, a year later. The V-force provided the country's strategic nuclear deterrent.
He was made a CBE (gazetted 1st January 1964).
Wright marched in Churchill's funeral procession.
On promotion to air commodore in November 1965 he was appointed Director of Flight Safety. Four years later he went to South Africa as the defence attaché before retiring on 21st July 1973 as an Air Commodore.
A keen golfer, Wright was secretary and chief executive of Moor Park Golf Club until he retired to Somerset, where he was club captain at Sherborne. He was an accomplished handyman, and spent two years restoring an old property and its gardens which became the family home.
He died on 5th November 2007.