A courageous act by a brave young pilot more than 70 years ago has finally been recognised.
James “Jim” Wallace Hocking was born in Nambour as the second child of William and Eva Hocking’s five children.
When war was declared in 1939, three Hocking boys were ready to sign up. In 1941, Bill Hocking, the eldest brother at 18, enlisted in the Australian Army. Another Hocking son, Colin soon followed and enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force at the end of 1942.
As soon as Jim turned 18, he enlisted with the Citizens Military Forces before being discharged after four months to take up acceptance into the Royal Australian Air Force on September, 1942.
His appointment was for the duration of WWII and given his initial advanced pilot training in Australia, he was then sent to England to train on the heavy bombers of the RAF.
On July 28, 1944, Royal Australian Air Force Pilot Officer Jim Hocking was captaining a Short Stirling bomber LJ451 during night training when flames appeared from the inner starboard engine.
The plane started to lose power when engine two cut out with the other engines soon following.
Pilot Officer Hocking ordered the crew of six to put on their parachutes and abandon the aircraft.
He too had time to leave but told the last member of crew not to wait for him as he was going to try and stop the plane from hitting the town and he would see them soon.
The last the crew member saw was young Jim Hocking at the controls trying to manoeuvre the bomber away from the township of March.
Because of this act of bravery, the Stirling Bomber plunged into a field about a kilometre from the town, saving many lives.
Pilot Officer Hocking had saved the town but lost his life as he died on impact.
He is buried far from Australian soil in Cambridge Cemetery where the inscription on his headstone reads, ‘Nobly he lived. Nobly he died. Remembered.’
In 1987, residents of the town of March gathered to honour this remarkable man they had never met.
There is a memorial to him at March’s St Wendreda’s Church and a permanent display about his life in the March museum.
After so many years, Australia has now honoured one of their own by awarding The Star of Courage to Jim Hocking for his selfless act of bravery.
The Star of Courage is awarded for acts of conspicuous courage in circumstances of great peril.
It is the second highest decoration for Australian bravery established from the Australian honours system which originated in 1975. Bravery decorations may be made posthumously.
The Star of Courage is a silver, ribbed star with seven points with a suspender bar engraved with the word For Courage. The medal ribbon is blood red in colour with a central magenta band.
This week, Jim’s younger brother Alan, who was 10 when Jim died, was at Government House in Brisbane to accept the posthumous honour on behalf of his brother.
Officer Jim Hocking; you are in the thoughts of the people of the Sunshine Coast. We thank you for your service and your country salutes you.
Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers and Picture Sunshine Coast for the photos.