Fenland welcomed friends from Australia this week to commemorate the relaunch of a book dedicated to a young war hero who sacrificed his life to protect the people of March.
‘March Hero’, originally published in 2007, tells the story of Australian Pilot Officer Jim Hocking who died on July 28, 1944, after the Stirling bomber he was piloting caught fire on a training flight. Aged just 21, Hocking ordered his crew to bail out as he flew the plane away from March town centre; crashing into surrounding fields to avert disaster.
Ten years on, the book by former Australian reporter Dorothy Whittington has been updated – with two extra chapters featuring more of Hocking’s wartime letters.
To celebrate the new edition, Fenland District Council organised a book launch at Fenland Hall on Wednesday along with the Fenland Twinning Association.
The event came just days after a visit from the mayor of the Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Mark Jamieson, to celebrate 20 years of twinning between Fenland and the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.
Council chairman, Councillor Kay Mayor, welcomed guests to the book launch including Jim Hocking’s brother Alan and his wife Helen, other relatives and family friends from Australia, and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Neil McKittrick, and his wife Jean.
There were also representatives from March Museum, which has a display in honour of Jim Hocking, St Wendreda’s Church, which features a Jim Hocking memorial and March Library, along with twinning members and councillors.
“I have great pleasure in seeing so many of you here today,” said Coun Mayor. “Jim Hocking truly was, is and remains our ‘March Hero’.”
Alan Hocking also gave a speech, in which he described March as his “second home”.
He said: “Tinged with the joy in being here is always the memory of my brother Jim. The family owes gratitude to so many in March who have ensured Jim’s story is recorded and today we’re proud to be present at the launch of this new edition of March Hero.
“What started as a tragedy has changed the lives of so many, and has now created the relationship between March and the Sunshine Coast which will last forever.”
A limited number of copies of the new edition ‘March Hero’ are available to buy from March Museum at a cost of £10 each, with all proceeds going to the museum. A copy is also available to view at Fenland Hall in County Road, March.