Aircraftman 2nd Class Wilfred Wright (538668) served in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. Born on 6th February 1919, he was the son of James Wright and Esther Wright of 12 Burnbrae Avenue, Portadown, Co. Armagh.
James Wright was a foreman tenter in the Tavanagh Weaving Factory. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Wilfred also worked there. His father was also a well-known member of the Orange Order, Royal Black Preceptory, and the Independent Order of Rechabites. Wilfed was a member of Hope of Portadown Juvenile Tent Independent Order of Rechabites 1107 from birth.
Wilfred was the 3rd of 4 sons of James and Esther. His older brothers were Richard “Dick” Wright and James “Jim” Wright. A younger brother, Eric Dudley Wright also served with the Royal Air Force and was in France in 1940. Despite only being 20 years old, the former member of 1st Portadown (Thomas Street) Boys’ Brigade had almost 3 years service in the Royal Air Force.
On Christmas Day, 25th December 1939, Wright had attended two services at Thomas Street Methodist Church while home on leave.
Death in England
Wilfred died of a cerebral haemorrhage in the sick quarters at RAF Warmwell, Dorset on 4th January 1940 aged 20 years old. He had served for almost 3 years and was training with RAF 103 Squadron at the time of his death. Records show he died suddenly after a short illness. On 7th January 1940, the Royal Air Force transported the airman’s body to Belfast, Co. Antrim.
Wilfred was a good and keen airman, and he will be a loss to the service.
Wing Commander – RAF 103 Squadron.
At 1400hrs on Tuesday 9th January 1940, a funeral with full military honours took place in Portadown, Co. Armagh. The cortège departed from 12 Burnbrae Avenue in the town and the local newspaper noted that the procession represented all sections of the community. A carrier proceeded by Officer G Crump and a detachment from RAF Aldergrove, Co. Antrim bore Airman Wright’s coffin draped in the Union Flag.
A band of pipers played laments as the funeral made its way via Thomas Street, Carleton Street, Church Street, Market Street, High Street, and Castle Street. Crowds lined the streets and businesses shut down and drew their blinds.
The town is moved today as it is not often moved, with a great sympathy and sorrow. The thoughts of many centre in this home as the passing of Mr. Wilfred Wright has brought the war very near to us all. Though he was still in training, we feel he died for his country just the same as if he had died on the battlefield. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the cause of freedom, and our affectionate respect goes out to his father and family.
Reverend GA McIlwrath.
Reverend GA McIlwrath conducted a service at the Wright family home. Reverend JB Jameson also conducted a service at the graveside. After this, a military firing party shot 3 volleys into the air, and a bugler sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
Wilfred Wright’s grave is in Terrace 4, Grave 44 of Drumcree Church of Ireland Churchyard, Portadown, Co. Armagh. His headstone bears the inscription:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.