- Thursday 05 May 2016
Two regions, more than 12,000km apart, came together today to honour a 21-year-old Nambour serviceman whose selfless act of courage in World War II saved a town in England from a potentially catastrophic event.
RAAF Pilot Officer Jim Hocking has been posthumously awarded an Australian Bravery Award – the Star of Courage - for refusing to leave his stricken aircraft after he realised the plane was heading straight for the market town of March in Cambridgeshire, around 120km north of London.
Pilot Officer Hocking stayed with the aircraft and guided it away from the township but lost his own life when the bomber crashed in a nearby field in the early hours of July 28, 1944.
In Brisbane on Wednesday, almost 73 years later, his younger brother Alan and the Hocking family received the Star of Courage, Australia’s second highest bravery award, on behalf of Jim from the Governor of Queensland.
Today Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson formally acknowledged Jim Hocking’s heroism at a special ceremony at Heroes’ Walk at Quota Park in Nambour.
Mayor Jamieson and Councillors Greg Rogerson and Jenny McKay were joined by Fenland District Councillor Mike Cornwell in a sign of the strong bond which now exists between the two regions thanks to Pilot Officer Hocking’s “conspicuous courage”.
For security reasons, the young pilot’s story was not made public at the time and his heroism only came to light after an investigation by the Cambridgeshire Times in the 1980s.
It led to the establishment in 1997 of a Friendship City arrangement between Fenland District Council (where the town of March is located) and the former Maroochy Shire which continued with the formation of the Sunshine Coast Council.
As part of today’s events, the Nambour Historical Association presented Cr Cornwell with a replica of the Star of Courage Award to take back to display at the Jim Hocking Memorial in the March Museum.
Mayor Jamieson, who visited March last May and paid his respects at the memorial to Pilot Officer Hocking at St Wendreda's Church, today described him as “a remarkable young man”.
“Today we remember the life and deeds of a young man from Nambour. A man who had not yet had the chance to make his mark as a Squadron Pilot – but who gave his own life to save the lives of countless others,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“His efforts have been fittingly acknowledged with the Star of Courage Bravery Award.
“It is my hope that this acknowledgement serves to bring more attention at home to his life and sacrifice, as our community honours its heroes.
“His memory is treasured and nurtured – and is in excellent hands in the town of March where Jim’s family have been embraced as part of their community.
“The opportunity to acknowledge our past and present service men and women should never be passed up.
“Through their efforts, we are able to continue to enjoy our fantastic way of life and much cherished freedoms.”
Cr Cornwell said what Pilot Officer Hocking did on that July morning “is well understood by the people of March”.
“We are proud custodians of an important part of the Sunshine Coast’s Second World War history,” Cr Cornwell said.
“We are proud to remember his sacrifice and we have taken steps to make sure he is never forgotten.
“There is no doubt had he not made the decision he did, the town would have been flattened.”
Alan Hocking thanked everyone connected with ensuring his younger brother’s bravery was officially recognised.
Joyce Milligan, 93, was a founding student at Nambour High School with Pilot Officer Hocking and heard the story of his heroic death at a school reunion more than a decade ago.
She campaigned for him to be recognised with a bravery award, writing a series of letters outlining the pilot’s heroism.
“The thanks of all of us go to Joyce for her dedication,” Mayor Jamieson said.
Photo: Alan Hocking (centre) with Mayor Mark Jamieson and Cr Mike Cornwell from Fenland District Council in England