Leslie Mark Wright was born on August 30 1921. In 1943, he joined the RAF. When called up to serve in the Second World War, he went to Cardington, Bedfordshire, the British home of airships. But he only stayed there for a day, as he wasn’t needed any longer than that. Subsequently, he was sent to an RAF camp on the outskirts of Blackpool, Lancashire, where he stayed for about four years.
During the war, Wright initially worked in an office because he could type and write in shorthand. But after he got to Blackpool, he was sent to an RAF squadron based in Morocco. But on arrival, he and his comrades received a frosty reception from Moroccans who were anti-British. So they returned to England.
Leslie joined the top south London football club, Charlton Athletic – a team that he had been supporting since 1928. His father, who was a professional referee during the First World War, encouraged him. But Leslie’s father only refereed one game in which he played and that was when he competed against a female team. Leslie said his most memorable moment of the war was when a German bomber crashed in his street. Locals turned up to beat up the wretched pilot before the police took him away.
Leslie took part in a famous battle in The Netherlands that was made into the 1977 blockbuster film A Bridge Too Far. Wright had a wartime sweetheart, but unfortunately she died when an air raid shelter was bombed at Biggin Hill, Kent. In 1944, he met his wife at Catford, south London at a cycling club. They got married on September 20 1944, a year before the war ended. He recalls first meeting black people the same year, many whom had migrated from Jamaica, Trinidad, Nigeria and other countries in the Commonwealth.