My eldest is a beginning reader. Yesterday we read one of my favorite books, The Wreck of the Zephyr. He pointed at wreck and asked me why that one looked like it said "wuh-reck." I explained that spelling is funny like that sometimes.
This didn't satisfy my curiosity though. Silent w is not uncommon—we see it in the question word 'who' for instance—but it often appears in the combination wr-, and this is what I am curious about.
Was the w ever pronounced in these words (and if so, how)? Do these kind of words all share a common lineage that has some unique sound represented by this combination? (I am thinking of, for instance, that someone told me once that most words with ph come from Greek.)