Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (28 February & 1 March 2018)

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Date of Auction: 28th February & 1st March 2018

Sold for £2,800

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,400

A good 1954 post-war M.B.E., Second War 1945 ‘night fighter’s’ D.F.C. group of eight awarded to Wing Commander, late Sergeant Pilot, J. A. Wright, Royal Air Force, who flew in Beaufighters, Havocs and Mosquitos with 604 Squadron, and accounted for two enemy aircraft - the last despite being wounded and having to bale out when his ‘aircraft had started to blow up’. He flew with 256 Squadron, tasked with the night defence of Malta, prior to being posted to 169 (Bomber Support) Squadron in October 1944. Wright flew in 31 operational sorties with the latter, including as part of Bomber Command’s last raid of the war, 2 May 1945, when he dropped napalm bombs on Jagel airfield prior to the main raid on Kiel

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, M.B.E. (Military) Member’s 2nd type breast badge, silver; Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., reverse officially dated ‘1945’; 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Palestine 1945-48 (Sqn. Ldr. J. A. Wright D.F.C. R.A.F.); Coronation 1953, mounted for display, generally very fine or better (8) £2000-2400

Footnote

M.B.E. London Gazette 10 June 1954.

D.F.C. London Gazette 26 October 1945:

‘S/L. J. A. Wright commenced operations in March, 1941, with No. 604 Night Fighter Squadron. On his second sortie he destroyed a Ju.88. In May, 1941, attacked a He.111, during this combat he was injured and his aircraft damaged. Despite this, he pressed home his attack until the enemy aircraft was destroyed. He then commenced to fly home with one engine stopped and on fire and had almost reached base when the aircraft started to blow up, he and his navigator baling out safely from a low altitude. In all he completed 43 defensive night fighter patrols.

In September, 1943, he went to Malta with 256 Squadron and carried out 13 Fighter and Convoy patrols.

He started Bomber Support operations with 100 Group in October, 1944, and completed 31 offensive sorties.

His keenness to operate has always been of the highest order throughout every phase of his career. With the introduction of any new operation, including low level attacks on aerodromes, his infectious keenness, coupled with his skill and judgement, has had a very marked effect on all crews.

I strongly recommend that he be awarded the D.F.C.

Remarks by Station Commander:

S/L. Wright has been a flight commander in No. 169 (B.S.) Squadron since 20th December, 1944. He has proved a most capable and conscientious aide to his squadron commander and has at times set the finest example of keenness and offensive spirit to the members of his flight and squadron. He stands out amongst his fellows for his devotion to duty.’

James Alan Wright was born in February 1920. He served with the Royal Air Force during the Second War, and after initial training was posted as a Sergeant Pilot for operational flying with 604 Squadron (Beaufighters), Middle Wallop, in March 1941. The Squadron was employed as a Night Fighter unit, and Wright flew in 43 operational sorties with them, in a variety of aircraft including Beaufighters, Havocs and Mosquitos. A contemporary of John ‘Cat’s Eyes’ Cunningham, also flying with the Squadron at the time, Wright achieved his first victory on only his second sortie. The latter being a Ju.88 destroyed, 12 March 1941.

Flying regularly with Sergeant Vaughan as his navigator, Wright added to his total when he destroyed a He.111 off Portland, 7 May 1941. As the Squadron’s Operations Record Book records, this dog fight was not without incident:

‘7.5.41 10 patrols were carried out by the Squadron. S/Ldr Cunningham D.S.O., D.F.C. engaged and destroyed a He.III near Yeovil. F/O Joll detected an e/a but was unable to engage as e/a took violent evasive action. Sgt. Wright detected and engaged an e/a but was himself attacked and slightly wounded. However, his attack on the e/a was successful, but when trying to return to base his port engine burst into flames so he and his operator descended by parachute and were uninjured other than slight wounds to the pilot. Their a/c was completely destroyed by impact and fire.’

Wright was commissioned Pilot Officer in August 1941, and continued to fly intruder operations until he left the Squadron at the end of August 1943. Having advanced to Flight Lieutenant, Wright was posted to 256 Squadron in September 1943. A detachment from the Squadron had been sent to Malta in July 1943, and the remainder of 256 Squadron joined them in October of the same year. The Squadron was tasked with the night defence of Malta, and operating out of Luqa, Wright flew in 13 fighter and convoy patrols.

Returning to the UK, and having advanced to Acting Squadron Leader, Wright returned to operational flying with 169 (Bomber Support) Squadron (Mosquitos), Great Massingham, in October 1944. The Squadron had transferred to 100 Group, Bomber Command, earlier in the year and were primarily employed flying patrols whilst bomber streams were flying over Germany at night. They also engaged in night Rangers catching enemy aircraft at their own airfields. Wright flew in 31 operational sorties with the Squadron, including: Bremen; Stuttgart - Nurnburg; Essen (2); Cologne (2); Dusseldorf (2); Ruhr area; Bonn - Wahn - Cologne; Heilbron - Karlsruhe; Soest; Frankfurt area (2); Breslau; Nurnburg; Hanover; Stuttgart; Escort to Bergen (Daylight); Brux - Zeitz; Heilbron; Kiel area; Twente and Rhine; Chemnitz; Dessau; Misburg; Hamburg; Lista airfield; Schwandorf; attack on Schleswig - Jagel airfield (2).

The attack on Jagel airfield, 2 May 1945, was part of Bomber Command’s last operation of the war. Wright flew as part of a force that dropped napalm bombs on the airfields surrounding Kiel, after which Mosquitos of 8 Group carried out attacks on Kiel itself. The following day German officers came to the Tactical Headquarters of Montgomery’s 21st Army Group on Lüneburg Heath and signed a surrender document for all German forces in North-West German, Denmark and Holland.

Wright advanced to Wing Commander in January 1959, and retired from service in October 1966.