Graham was a long standing member of the NSW Division and we are honoured to have known him. The following Obituary was kindly provided by the Naval Officer’s Association, NSW Division.
Of Graham Wright’s three careers in his lifetime as an RAN Officer, then as a senior Public Servant in Defence and lastly with Defence Chaplaincy, he observed of the first a career that promised so much but delivered very little. Of the second, he had a profound, but silent pride in his deep involvement in the greatest change to the administration of the Department of Defence since Federation.
Born in 1920, he had his Intermediate Certificate at the age of 13, before he was selected to join RANC in the 1934 Cook Year entry. For a number of years until his death he was the only survivor of his year group and, in an interview several years ago, he stated “I am in no hurry for the next Reunion of Cook Year 1934”.At RANC he was the Chief Cadet Captain and on graduation received the Kings Medal as best in his Year for leadership and officer-like qualities. There followed almost two years Midshipmans sea time in both RAN and RN ships before being sent to UK in 1939 for a program of Sub Lieutenant’s courses, compressed due to the war. He joined the new destroyer HMAS Norman in 1941 in Southampton as Navigating Officer and the ship was ordered to secretly take a very senior British emissary to Russia for talks. Subsequently Norman operated and saw action in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and the Far East.
After posting off Norman in 1943 he spent time in a number of ships doing survey tasks before returning to UK in 1944 to undertake and top the Long Navigation Course. Once qualified he was posted in succession to the battleship HM Ship Anson, fleet carrier Venerable, light cruiser Argonautand command ship Boxer. Returning to the RAN, he joined the new aircraft carrier Sydney as Fleet Navigator and from there to command the frigate Culgoa, his only command. Subsequent postings included Master Attendant at Garden Island Dockyard, Training Commander and later Executive Officer at the training establishment HMAS Cerberus, Navy Office in Melbourne, the training and administrative base HMAS Leeuwin as Naval Officer Commanding West Australia and, finally, Navy Office in Canberra from where he resigned his commission in 1962. Prior to leaving the Navy he had started studying for an ANU degree.
His post-navy career started in the Department of External Affairs with a two year stint as Head of Research with SEATO, based in Bangkok. From there he returned to join the Department of Defence in 1965 as a Clerk 3rd Grade. He rose quickly through the ranks and, in 1970, joined a special team reporting to the new Secretary of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange. The crowning achievement of his Public Service career was working on the preparation of the “Tange Report on the Amalgamation of the Defence Group of Departments with Department of Supply”. Part of his role after the Report was published was to brief the concepts within the Services’ establishments; and his papers formed his thesis for an Honours degree from ANU.
Until he turned 90 years of age, when he could no longer be licensed, Graham was a Lay Reader at the Anglican Chapel RMC Duntroon for 20 years. In the northern summer of 2011 he travelled to England with Marie, his wife of 40 years, and the I Zingari cricket team. At 91 he batted once. A glance behind point produced his only run for the innings. He smiled to his team mates as he entered the pavilion for the last time, “At least I scored one more run than Don Bradman did in his last innings!”