Parachute commander and GP

Born: August 29, 1917; Died: April 1, 2011.

DR David Wright, who has died aged 93, displayed conspicuous gallantry while serving as a parachute officer during the Second World War.

He saw service in two of the most keenly fought theatres of the war, firstly North Africa and later during the advance through Europe.

He was a man who preserved a calm authority under the most challenging conditions: his cool nerve maintaining morale in the military hospitals while under fire.

His composed manner was also much in evidence when he practised as a GP in peacetime.

David Wright was born in Glasgow and educated at Hillhead High School.

Fern Stewart one of the school’s archivists and whose family knew Dr Wright since school days recalls: “David was a close friend of my Dad.

“He was a very good humoured modest, gentleman with a keen dry wit. Very good company. He and his wife Brenda were a good team along with daughter Susan, and all keen on sport.”

Dr Wright read medicine at Glasgow University where he represented the university at both boxing and rugby. After qualifying he practised in Cumbria and then was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps.

In 1942 Dr Wright joined the Parachute Regiment and in November of that year served in Operation Torch which was the critical Anglo-American invasion of North Africa.

Dr Wright’s battalion was dropped behind enemy lines and was ordered to capture a strategically important road junction.

Dr Wright was in command of No 1 Section and requisitioned the French garrison school and then set up an operating theatre in the wing of the civilian hospital.

During a raid on Mateur, the commanding officer was badly wounded and Dr Wright carried him the four miles back to base.

By then the hospital had been severely bombed and Dr Wright immediately attended to the wounded administering more than 140 anaesthetics.

The following February, Dr. Wright accompanied 1 Para in an assault on Jebel Mansour. He heard a distressed man crying for help and Dr Wright dragged the wounded man – despite heavy enemy fire – to safety.

He showed exemplary courage later when he attended to casualties under fire and helped stretcher bearers by night.

Dr Wright’s bravery was rewarded with an immediate Military Cross.

In September 1944, Dr Wright served in Operation Market Garden and was dropped into Arnhem – the largest airborne operation up to that time. It was a hugely complicated and dangerous operation (as was recaptured in the movie A Bridge Too Far). The bold and audacious plans were for the Allied troops to seize the strategically important bridges across the Rivers Maas and the Rhine .

Dr Wright set up a field hospital at Brigade HQ near the north end of the bridge and within two days was treating more than 300 wounded men in the cellars.

The house was under constant fire, but a Dutch GP, at great personal risk, made several journeys from his surgery with supplies.

When the enemy fire became intense Dr Wright tended the wounded in no-man’s land. The enemy attacks were unremitting and the hospital had to be evacuated during a brief cease-fire.

Dr Wright was awarded the Dutch Bronze Lion and the citation praised “his skill, calmness, cheerfulness and courage that had saved many lives”.

Dr Wright was taken prisoner by the Germans and on being repatriated he served as a medical officer at a German POW camp in Scotland.

After being demobbed, Dr Wright was, for 37 years, the GP in the town of Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire.

He administered to the needs of his patients with unerring kindness and grace and was a much respected member of the local community.

He retired in 1987 to live in Cambridgeshire. Dr Wright married, in 1951, Brenda Lockwood, who survives him with their daughter.