Commanding Officer OLPHERT: 1975 - 1978
Commander G.A (Gavin) Wright VRD*, RNZNVR
Born in Kilbirnie, Wellington in 1931 and educated at Lyall Bay Primary School and Rongotai College. Commander Wright spent five years with Caltex Oil and five years with Vesta Batteries and Solarc Batteries before joining the Ford Motor Company in 1959. He spent a number of years in various jobs both in the manufacturing office and on the factory floor before being appointed as Manager Material Control and then Manager Quality Control.
While at Rongotai College, Commander Wright started sailing at Worser Bay which he discontinued when his Reserve commitments increased. He entered the Navy in January 1953 as a 20 year old Compulsory Naval Reservist (CNR) spending 14 weeks initial training at HMNZS TAMAKI on Motuihe Island before joining HMNZS OLPHERT.
He was rated Able Seaman in March 1954 and on completion of his CNR commitment he enrolled in the RNZNVR in May 1954. Having passed professionally for Leading Seaman in October 1954 he was rated acting Leading Seaman in November 1954 and commissioned as Sub-Lieutenant in July 1955.
As a Sub-Lieutenant, he qualified in Navigation, Gunnery, TAS and Communications for Lieutenant. He was promoted to Lieutenant July 1958, awarded his ML Command in February 1960 and Small Ships Watch keeping Certificate March 1965.
In April 1965 he was posted to HMNZS SANTON for anti infiltration patrols in Malaysia during which time he qualified for an Ocean Navigation Certificate and was awarded a Bridge Watch keeping Certificate. He received the General Service Medal 1962 with clasps Borneo and Malay Peninsular and the Pingat Jasa Malaysia for this service.
He returned to HMNZS OLPHERT in December 1965, was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in July 1966 and awarded the VRD in July 1969. In January 1970 he was appointed Executive Officer HMNZS OLPHERT. This coincided with the shift to Ghuznee Street and while Commander Cooper supervised the creation of a new headquarters, Commander Wright had a team at Hinemoa Street salvaging any thing that could be used to convert the old chocolate factory into the new HMNZS OLPHERT.
On 1stJanuary 1975 he was promoted to Commander and appointed Commanding Officer HMNZS OLPHERT. He retired from command on 31st December 1978 but continued to serve as required for ML Command and Junior Officer training until retiring, age for rank, in March 1981. He was awarded a bar to his VRD in July 1979.
During his career Commander Wright served on or undertook training on HMNZShips KIWI, TUI, KANIERE, KIAMA, INVERELL, SANTON, ROYALIST, PARORE, HAKU, MANGA, TAMURE, KOURA, KUPARU, PAEA, MAKO.
While serving at HMNZS OLPHERT, Commander Wright was navigator for the Island Bay Life Saving and Surf Club Cook Strait Swim Team with Johnny Cataldo as pilot. Successful swimmers were Keith Hancox, Perry Cameron, Lynne Cox, Meda McKenzie, Philip Rush and Mohammad El-Meseery. For about 18 months during 1977/1978 Commander Wright sailed on the champion Wellington yacht Whispers of Wellington as navigator and cook.
He retired at the end of 1985 and moved to the Kapiti Coast where he still resides with his wife Pat. Commander Wright has two sons and a daughter.