Belfast Telegraph

Retiring at 93, hero who battled Japanese (and mad dogs) in jungle

By Rebecca Black

One of our last Second World War veterans has retired from his job - at the grand old age of 93.

Bob Wright has been enthralling visitors to the Northern Ireland War Memorial for the last 27 years with tales from his remarkable life.

Originally from Sandy Row, he joined the Army at the age of 15, serving first with the Welch Regiment before volunteering for the Commandos.

He became acquainted with military legend Blair Mayne, whom he described as a "terrific character", before being deployed to Burma in 1943 at the age of 19 during the Second World War.

Mr Wright recalled the people of Burma fondly, describing them as "lovely" and paying tribute to their bravery, helping British soldiers who were wounded.

He fought against the Japanese in the jungle as a Commando Sergeant Major, describing the style of warfare as "slit trenches" which held just two men, instead of the trenches which went on for miles in the First World War. "When we advanced we just left them as they were - or chucked a bomb into them as a booby-trap," he said.

Mr Wright said many people were scared of the Japanese, but he was not.

"They had these 28 stone wrestlers who would chuck men over their shoulders," he said.

"People got very afraid of them when they shouldn't have been.

"I was not afraid of them - you can't go in half-hearted."

After Burma Mr Wright was one of the first British troops to arrive in Hong Kong to liberate it.

It was here that he met his wife, Cheung Sui Ping, now Joan Wright (89). The pair are still happily married. She went on to establish the first Chinese restaurant in Ireland in 1959 - The Hong Kong and Anglo on Belfast's Donegall Street.

The couple's son Ray said his father shielded them from the horrors of war, but told them many stories about the lighter moments, such as discovering a huge Japanese store of sake, and him taming a wild dog.

"The Japanese had left behind a guard dog in Hong Kong, a big German shepherd, it was ferocious, but my father didn't want to put it down," he said.

"He fed it scraps to try and tame it but it remained ferocious. Eventually he decided to jump in and wrestle it, and then it became his dog.

"He was heartbroken when he couldn't bring it home and ended up presenting it to the Governor of Hong Kong's wife, who had admired it."

On his arrival back in Belfast in 1947 Mr Wright was shocked by the devastation caused during the Blitz.

He worked a number of jobs including for Walls Ice Cream, Sirocco and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

The Northern Ireland War Memorial paid a fond farewell to Mr Wright yesterday morning following a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Japan Day.

The Second World War ended after Japan surrendered in the wake of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs.

The Japanese surrendered on August 14, 1945 and the next day was celebrated as Victory in Japan (VJ) Day. Its formal surrender was signed on September 2, 1945 at a ceremony in Tokyo Bay aboard the American battleship, USS Missouri.

John Steele, the vice-chair of the Northern Ireland War Memorial, thanked Mr Wright for his service.

Belfast Telegraph


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