Wright, Frank Humphrey

Frank Wright was the son of Arthur George Wright (of Fir Toll, Mayfield, Sussex) and Norah Wright, who, after her husband’s death, lived at Bardwell Court, Oxford.

Wright’s education began at the Old Malt House school in Langton Matravers. He went on to school at Sherborne and to university at New College, Oxford, in 1926.  He obtained Second Classes in Classical Mods. and Lit. Hum., and came to Winchester as an Assistant Master in September 1930. He married in 1930 Miss Helen Marion Nowell Smith, daughter of Mr. Nowell Charles Smith (Coll.1883-1890), formerly headmaster of Sherborne School. At the time of his death, his wife and three children were living at 135 Banbury Road, Oxford.

For some years he took a Division in Junior Part, and afterwards one on the Science side of Senior Part.  He was devoted to his teaching work; not only as a Div Don, but he was a good German scholar, having spent months in Germany and Austria in earlier days, and took an important part in the advanced teaching of that subject. He also taught himself Russian in order to be able to carry on the work of the Russian class started by Mr. McLachlan.  He was House Tutor to Mr. Robinson at what was then Culver’s Close.

He was a keen cricketer, and was to be seen on most summer afternoons coaching at the nets; he was also an enthusiastic Scout-master, and was largely responsible for the organisation and direction of the School Troop for several years.

He had many outside interests and activities, amongst which was his work of the League of Nations Union and was for some time Honorary Secretary of the Winchester branch.

Some months before the outbreak of the war, convinced that it could not be much longer postponed, he volunteered for the RNVR, and in September 1939 left to undergo a course of training in meteorology. For a time he was stationed at Simonstown, South Africa.   The officer at the Admiralty responsible for the direction of his work in the meteorological section was Captain L.G. Garbett RN, brother of the former Bishop of Winchester, who wrote of Wright’s time as Simonstown, that “he made quite a name for himself on the Station with his knowledge of German, and was becoming proficient in all meteorological office routine.”

From there he was posted to HMS Neptune, a Leander Class light cruiser.  Garbett wrote:   “In a shore appointment however he did not feel he was pulling his full weight, and he expressed a wish to serve afloat.  On his appointment to HMS Neptune he threw himself wholeheartedly into his work in her, which included the instruction of midshipmen in navigation, and he also found time to gain some experience of air navigation and observer’s duties. As a result of the examination of meteorological logs received in the Admiralty, he was commended in Admiralty Fleet Orders for the useful information in the logs compiled in HMS Neptune. On the return of the ship to England in March 1941, he was temporarily appointed to a Naval Air Station, but at the special request of his old Commanding Officer, who was full of praise and appreciation of his work and high qualities, he was re-appointed to the ship on August 28th.”

On the afternoon of December 18th 1941 the squadron, consisting of HMS Neptune, HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope and three destroyers, was despatched from Malta to intercept an enemy convey heading for Tripoli.  That night they ran into a minefield, laid by the Italians in June.  Neptune was the first to strike a mine, followed shortly afterwards by both Aurora and Penelope.   Neptune hit a second which wrecked her steering gear and propellers and brought her to a standstill.

The rest of the British ships escaped, but the destroyer Kandahar, which entered the minefield to help Neptune, also struck a mine at 0318.  At 0403 Neptune struck a fourth mine, which exploded amidships, causing her to sink rapidly.   Kandahar, herself seriously damaged (she was scuttled the next day), could do nothing to help Neptune’s crew, 764 of whom died, among them Wright, aged thirty-five. Just one man survived: Able Seaman Norman Walton, who was rescued by an Italian torpedo boat after five days in the water. He survived the war.

The Wykehamist War Service Record and Roll of Honour added that: “…his loss to Winchester is even more real and greater”.

Wright’s obituary in The Times concluded with the words:   “He left a greater mark than he knew. His warmly affectionate nature won him many intimate friends; and few who came in touch with him could fail to recognize his fine idealism and – to quote another’s phrase – “his unbreakable integrity.”

Wright was at first posted ‘missing’, but eventually, in June 1942, his death was officially presumed with that of his shipmates. He is commemorated in panel 61, column 2 of the Plymouth Naval Memorial.


War: World War 2

  • Surname: Wright
  • Forenames or initials: Frank Humphrey
  • House: Staff
  • Years in School: 1930-1937
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
  • Date of Birth: 15th November 1907
  • Date of Death: 19th December 1941
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner C1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Commemorated on Panel 61, Colomn 2 of the Plymouth Naval Memorial