Jimmy Ward, V.C. – ‘a bloody fine little chap’.

James Ward VC © IWM (CH 3200)

James Ward VC
© IWM (CH 3200)

What follows is the opening portion of a chapter in “New Zealanders in the Air War”, by Alan W. Mitchell, entitled ‘Sergeant Pilot James Allen Ward’. The full chapter can be read here, I have reproduced  the chapter on it’s own page, simply because its too long to easily present within a single post.

“Tobacco smoke fogged the Sergeants’ Mess. Officers and sergeants of 75 (New Zealand) Bomber Squadron standing on chairs or ringed round tables, shouted above the din of voices and the dance-music of the squadron’s band.

The High Commissioner for New Zealand, Mr W. J. Jordan, sat back on a sofa. He smoked a cigar, and his strong, homely face smiled his pleasure. Near him was Group Captain M. W. Buckley, who was shortly to give up his command of the station to return to New Zealand.

Amused, he looked at the back of the long room where officers and sergeants were climbing on table-tops, arms round one another’s necks. As he watched they began to chant. Soon the whole mess joined in. The band became inaudible.
We-want-Jimmy-Ward. We-want-Jimmy-Ward. We-want-Jimmy – Ward.”

Ofiicers and sergeants, pilots, air-gunners, observers, wireless operators—all took up the chorus, bawling from the table-tops, swaying, laughing, holding one another up. Suddenly the chant burst’ into cheering.

A short, slight boy stood by a microphone in front of the band. His head was bowed, his face pale, contrasting with his mat of dark hair. His sensitive mouth was twisted in an embarrassed smile as he looked at his feet and shuffled them. His thumbs were stuck in his trouser-pockets. Outside the pockets his fingers worked uneasily against his uniform. He wore a sergeant’s stripes, and tabs on his shoulders bore the words “New Zealand.” Under his wings he wore a scrap of maroon ribbon bearing a miniature bronze medal.

The din died. The sergeant pilot threw off his nervousness, and, in a boyish voice, edged with precision, he said:
“ We’ve got here to-night a number of chaps hiding themselves in a corner who’ve done more than we’ve ever done. They’re the ground-crews who look after our kites. They don’t get anything like this. There are no V.C.’s for them, but if they didn’t do a first-class job for us, as they all do, we wouldn’t get back. Those chaps—they keep our kites in first-class order.”

Then, as the cheering welled out again, he slipped away to a window. He sat on the ledge, his head bowed, half smiling nervously as the cheers gave way to the singing of “ For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

A jolly good fellow. It was an understatement. If any of those singing men had been asked at that moment what they thought of Sergeant Pilot James Allen Ward, New Zealand’s first V.C. of this war, they would have stared and said with intensity, “ He’s a bloody fine little chap. He’s got all the guts in the world.”

read the rest of the chapter here

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