Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


KAIN, Edgar James


Fighter pilot.

A new biography of Kain, Edgar James appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Edgar “Cobber” Kain was born at Hastings on 27 June 1918, was educated at Christ's College, Christchurch, and studied mathematics at the University Tutorial School, Wellington, under Professor Von Zedlitz. While at school he played rugby, cricket, and excelled at athletics. He took up flying early in life and secured his “A” pilot's licence at Wigram in 1936. At that time he was a clerk in his father's commercial business, but he already had his eye on the Air Force and after obtaining his licence, he applied for a short-term commission in the Royal Air Force. He arrived in the United Kingdom in November of that year and, receiving his short-term commission in December, was enrolled as a pupil pilot at Blackburn, Lincolnshire. After further training at Sealand and Tern Hill, he was posted in November 1937 to No. 73 Fighter Squadron. He was made flying officer in 1939, and at the outbreak of the Second World War was appointed a section commander of No. 73 Hawker Hurricane Squadron. He flew on 80 fighter and escort operations over Le Havre, Louvres, Rheims, Verdun, and other parts of enemy-occupied territory, and was officially credited with the destruction of 12 enemy aircraft in fighter engagements. He was mentioned in dispatches in February 1940, and in March of the same year was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a particularly daring exploit. He was flying on operations when he sighted seven enemy machines above him at 5,000 ft. He immediately gave chase and while pursuing them back towards the German lines he found another enemy fighter on his tail. Attacked from behind, and with his own craft considerably damaged, he engaged the enemy plane and shot it down. With his cockpit full of smoke and oil, he contrived by the greatest skill to get his machine down behind the Allied lines. The citation for the award referred to the magnificent fighting spirit Kain displayed in outmanoeuvring his enemy and destroying him.

The pity of it was that such a superb officer, with so splendid a record, should have been killed in an aircraft accident, quite unnecessarily, three weeks before his twenty-second birthday. On 7 June 1940 he was performing aerobatics on station in France at too low an altitude when his aircraft crashed and he was killed. He was buried in the Troyes Communal Cemetery in France. Flying Officer Kain became almost a legend during his brief but glorious career as “one of the few”. To his skill and daring he added an ebullience of temperament which made him a vivid and memorable personality wherever he was stationed. His friendly disposition and general lightheartedness earned him the sobriquet “Cobber”, and as Cobber Kain he is better known to the wartime generation of servicemen and civilians alike than as Flying Officer Edgar Kain.

by Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.

  • Fighter Squadrons, Monk, N. (1941)
  • New Zealanders in the Air War, Mitchell, A. (1945).


Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.