An Australian mayor has thanked the people of March for the honour and respect they continue to pay to airman Jim Hocking who saved the town from devastation during the Second World War.
Mayor of the Sunshine Coast Mark Jamieson recalled Mr Hocking’s heroism while meeting children from Cavalry Primary School in March Museum on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old pilot hailed from Nambour in Queensland, part of the Sunshine Coast, with which Fenland is twinned.
He died when the Stirling bomber he was commanding on a training flight caught fire and crashed on the outskirts of March on July 28, 1944. He ordered his crew to bale out while he stayed at the controls to steer the plane away from the town centre.
His story has been the focus of a project carried out by pupils at Cavalry. The school is now looking to twin with one in Nambour.
Mayor Jamieson presented gifts to Year 5 pupils Lily-Rose Keenoy and Lewis Howe and admired a display of items from the school’s project, as well as the museum’s own Hocking collection, which includes his Australian Air Force uniform and duplicates of his wartime medals.
He said: “It is a great honour to be here today. Jim Hocking’s reputation and status in March is clearly evident. Regrettably, he is not nearly as well-known at home and it is a great comfort to his family that he is so honoured here.
“Thank you all for the tremendous job you’ve done.”
He presented Fenland District Council chairman Carol Cox with a book telling the story of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
He went on to visit St Wendreda’s church, which has its own Hocking memorial. It was the culmination of a whistle-stop tour of the district that also included meetings with district councillors and officers, as well as Bob and Lenie Gosling from the Fenland Twinning Association.
The visit was hosted by Cllr Mike Cornwell, cabinet member and secretary of the Fenland Twinning Association.
He said: “It gave the Mayor a taste of Fenland and an explanation of the deeper reasons behind our twinning arrangement. He clearly enjoyed his whistle-stop tour and told us ‘I will be back’.
“He said he had got a valuable insight into some of the issues we face in Fenland and was impressed by the way we were tackling them.”