28.07.1944 No. 1651 HCU Stirling III LJ451 QQ-C P/O. J.W. Hocking
Date: 28th July 1944 (Friday)
Unit: No. 1651 Heavy Conversion unit
Type: Stirling III
Base: RAF Wratting Common, Cambridgeshire
Location: Benwick, Cambridgeshire
Pilot: P/O. James Wallace Hocking AUS/429321 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. D.E. Johnson 1819246 RAFVR Survived - slight injuries
Nav: Sgt. McFarlane 1568456 RAFVR Survived - uninjured
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Brian Thorgrimson R/180169 RCAF Survived - uninjured
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Stanley Roy Tebbutt AUS/434047 RAAF Age 20. Survived - uninjured
Air/Gnr: Sgt. H.V. Brooker 1595054 RAFVR Survived - slight injuries
Air/Gnr: Sgt, H.W. Benson 531520 RAFVR 531520 Survived - slight injuries
REASON FOR LOSS:
Stirling LJ451 took off from RAF Wratting Common in Cambridgeshire at 23:35 hrs on a night cross-country exercise. Setting course for Darlington at 2,000 ft. The aircraft was climbing at 165 mph when at around 23:59 hrs the starboard inner engine hesitated twice - the mid-upper gunner then reported it was on fire. The pilot informed the flight engineer that he was feathering the engine. Shortly afterwards the aircraft shook violently and the pilot ordered the crew to put on parachutes and to stand-bye.
Immediately after this the remaining 3 engines faded out and the pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft.
The pilot remained at the controls whilst the crew left, some via the front escape hatch and others by the rear. Despite statements from some of the crew that the aircraft was at the time in a nose down attitude the aircraft must have been on an even keel as the crew had no problems making their exits.
In 2015 the pilot was posthumously awarded the Star of Courage, the second highest bravery honour in Australia; and it was all because of a former schoolmate. 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.
Ms. Milligan campaigned for him to be recognised and wrote dozens of letters, including one to the Queen.
"I just kept writing and writing and writing, I just don't know how many letters I wrote," she said. "Absolutely marvellous, after all that time."
A Memorial at St Wendreda's Church in March was placed by the villagers of the parish in honour of the Australian pilot who remained in the aircraft to avoid it crashing into the town. Also a small housing development was named the “Jim Hocking Court”.
P/O. James Wallace Hocking. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 14567. Born on the 12th December 1922 at Nambou, Queensland, the son of William and Evangeline Susan Hocking, of Alveno Estate, Nambour, Queensland, Australia. A labourer prior to enlisting at Brisbane, Australia on the 07th January 1941. Flew Tiger Moths, Wirraways, Oxfords, Wellingtons and Stirling aircraft. Grave inscription reads: "Nobly He Lived. Nobly He Died. Ever Remembered".
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to David Franklin who sent details from ABC News Australia for details of his award. Also to Malcolm Grant Purvis for photograph of the pilots memorial, Len for the grave photograph and for the Australian Archives for reports of the crash.