James Allen Ward : biography
James Allen Ward VC (14 June 1919 – 15 September 1941) was a New Zealand recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Victoria Cross Citation
The announcement and accompanying citation for the decoration was published in supplement to the London Gazette on 5 August 1941, reading
Ward was born in Whanganui where he attended Wanganui Technical College. He trained as a teacher at the Wellington College of Education in 1938, and taught until enlisting in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) on 2 July 1940. He trained as a pilot at Taieri and Wigram with Fraser Barron, who went on to be a renowned bomber pilot during the war. Barron and Ward sailed together on the Aorangi in January 1941 and were both stationed at 20 OTU Lossiemouth, in Scotland.Lambert, Max (2005, pp. 184–187). . Published by Harper Collins, Auckland. . ISBN 1-86950-542-5.
Death and legacy
James Ward was killed in action on 15 September 1941, when his Wellington bomber was hit by flak over Hamburg, caught fire and crashed.http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/bbwardja.htm Only two of the five crew survived. It was Ward's 11th sortie, and his 5th as crew captain. He is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery Ohlsdorf in Hamburg.
The Victoria Cross was presented to James' brother by the Governor General of New Zealand at Government House, Wellington on 16 October 1942. On 3 March 2006, Ward's VC and other service medals which previously had been in the custody of the RNZAF, were returned to his family who have since permanently loaned them to the Auckland War Memorial Museum for display in the armoury section. A wooden model aircraft Ward was making when called up is on display at the RNZAF Museum.
On 18 November 2004, shortly before the dissolution of the Wellington College of Education, in preparation for merging with Victoria University the hall at the complex was renamed the Ward VC Hall. Today it is incorrectly called the Alan Ward VC Hall.) The assembly hall at Ward's alma mater, Wanganui City College (formerly Wanganui Technical College), is also named after him.
On 14 May 2011, the community centre at RAF Feltwell was dedicated in his honour.
Engine fire and Victoria Cross award
Ward was a 22-year-old sergeant pilot with No. 75 (NZ) Squadron when he carried out the action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). He was co-pilot on a Vickers Wellington bomber flying out of RAF Feltwell in Norfolk, United Kingdom. On 7 July 1941 after an attack on Münster, Germany, the Wellington (AA-R) in which Sergeant Ward was second pilot was attacked by a German Bf 110 night-fighter. The attack opened a fuel tank in the starboard wing and caused a fire at the rear of the starboard engine.
The skipper of the aircraft told him to try to put out the fire. Sergeant Ward crawled out through the narrow astro-hatch (used for celestial navigation) on the end of a rope taken from the aircraft's emergency dinghy. He kicked or tore holes in the aircraft's fabric to give himself hand- and foot-holes. By this means he got to the engine and smothered the flames with a canvas cover.
Although the fuel continued to leak with the fire out the plane was now safe. His crawl back over the wing, in which he had previously torn holes, was more dangerous than the outward journey but he managed with the help of the aircraft's navigator. Instead of the crew having to bail-out, the aircraft made an emergency landing at Newmarket, United Kingdom.
In the summer of 1941, Sergeant Ward was summoned to 10 Downing Street by prime minister Winston Churchill. The shy New Zealander was struck dumb with awe by the experience and was unable to answer the prime minister's questions. Churchill regarded the reluctant hero with some compassion. "You must feel very humble and awkward in my presence," he said. "Yes, sir," managed Ward. "Then you can imagine how humble and awkward I feel in yours," said Churchill.C. Fadiman, The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, p.122 (1985)
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