b. 10/08/1916 Mettingham, Suffolk. d. 05/04/1990 Ipswich, Suffolk.
Peter Harold “Old Misty” Wright (1916-1990) was born at Mettingham, Suffolk on 10th August 1916 and was educated locally. He worked on his father’s farm until the age of 20 and then enlisted in the Coldstream Guards in 1936. Subsequently he served in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa and Italy.
It was in Italy near Salerno, on 25th September 1943 that Company Sergeant Major Wright of the 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards would be awarded the Victoria Cross. During the counter attack Wright’s battalion attacked the Pagliarolli feature, a steep wooded hill, but before the right hand company reached the crest it was met by Spandau (heavy machine gun) and mortar fire and all the officers were killed or wounded.
When he saw the company was held up, Wright went forward and, finding there were no officers left, immediately took charge and crawled forward to see what was opposing the advance. He discovered there were three Spandaus posts facing them. He collected a section and, having positioned it where it could give covering fire, went forward himself and attacked each post with hand grenades and bayonet, silencing each in turn. Wright then led the company on the crest but, finding that enemy fire made the position untenable, led them a short way down the hill and up to the objective from a different direction.
The original citation was for the DCM and Wright received this from King George VI at Buckingham Palace in June 1944. The King on hearing the events of Wright’s action was not satisfied with the award of the DCM and on a visit to Italy, asked General Alexander to check all the facts of the action and report to him personally. As a result, the DCM was cancelled and the VC bestowed instead. When he heard that he had won the V.C. he said: "V.C.? Can't be me-some other Sergeant-Major Wright maybe," and when told the reason he still insisted: "There's some mistake. I got the D.C.M. for that."
After returning from Italy, he was posted to the training battalion in England, where his duties included guarding Winston Churchill at Chequers. He retired from the Army in 1945 and returned to the family farm, later becoming a tenant farmer on the estate of Lord Tollemache. In his war experiences he was wounded only once, above the right eye at Tobruk, but had a miraculous escape early in the Salerno battle, when a shell landed close to him and killed his second-in-command and his soldier servant, and blew off the arm of his company commander.
Of the VC award, Wright said “I was dumbfounded. I really could not believe it. I was only doing my duty and what I was trained to do. There was no thought of fear, it was just instinct.” Wright was married to Mollie, and had a son and two daughters. Wright died on 5th April 1990 in Ipswich, and was laid to rest in All Saints Churchyard, Ashbocking, Suffolk. His medals were placed on loan to the Coldstream Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, London until 2015, when they were purchased privately by Michael Ashcroft and are now on display in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ALL SAINTS CHURCHYARD, ASHBOCKING, SUFFOLK. GRAVE 136 - 5A.
Peter Wright's medal display when at the Coldstream Guards RHQ, London
( Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Medals on the Lord Ashcroft Collection website
Peter Archer painting of Peter Wright's VC action.
Union Jack Club
A copy of the above painting in the Union Jack Club