Claude Wright was the son of Henry Wright and of Hazel Wright (nee May), of St. Heliers, Auckland.
He was the eldest of his family. He had a brother (in the army) and a sister.
Claude was a farmer who had been educated at Auckland Boys Grammar School (1929-32) and Palmerston North Agricultural College. He was actively involved in sports, playing tennis, cricket, soccer, rugby, hockey, golf and swimming. He managed the farm attached to St. Peter's College, Cambridge, and at the time of enlisting was employed by Mr. C.C. Ellis, of Warkworth.
He enlisted for service with the Royal New Zealand Air Force on 23 December 1940 and went to the Initial Training Wing, Levin on 21 December 1941. On 7 February 1942 he was posted to No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School, New Plymouth where he began his flying training on Tiger Moth aircraft. He continued his training under the Empire Air Training School in Canada in May 1942.
He was a member of No.4 Solo Flight Training School at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1941.
In Canada he was stationed at No. 3 "M" Depot, Edmonton, Alberta until June. On 20 June he was posted to No. 3 Service Flying Training School, Calgary, Alberta. At this point his training was changed to that of air bomber and in September he went to No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School, Lethbridge, Alberta to commence training. On completion of the course at Lethbridge on 21 November he was posted to No. 3 Air Observer School Regina, Saskatchewan for further training. He was awarded his Air Bomber's badge on 4 January 1943 and promoted to the rank of Sergeant and on the same date as Pilot Officer. Six months later he was promoted to Flying Officer. His next posting was to No. 1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia and it was from this port that he left for the United Kingdom on 3 February 1943.
Flying Officer Wright arrived at No. 11 Personnel Despatch Reception Centre, Bournemouth on 14 February and remained there until April when he was posted to No. 11 Operational Training Unit, Westcott, Buckinghamshire where he trained on Wellington bomber aircraft.
In June he went to No. 1678 Conversion Flight, East Wretham, Norfolk and transferred to Lancaster bombers prior to joining 115 Squadron. With this squadron operating from Mildenhall, Suffolk and later from Little Snoring, Norfolk and Witchford, Cambridgeshire he took part in attacks on Aachen (his first bombing raid), Hamburg, Essen, Peenemunde, Berlin, Hanover, Kassel, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt.
In a raid against Berlin on 26 November 1943 the Lancaster bomber in which he was flying encountered severe anti-aircraft fire over the target area and one motor was put out of action. The aircraft returned safely to base.
Flying Officer Wright's last mission was on 14 January 1944. He was the bombardier on a Lancaster bomber which took off from Witchford on air operations against the German town of Brunswick and failed to return to base. All members of the crew were classified as missing. Subsequently their deaths were confirmed and they were found to have been buried in the Roman Catholic Churchyard, at Gittelde, approximately 21 miles north of Gottingen, Germany. The other Royal New Zealand Air Force crew were Flight Lieutenant Christiansen of Palmerston North, Flying Officer F.A. Braithwaite and Pilot Officer J.L. Boswell both of Auckland. They are all now buried in the British Military Cemetery at Hannover.
Pilot Officer Wright undertook 20 raids. He did a total of 80 hours as Pilot and 300 hours as air bomber.
An account of the bombing raid on Brunswick on 14/15 January 1944 notes that 496 Lancasters and 2 Halifaxes went on the mission - the first major raid to Brunswick of the war. It resulted in 38 Lancasters lost which was nearly 8% of the force. The German running commentary was heard following the progress of the bomber force from a position only 40 miles from the English coast and many German fighters entered the bomber stream soon after the German frontier was crossed near Bremen. The German fighters scored steadily until the Dutch coast was crossed on the return flight. The raid was not a success from Bomber Command's point of view. Most of the attack fell either in the countryside or in Wolfenbuttel and other small towns and villages to the south of Brunswick. Ten houses were reported destroyed and 14 people killed. (The Bomber Command War Diaries, An operational reference book: 1939-1945 by M. Middlebrook and C. Everitt, p. 465). The photographer of the headstone in 1999 was Mr B. Cox whose brother, Flying Officer John Grant Cox (NZ412658), is buried in the same cemetery. He described his visit to Hanover War Cemetery: 'On 29 June we left London 4 am - drove all day via the Channel Tunnel reaching the village of Rimbeck about 100 km south of Hanover by 5 pm. That was where my brother's plane actually crashed, and by 5.30 we were taken by friendly German folk to the Catholic cemetery where the crew of seven were originally interred, and then to a site on a hillside about 1 km away to the spot where the Lancaster crashed. An elderly chap who remembers the incident said that they thought the bomber was going to hit the village. and the following morning, civilians began pillaging the wreckage to get the parachutes for silk but were stopped by soldiers. We were taken back to the first house we called at where we were given a nice meal, outside under a patio, followed by several rounds of German lager, before being taken to the local hotel where we slept before an early morning start for Hanover. In the Hanover War Cemetery all graves are well tended by German gardeners employed by the British War Graves Commission and were quite friendly. There are 46 New Zealand graves in the cemetery.' AWMM