Victoria Cross winning actions Having successfully released their bombs over the German city of Munster on the night of 7th/8th July 1941, the crew of Vickers Wellington L7818 set course for their home station at Feltwell and hoped for an uneventful return flight. Those hopes were dashed when co-pilot James Allen Ward noticed a sinister shape stalking their aircraft in the night sky, a Luftwaffe Bf 110 nighfighter. Before he could warn his pilot, the enemy fighter positioned itself under the Wellington and unleashed a hail of bullets and cannon shells into its fuselage, leaving it severely damaged and on fire. On seeing the severity of the fire, the pilot instructed Ward to prepare the crew to abandon the aircraft and as a parting, ironic comment in this desperate situation, also said, ‘see what you can do about that damned fire!’ Ward took him at his word, cutting a hole in the fuselage of the bomber and attempting to extinguish the flames using fire extinguishers, however the savage slipstream made these efforts futile. What he did next was quite extraordinary – he crawled through the astrodome hatch on the spine of the bomber and onto the wing of the aircraft.
Clinging to the exposed geodetic framework of the Wellington, Ward slowly made his way to the wing fire and stuffed a canvas sheet into the gaping hole, putting out the fire in the process. Completely exhausted due the slipstream, he was pulled back into the aircraft by his crewmates, who could hardly believe what they had just witnessed. Though still badly damaged, the bomber made it back to an RAF emergency landing ground and the crew all survived this incredible ordeal, thanks to the selfless act of bravery performed by Sgt James Allen Ward.