Sir Oliver Wright (1922-2009) 

Sir Oliver Wright had the rare distinction, a year after his retirement from the Diplomatic Service, to be invited back to be British Ambassador to the United States.

John Oliver Wright was born on March 6 1921 and educated at Solihull School before coming to Christ’s. During the Second World War he served in the Royal Navy, as an RNVR officer, where he achieved an outstanding record. He joined the Foreign Service in November 1945 and served as a junior in a variety of posts – New York, Bucharest, Singapore, Berlin and Pretoria – before returning to London in 1959.

Aged 38 he was selected to fill one of the two Foreign Office vacancies on the Imperial Defence College course of that year, having already been identified as likely to rise to the heights of the service. In 1960 Wright was appointed assistant private secretary to the Foreign Secretary, then the Earl of Home, who came to rely on him greatly. Lord Home appointed him his principal private secretary in 1963 and took him over to Downing Street when Home himself became Prime Minister in succession to Harold Macmillan.

Wright then took over the overseas desk of No 10, and was occupying it when Sir Alec Douglas-Home, as he had then become, lost the 1964 general election. Harold Wilson kept him on, and when Wright left Downing Street two years later he was promoted to be Ambassador to Denmark at the age of only 45.

After Denmark he spent a few months as the senior official dealing with Northern Ireland. Subsequently he took on the key Foreign Office job of chief clerk – the under-secretary of state responsible for the personnel, finance and administration of the Foreign Service. In 1973 Wright moved on to be the deputy under-secretary supervising the European departments of the Foreign Office, and was also responsible for the work of what became known as the Political Director – the British official working with colleagues in the European Community in seeking to co-ordinate the policies of the then nine member states.

From there Wright went to Bonn. His five years in Germany enabled him to get to know the leading ministers and members of the German establishment at a time when Germany was becoming more and more influential inside the European Community.

On retirement in 1981 Wright returned to Britain in the expectation of becoming Master of Christ's, having been already elected to an honorary fellowship. However, within a few months he was asked by the Foreign Office to resume his diplomatic career as Ambassador in Washington. Wright proved a most suitable Ambassador to be accredited to Ronald Reagan, and spent an enjoyable and successful four years in the post.

In his second retirement he served on the board of the British Council in the 1980s, and became a trustee of the British Museum (1986-91) and of the International Shakespeare Globe Centre from 1986.

He was appointed CMG in 1964, KCMG in 1974, GCVO in 1978 and GCMG in 1981. He was King of Arms of the Order of St Michael and St George from 1987 to 1996. In 1978 he was awarded a Grand Cross of the German Order of Merit.