While at HMS Ganges his Divisional Officer suggested
that Geoff Wright should join the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot. When he went
for interview he was asked the question: ‘Would you like to be taught by
the American Navy or the Canadian Air Force?’ His answer was that he would
rather be taught by the American Navy as he felt that their pilots
possibly had more combat experience than the Canadian Air Force pilots.
In early 1943 Geoffrey Wright embarked on the Empress of Scotland (ex
Empress of Japan) and sailed from Liverpool to New York. Then he traveled
to Detroit to train as a cadet pilot at the USNAS Grosse Ile. He found the
trainee pilots living conditions was very much like a boarding school, but
the food was excellent, especially being able to eat an orange and all the
other luxuries that he hadn’t seen for a long time.
The first part of his training at USNAS Grosse Ile Michigan was from 8
April 1943 to 1 August 1943 when he was first introduced to the Spartan
NP-1; a two-seat primary trainer designed and built by the Spartan
Aircraft Company for the United States Navy reserve units. All
trainee flying cadets were allocated a flying instructor and fortunately
for Geoff Wright he found his main flying instructor was
Lt Vernon Tebo:
‘When I met Lt Tebo I found him charming and was lucky because he gave me
brilliant instruction and never got rattled or annoyed, but was constantly
encouraging. That was the man!’
Geoffrey Wright’s was instructed on the NP-1 from May 13-June 5 when he
went solo. During this time he remembers that often when flying with
Lt Tebo he would hear him singing Glen Miller tunes through the microphone
and Geoff would join in. Another thing that Geoff remembers was that
Lt Tebo had written on the back of the band of his goggles was RELAX, RELAX,
RELAX, which demonstrates more about his character and encouragement to
his trainee pupils.
On June 5 1943 Geoffrey Wright went solo for two flights. However, he
remembers that he failed to check the blackboard which informed him when
he was down to go solo: ‘I forgot it and missed it, but thought I would be
kicked out’ Lt Tebo said: ‘Watch the blackboard because it is there you
will be told when you will first fly solo’. The next day he was fortunate
and allowed to fly solo for the first time.
During the month of July he continued his flight training, but now in a
Stearman N2S. At the end of the training Lt Tebo decided to write
some prolific words in his log book. Lt Tebo remarked that he knew Geoff
Wrights father was a clergyman, and asked how many Psalms there were in
the Bible. When Geoff Wright told him there were 150 Psalms he said,
‘Where here is the 151st Psalm’ and wrote:
Remember the 151st Psalm:
Keep thine Air Speed, lest the ground rise up and smite thee.
Rules for Living
1. Control your emotions
2. Think independently
3. Act Courageously
A Pilot is as good as his ability to make a smooth turn.
Signed Vernon Tebo 29 July 1943
Lt Tebo shook hands with Geoff Wright and wished him good luck for the
next part of his training.
(This can be seen in the logbook section presented by his son-in-law Paul McVeagh)
From the USNAS Grosse Ile Geoffrey Wright travelled to Saufley Field,
Pensacola where he trained on the S.N.V., a US navy version of the Vultee
BT-13A. His training continued at Whiting Field, Florida where he was
flying the US Navy S.N.J, and then to Chevalier Field, and Barin Field as
part of the training squadron 3A at the Naval Air Station Pensacola,
Florida. On the 4 January, 1944 Geoffrey Wright qualified for the Award of
From the 6 January 1944 he started familiarization training on the Grumman
TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber and further flight work on the S.N.J at the
USNAS Fort Lauderdale, Florida until the 7 March 1944. On the 5 March 1944
Geoffrey Wright completed his training courses and his ability as pilot
was assessed as Above Average. He got his wings and became a flying
officer. From there he went to USNAS Lewiston, Maine for further TBF
flight work, and finally to 857 Squadron USNAS Squantum, Boston from the
13 May-27 June 1944.
His time in the USA was completed and Geoffrey Wright returned to England
by ship, at first to Scotland, and then Belfast, Northern Ireland. He
returned to 857 Squadron and went with the Squadron to Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
where he joined HMS Indomitable.
On January 4 1945 Geoffrey Wright flew his TBF Avenger as part of a 2
Squadron attack on the oil refineries at Pangkalan Brandon (N.E. Sumatra),
dropping 4 x 500lbs bombs. There were no losses and all aircraft returned
The British Pacific Fleet sailed from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and arrived at
their main base in Sydney, Australia on the 11th and 12th February 1945.
HMS Indomitable, along with the British Pacific Fleet later steamed north
to support the American landings on Okinawa.
From the 5th May until the 10th August 1945 the British aircraft carried
out numerous dive bombing attacks on Japanese Islands to put their
airstrips out of action, and suffered some losses. For some of the attacks
Geoffrey Wright was involved included the runways of Ishigaki Airfield in
May 1945, the same island as Lt Vernon Tebo had been shot down just one
month before on the morning of the 15 April 1945. Lt Vernon L Tebo, aged
28 and his crew, Warren H. Loyd, aged 24 and
Robert Tuggle aged 20
parachuted from the Avenger after it had been hit and were captured by the
Japanese, where they were tortured and cruelly executed.
It was very sad because Lt Tebo was an excellent trainer, but quite a
number of the American instructors had already been in combat and were
sent to the training centres and sometimes found they longed to return to
active service. However, many including Lt Tebo would beg to be allowed to
return to combat service. Sadly for Lt Tebo and his Avenger crew were shot
down and were executed by members of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
I had been looking on the internet for information on the Pacific War and
the name ‘Lt Vernon L. Tebo’ came up on the ShipleyBay.com site. I made
notes of what I had found out and shared them with Geoffrey Wright. He was
very upset by the news as he had often wondered what had happened to Lt
Tebo and had very fond memories of his time as trainee pilot at USNAS
© Mike Roussel. June 2012
NB I am researching information on the wartime accounts of the Pacific War
and if anyone has any information about training in Grosse Ile, especially
if they were trained by Lt Tebo, or knew him. Also information and
photographs about the Okinawa landings and any accounts by pilots or crew
that took part in them that would be helpful to my research, please
contact me on