The enemy plane was quickly dispatched by the tail gunner, however it managed to score hits with cannon-shell and incendiary bullets, injuring the tail gunner and splitting a fuel pipe on the starboard wing, which instantly caught fire. With the flames taking hold and spreading at an alarming rate it was looking fairly certain that the crew would have to abandon the aircraft... James however had a better idea.
After all efforts to put the fire out were exhausted Sergeant Ward volunteered to climb out of the plane, which at the time was at a height of 13,000ft, and put the fire out with a small piece of canvas. After being persuaded by his crew to wear a parachute the lunatic exited from a top hatch in the plane and into the 120(+) mph winds. Using a fire axe to break holes into the fuselage he gained a foothold and began his ambitious climb across the wing - a method that would certainly raise a few eyebrows amongst the RAF health and safety officers of today.
Narrowly avoiding been blown off by the slip stream created by the propeller he reached the flames and amazingly succeeded in putting them out. Unfortunately the first selfie stick would not be invented for around 70 years so he had to make the perilous journey back across the wing and into the safety of the plane without any sick pictures to post on Instagram. The rest of his crew however were no doubt very happy they weren’t having to parachute into NAZI held Europe 3 years prior to the D-Day landings, and all landed safe and sound back in the U.K.
For his actions that night 22 year old James Allen Ward was awarded the Victoria Cross. What makes this story even more amazing, and something that was never mentioned in his VC winning citation is the extra difficulty he had to overcome due to the extra drag created by his giant steel balls.