b. 17/09/1909 Colac Bay, New Zealand. d. 28/06/1997 Christchurch, New Zealand.
John Daniel “Jack” Hinton (1909-1997), “J.D.” to his friends, was born on 17th September 1909 in Colac Bay, Southland, at the bottom of the South Island in New Zealand. He was always tough. He had to be. He had left home at the age of 12 and survived for a time on his earnings as a galley hand on board an Antarctic whaling ship. He later became an errand boy and swagman during the Great Depression.
While on the West Coast Hinton played rugby league for Inangahua Valley during the depression while working for New Zealand Railways. Hinton played at Fullback while future MP Stanley Whitehead was at Five-eighth. At the outbreak of war, he enlisted in Colonel Howard Kippenberger’s 20th Battalion 2nd NZEF (The Canterbury Regiment), and rapidly rose to the rank of sergeant. He was sent to the Middle East with the 2nd New Zealand Division under General Bernard Freyberg.
The 20th Battalion was deployed to Greece to support the Greek resistance to Italian and German invasion, seeing action at Thermopylae before falling back. On 29th April 1941 the unit was preparing to withdraw by sea when the New Zealand troops heading for the port of Kalamata to await evacuation were attacked by enemy machine-gun fire and self-propelled 6-inch guns. While organising a counter-attack Hinton was ordered to retreat and evacuate from the port. He dismissed the order with the words; “Fuck that, who’s coming with me”. He later explained his action as being because “I didn’t like the way things were going”. However, it should be stated he met up with and had the full support of his immediate commanding officer for most of the action. Sergeant Hinton rushed forward to the nearest gun and, hurling two grenades, killed the crew. He continued towards the quay, clearing out two light machine-gun nests and a mortar with grenades, then dealt with the garrison of a house where some of the enemy were sheltering. He then assisted in the capture of an artillery piece, but shortly after was shot in the stomach, immobilised and captured.
Hinton spent the rest of the war in POW camps in Greece and Germany. The announcement of the award of the Victoria Cross was made on 17th October 1941. In a departure from custom, Hinton was presented with the ribbon of his medal by a German general at a camp parade. Characteristically, Hinton was at the time being held in solitary confinement after one of several escape attempts. The camp commandant invited him to the officers’ club to toast his medal, but after two weeks in solitary confinement, Sergeant Hinton is reported to have told the commandant to put his champagne up his waistcoat!
He remained a POW for the rest of the war, but was presented with the VC by King George VI in May, 1945, at Buckingham Palace. When he returned to New Zealand after four and a half long years as a prisoner-of-war he became a publican, managing hotels throughout New Zealand. He married Molly and in the 1970s, they moved to Ashburton in the Canterbury District of the South Island. He was a regular attendee of the VC and GC Reunions with his wife, with his final one being at St James’ Palace in 1993. Jack died on 28th June 1997 in Christchurch, and after a service in the Cathedral, was laid to rest in Ruru Lawn Cemetery. His medals were left to the Army Memorial Museum, Waiouru.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ARMY MUSEUM, WAIOURU, NEW ZEALAND.
BURIAL PLACE: RURU LAWN CEMETERY, CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND.
Army Museum Waiouru – Image of the Hinton VC Medal Group.