b. 14/06/1919 Whanganui, New Zealand. d. 15/09/1941 Hamburg, Germany.
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. Ward was a 22-year-old sergeant pilot with No. 75 (NZ) Squadron when he performed the act for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC).
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.
James Ward was killed in action on 15 September 1941, when his Wellington bomber was hit by flak over Hamburg, caught fire and crashed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUCKLAND WAR MEMORIAL MUSEUM. AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND.
BURIAL PLACE: OHLSDORF CEMETERY, HAMBURG, GERMANY.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT V-A, ROW A-1, GRAVE 9.
St Clements Danes Church, Aldwych, London