Topic: Warren J K Hart

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Champion swimmer and surf lifesaver, celebrated WW2 fighter pilot, commerical pilot and awarded hero. A true son of Canterbury.

Warren John King HART was born in Christchurch on 31 January 1922 and he spent many happy years with his family in Redcliffs and Mount Pleasant and attended those primary schools. With his brother Dallas, they were often seen back to back fighting off school bullies and those who made fun of less fortunate children.

Warren's father, Colin, was a Sumner Borough Councillor during the time that the clock was donated to Sumner and it bears his name along with the other Councillors. Colin Hart was a Manager of T J Edmonds' Factory and his wife's cooking was often photographed for the Edmonds cookbook.  The family were descendants of Michael Brannon Hart an early Mayor of Christchurch and owner of the White Hart Hotel.  They arrived in Canterbury on the Cressy in 1850.

At Milford, Auckland, Warren became the NZ Junior Individual Surf Champion, and as a promising young Canterbury swimmer, scored a decisive victory from a field of 28 starters representative of twelve clubs. He set a new Dominion record for the 100 yards Intermediate Boys Backstroke for East Christchurch.

Along with his brother Dallas, an excellent swimmer himself, who had won the Dalton Cup and other events, they then became members of a strong New Brighton Surf Club until the war intervened.

The New Brighton Club were regular winners of the Nelson Shield for six-man rescue and resuscitation in national surf lifesaving in the 1920s and 30s. Despite the war the centennial championships went ahead early in 1940 at Lyall Bay, Wellington.  Warren and Dallas and others won three out of the five New Zealand Junior Titles. Warren retained both of his titles and also won the National Swimming Backstroke title. This strong Junior New Brighton Surf Life Saving Club won :

National Titles held at Lyall Bay Wellington

NZ Junior Teams Race Championship - W Hart, N Chambers, F Hands, A Miller
NZ Junior Beltman's Championship - N Chambers
NZ Junior Individual Surf Race Championship - W Hart

Tupu Club Events
Senior Resuscitation - A Ansley
Benson Shield - W Hart, D Hart, R MacKenzie, D Davidson, F Hands, F Mitchell
Junior Teams Race - W Hart, N Chambers, E Miller, F Hands
Junior Beltman's Championship - N Chambers
Junior Resuscitation - D Davidson

Club Events
Roy Bullen Trophy - N Chambers
Fox Cup - R King, W Bright, J Brown, D McLeod
Miller Cup - A Cocks, E Ansley, R Besman, D Mott, W Bright, A Miller
Intermediate Cup - D Hart, N Chambers, W Bright, A Miller
Watson Cup - W Hart, J Campbell, R Besman, R MacKenzie
Owles Cup - W Hart, W Timbrell (cousin to Warren), A Ansley, D McLeod, J Campbell
MacKenzie Cup - J Campbell

Enlisting for service in the second world war, Warren Hart joined the Scottish Regiment stationed at Forbury Park in Dunedin, but decided he wanted to be a fighter pilot and was to become, in the latter years of the war, a member of the famous 486 Squadron written about in the book ‘Typhoon' by Des Scott. He attended the 25th Anniversary of the Squadron in Stoke, on 5 June 1967 and the 40th Anniversary of the Squadron at Wigram on 20 November 1982.

During the war, his Commanding Officer, on a dawn patrol, had to bail out and he was seen by Warren walking towards an armoured column with his hands in the air. The Germans turned a machine gun on his CO which incensed Warren so much, he volunteered for another mission later that day but was forced to crash land after destroying an armoury train. It was black Friday April 13th, 1945.

A German farmer pulled Warren clear of the burning wreckage of his plane and cared for him although he was unconscious for about two weeks, until he was able to be released into the hands of the Americans. Warren was reported missing in action, presumed dead and it wasn't the first time, as he had flown other missions throughout Europe and been shot down before.

After the war, Warren joined the Royal Air Force in England, No. 3 Squadron, and trained to fly Vampires and was stationed in Gutersloh, North West Germany, where he met his future wife Hanna who came to New Zealand where they were married. Their first home was three Army huts joined together on the banks of the Opihi River and Warren became a topdressing pilot for Airwork and later formed his own company ‘Hart's Aerial Topdressing Ltd' in 1955.

At one stage, Warren was involved in culling Canada geese from riverbeds in the Canterbury area around Lake Emma. He would herd and drive the geese over shooters on the ground. A succession of frosts - one of 39 degrees had frozen Lake Emma solid with up to 25 centimetres of ice in parts. Warren saw from the air, that his friend Mr K H M Hampton (Hammy) was running over the ice to the aid of Mr G Underwood who had gone through the ice endeavouring to retrieve geese he had shot. Warren immediately flew to a landing strip about two miles from Lake Emma, landed and commandeered a utility vehicle from a number parked at the strip.

Messrs Cordy, Millin and Murdoch were able to jump in the vehicle with Warren. On reaching the lake, the four men went across the ice with a 25 foot rope along which they paced themselves, Warren leading. Mr Underwood had made it to the shore as he smashed the ice with his gun, but Mr Hampton had fallen through the ice and could not swim. Warren was within 10 yards of Mr Hampton who had been clinging to the ice edge for almost half an hour, when the ice gave way and all fell in. All wore heavy boots and were dressed in jerseys and sports jackets.

Warren, made a gallant attempt to get to Mr Hampton who had been in the water for an hour by now. Smashing the ice with his fists he finally got to him but had great difficulty holding him above water. Warren told Hammy that the only way out was if he kept smashing the ice and Hammy agreed and said that he would hang on. A while later Hammy called out and was gone before Warren could get back to him.

Warren struggled to the shore. By this time Mr Millin had lost his grip and disappeared and Warren called out to Mr Cordy to hang on and started looking around for some wood to use to break the ice, but two men restrained him, his eyes starting to blur with the cold, and took him back to the cars. Other help arrived at this stage but when rescuers reached Mr Cordy, he was unconscious. Artificial respiration was applied for more than an hour, but without success.

Warren felt that he had failed these men miserably, but the Royal Humane Society thought otherwise and he was awarded their Silver Medal for his bravery and also became the first recipient of the Kingsland Memorial Medal. And, to honour the memory of his friend Hammy, Warren had a swimming pool built at Templeton Farm. His friend Hammy's first child was intellectually handicapped and his wife was carrying their second child when he died.

Later in life, he would despatch lollies from the hopper of his topdressing plane in Prebbleton and, at Christmas time, he would loop-the-loop over New Brighton Beach by the Surf Club building, and, dressed as Father Christmas, disperse sweets to the children gathered on the beach.

At his home in Prebbleton, he had a paddock as his airfield and a horse training paddock, and he became a successful owner trainer-driver and breeder of standard-bred trotters with Nimbo Stratus, Excalibur and Main Point.

From his school days at Sumner and Redcliffs and Christchurch Boys High, to his dedication to surf life saving and his courageous desire to study and become a fighter pilot, and later to create his own business of Hart's Aerial Topdressing, Warren HART was a champion bloke and was forever grateful to that German farmer for pulling him from the wreckage of his plane. Talk about Race Relations! He flew back after the war to find the field where he had crashed and to thank the farmer for saving his life.


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Warren J K Hart

First Names:Warren
Last Name:Hart
Place of Birth:Christchurch