The World War I Distinguished Service Medal group to Sqn Ldr George Leslie Wright R.N.A.S., R.A.F. and R.A.F.V.R. was sold in Warwick & Warwick’s auction on Wednesday 9th April 2008 and realised £4,255.
On the 24th May 1917, Air Mechanic 2nd Grade Wright was flying as observer, with Sub Lt H.M. Morris, in a seaplane over the North Sea on patrol duties and submarine searching, when their plane crashed into the water. For six days, with little to eat, they held on to one of the plane landing floats that fortunately survived the crash. Part of a newspaper article describes their ordeal:
“There was also the danger of going to sleep, and we could not do that. When we had been hanging on to the float about five or six hours I said to Wright, ‘I think I could do with a square meal.’ His teeth were chattering with the cold, and it took him quite a long time to say ‘Same here.’ Then he said, ‘I believe I’ve got something in my pocket.’ He brought out a waterproof envelope full of milk tablets. There were twelve altogether and we decided to have one a day each.”
“I think it was on the third night we heard a squadron of German airplanes returning from a raid. One of them circled round us and fired a verey light and then flew on to join his companions. In any case we did not expect any help from them, for if they had landed in the dark, it is ten to one they would have hit one of the mines clustered about us.”
“But on the sixth day we were just about finished. Our tablets were finished and I was having a rotten time with swollen limbs, through swimming round the float for exercise. We were both at the last gasp and could hardly find the strength to cling to the ‘raft’. When the seaplane containing Flight Commander Lindsay Gordon and Flight Lieutenant G. Hodgson arrived on the morning of May 29 we could scarcely believe it. But when we were understood that it was a rescue, we both gave in and fainted.”
The medals come with the original Admiralty telegrams to Wright’s parents dated 26th May saying that he was missing and 30th May saying he was rescued and was in R.N. Sick quarters, Felixstowe and his condition is stated to give rise to anxiety.
Air Mechanic 2nd Grade Wright was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in the London Gazette dated 1st October 1917. The D.S.M. is impressed with detail of award as Jan-Jun 1917. It is unclear if the award is purely for his actions while adrift in the North Sea, but undoubtedly it will have contributed.
He was appointed Probationary Observer Officer (permanent) on H.M.S. Daedalus, the RNAS seaplane training school on Lee-on-Solent on 10th November 1917. He moved to H.M.A.S. Eastchurch as Observer Sub Lt on 22nd March 1918. When the R.N.A.S. and R.F.C. amalgamated to form the R.A.F. on 1st April 1918 he was appointed Lieutenant. He must have served on H.M.S. Argus as there are 2 group photos with the lot dated 24th November 1918.
Lieutenant Wright was mentioned in dispatches for distinguished service in war areas in the London Gazette dated 1st January 1919 and relinquished his R.A.F. commission on 1st September 1921.
He was commissioned pilot Officer on the 4th July 1939 in the R.A.F.V.R. There is no detail of his WWII service although he was in Iceland at some time. His WWII medals are both engraved S/Ldr G.L. Wright R.A.F.
Sqn Ldr G.L. Wright’s R.N.A.S., R.A.F. and R.A.F.V.R. medals are WWI DSM, BWM, Victory Medal with MID oakleaf, WWII Defence Medal, BWM and KGVI IND IMP Air Efficiency Medal. The medals are offered together with a superb array of related items including DSM and WWI miniatures, MID certificate, 2 photos in uniform, 2 group photos on HMS Argus dated 1918, number of telegrams including reporting him missing and then found, IWM photo of artists impression of seaplane rescue, newspaper cutting of North Sea ordeal, Commission Warrants for RAF, RAFVR and 2Lt Royal West Kent Regt Cadets, RNAS appointment letters etc.