The Daily Telegraph

Major Tony Wright

Gurkha officer awarded the MC for his courage fighting communists in the Malayan Emergency

- Major Tony Wright, born February 28 1927, died September 14 2022

MAJOR TONY WRIGHT, who has died aged 95, was awarded an MC in 1950 during the Malayan Emergency. In 1948, after the assassinat­ion of three plantation managers in Perak, the British colonial authoritie­s declared a state of emergency. Leftist parties were outlawed and trade union activists and communists were arrested. The Malayan National Liberation Army was formed, drawing much of its support from landless communist Chinese, and fought a guerrilla campaign in a 12-year conflict with the aim of driving the British from Malaya.

Early in January 1950, the night mail train from Singapore was fired on between Bekok and Labis in Johor. The next morning Wright, a junior officer serving in a company of the 1st Battalion 2nd King Edward VII’S Own Gurkha Rifles (1st Battalion 2nd Goorkhas), took out an under-strength platoon of riflemen to hunt down the perpetrato­rs.

Wright had been brought up in the countrysid­e, and besides having developed fieldcraft of a high order, he was the best jungle fighter in the battalion. After his men lost the trail, he put them right and they followed a skilfully camouflage­d track.

When his leading scout was shot and killed, Wright left half his party to evacuate the dead man and, taking 10 men, he took the lead and pressed on. They discovered a camp for 150 communist terrorists (CTS) and, as they entered a clearing, heavy fire was brought down on them on three sides from CTS positioned on the jungle edge.

During a firefight which lasted for almost an hour, Wright was wounded in the neck. The CTS tried four times to charge and overwhelm the small force, but each time Wright moved to the threatened flank and beat them back by hurling grenades.

The citation for the award to him of an MC paid tribute to his inspiring courage, the control of his men and the effectiven­ess of his fire. Had the men wavered, even for a moment, it added, a disaster would have ensued.

Joseph William Anthony Wright was born in York on February 28 1927 and educated at Nunthorpe School in the city. Always known as Tony, in 1944 he enlisted in the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) as an Indian Army cadet and, after basic and infantry training, he was sent to the Officers’ Training School at Mhow in India.

On being gazetted to an emergency commission in the Indian Army, he was appointed to the 8th Gurkha Rifles (8 GR) and joined a training battalion at Saharanpur for jungle training and to learn Gurkhali.

In October 1945, he went to the 8 GR’S Regimental Centre in Quetta as company officer in a training company. In December he was posted to the 1st Battalion 8 GR, which he joined in Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, (now Jakarta in Indonesia).

The following year, he moved with the battalion to Kohat, North West Frontier Province. After a posting to Loralai, Balochista­n, he was appointed adjutant and went with the battalion to Attari, a Sikh village on the side of the Grand Trunk Road between Lahore and Amritsar.

There, close to the new border between India and Pakistan, they were employed on internal security duties, and Wright and his CO, Lt Col Alastair Langlands, were the two British officers left to hand over the battalion to Indian officers.

Wright and Langlands transferre­d to the 2nd King Edward VII’S Own Gurkha Rifles (2nd Goorkhas) and joined the 1st Battalion at Kitchener Lines, Poona, in December 1947. Thereafter, Wright served with the battalion in a succession of appointmen­ts in Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong and Sarawak.

In 1948, he became company officer in C Company at Batu Anam, Johor, under command of the 1st Battalion The Seaforth Highlander­s. He had been granted a regular commission in The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry but remained seconded to the 2nd Goorkhas.

For the next two years, as regimental signals officer and intelligen­ce officer, he was engaged in operations in Malaya against the CTS. He commanded the 1st Battalion’s contingent in England for the Coronation in 1953, following which he was appointed adjutant in Malaya, serving until December 1956.

After further service in Hong Kong, followed by staff appointmen­ts at GHQ Far East Land Forces, Wright’s last appointmen­t was that of second-in-command of the 1st Battalion.

On one occasion, on operations in Sarawak, sliding down a rope from a helicopter, his orderly above him slid too fast and knocked them both into the River Rajang.

In July 1964 Wright took early retirement and settled in Australia, where he became a farmer, first at Undera, Victoria, and then at Wolumla, New South Wales. For many years, in retirement, he and his wife, Arda, lived at Merimbula, New South Wales,

As a younger man, he enjoyed tennis and golf. He was a keen fisherman and also sailed his own boat until he was in his late eighties. He had been a member of the Regimental Associatio­n, the Sirmoor Club, since its creation.

Tony Wright, who died on the Regimental Anniversar­y Day, married, in 1957, at Gladstone, Queensland, Arda Houtgraaf. She survives him with their two daughters.

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 ?? ?? Wright, above right, in Singapore in 1956: he also commanded his battalion at the Coronation in 1953
Wright, above right, in Singapore in 1956: he also commanded his battalion at the Coronation in 1953

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