World War II RAAF Pilot Officer Jim Hocking from Nambour will be honoured by the town of March in the United Kingdom on Saturday 27 July for his heroic efforts that saved many lives.
Pilot Officer Jim Hocking made the brave decision to sacrifice his own life to save his crew and the residents of the town of March in Fenland, Cambridgeshire, 75 years ago, on 28 July 1944.
The 21-year-old from Nambour was on his final training flight when the bomber’s engine caught fire. He ordered his crew to parachute to safety while he stayed in the Stirling bomber to divert it from crashing into the town and killing hundreds of people.
Pilot Officer Hocking was posthumously awarded the Australian Bravery Award the Star of Courage for his actions.
His heroic act has never been forgotten by the town of March, which is around 120 kilometres north of London. Its municipal government – the Fenland District Council – enjoys a longstanding Friendship Agreement with the Sunshine Coast Council, anchored in remembering the efforts of Pilot Officer Hocking.
This weekend the March Museum will honour Pilot Officer Hocking with an event to give people the chance to listen to letters written by him. The letters will be read by his family members.
A book on Pilot Officer Hocking’s life and actions - March Hero, written by Sunshine Coast journalist and author Dot Whittington will also be showcased at the event.
The BBC has honoured our region’s war hero with a radio segment on his actions which will air on Sunday and can be listened to online through the BBC app.
Pilot Officer Jim Hocking’s brother Alan Hocking said it would be an emotional day for his family, but they were honoured that the townspeople of March still remembered and continued to honour Jim.
“Out of the tragedy of war a lasting friendship has developed with so many families in the March area, and March is now a second home to members of the Hocking family,” Mr Hocking said.
“The March War Museum has a permanent display which includes maps, a model of Jim in his pilot’s uniform and I have also provided them with a replica set of Jim’s medals.”
Councillor Jenny McKay has known the Hocking family for many years and said it is important we continue to honour Pilot Officer Hocking and his heroic deeds.
“I have now known his brother Alan who has kept the story of his heroic deeds of his brother that saved lives and now has allowed Nambour State College students to aim each year for the prestigious Jim Jockey Award. Through this, I feel I too have known Jim,” Cr McKay said.
Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson said Jim’s sacrifice led to the establishment in 1997 of a Friendship City Agreement between Fenland District Council and the former Maroochy Shire Council which continued with the formation of Sunshine Coast Council in 2008. This agreement was renewed by both councils in 2017, on the 20th anniversary of the agreement.
Mayor Jamieson said the Mutual Friendship Charter is based on a shared desire to pursue friendly relations and promote cooperation and understanding between the two areas.
“We have had many years of encouraging community connections between our two areas and opportunities for knowledge and skills transfer - and will continue to do so,” Mayor Jamieson said.
The brave pilot has not been forgotten in Nambour either and details of his gallantry are on display in the Nambour Museum’s Remembrance Room, and his service medals are prominently displayed at the Nambour RSL. In addition, a special award is given each year by the Nambour RSL to a student at the Nambour High School where Pilot Officer Hocking was a foundation student.
Pilot Officer Hocking is buried in Cambridge Cemetery, where the inscription on his headstone reads: "Nobly he lived. Nobly he died. Ever remembered."