71 Years After WWII, Flight Sergent Is Finally Promoted to Flight Lieutenant


The SBS Flight Sergent Ken Wright should have been promoted to Flight Lieutenant; however, for a number of bureaucratic reasons–and he was shot down over Germany and he spent the last 3 years of WWII in the prison camp–it never happened.

When the war ended, he didn’t really care about the missed promotion. He decided to return to Australia and he resumed his previous role at the Bank of NSW and married Lola. He raised his family and he now lives in Avalon Beach, Sydney. Sixty-eight years after the war ended, the RAAF chief Marshal Geoff Brown, amended the bureaucratic mishap.

To Wright’s complete surprise and utter delight, he was given a honorary promotion to the rank of flight lieutenant–71 years after he was interviewed for the promotion. “I thought I was going to be given membership of the air force association,” he said. Wright joined the RAAF in 1940 and went through basic training at Tamworth and through various postings, they ended up with a RAF Photographic Reconnaissance unit. He flew an unarmed Spitfire in several missions over Europe. “I applied for a commission, I thought I had applied for a commission. Meanwhile I got shot down and the squadron commander apparently threw the papers away,” he said.

“When I came back from the POW camp, after being locked up for three years, I inquired about this and they said `forget it’ and so I did. It was the end of the war and nobody cared and I didn’t care either.”

August 17, 1942 he flew over Bremen Canal, Germany and was shot down on his 20th mission. A German Messershhmitt 109 fighter riddled his aircraft and he ejected from his aircraft and floated down to the ground as the enemy circled around him. When he finally landed on the ground, he was captured by German soldiers. He was taken to an aerodome the next day and was introduced to the pilot who shot him down, Lieutenant Dieter Gerhardt.

“We had a chat and he said one day we will be friends,” he said. Gerhardt was shot down and killed six months later. Wright never flew an aircraft again after the war. He was able to describe flying a Spitfire or the first time and he thought it was the greatest thrill of his life.

“It certainly was after flying an Avro Anson which took its time to stagger off the ground,” he said.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE