March Museum pays tribute to Australian hero

Second World War airman Jim Hocking
Second World War airman Jim Hocking

Seventy years after a young Australian airman sacrificed his life to protect the people of March, duplicates of his

wartime medals have gone on show in the town’s museum.

Jim Hocking died when the Stirling bomber he was piloting on a training flight over Cambridgeshire caught fire and crashed on the outskirts of March on July 28, 1944. He ordered his crew to bale controls to steer the plane away from the town centre. He was just 21.

The medals, awarded posthumously, were presented to the museum by Fenland District Council’s chairman, Councillor Ken Mayor.

A gift from Alan Hocking, Jim’s brother, they were brought back to England by FDC Councillor Mike Cornwell, secretary of the Fenland Twinning Association, after a recent visit to the family’s home town, Nambour in Queensland. It is part of the Sunshine Coast, with which FDC is twinned.

Speaking at the presentation, Amanda Carlin, chairman of March Museum Society, described the young pilot as “a remarkable hero”.

“It is right that Jim Hocking and his sacrifice always be remembered,” she said. “The museum is already the proud custodian of Jim’s Australian Air Force uniform. We look forward to being custodians of his medals, fostering closer contacts between the people in this district and our twin on the Sunshine Coast.”

She said the twinning of Fenland with the Sunshine Coast “truly enables this treasured memory of a young Australian airman who sacrificed his life to protect the people of March to remain alive.

“As a museum we wish to assist Fenland District Council in keeping this link active.”

During his visit to Nambour, Cllr Cornwell attended a 70th anniversary remembrance service for the Second World War hero.

He presented the local museum with three items loaned by March Museum: framed copies of a photograph of the Jim Hocking memorial in St Wendreda’s church, a magazine article about the fateful flight and a print of a painting of a Stirling bomber, together with an original photograph of a Stirling’s operational flight.

He also delivered a letter from Cllr Mayor to the Mayor of the Sunshine Coast, inviting representatives from that district to visit Fenland in 2017.