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Australian Mayor recalls WW2 hero on whistlestop tour

The people of March were thanked this week for the honour and respect they continue to pay to Jim Hocking, the young Australian airman who saved the town from devastation during the Second World War.

Australian Mayor and children

Hocking's heroism was recalled by Mark Jamieson, the Mayor of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, when he met children from Cavalry Primary School at March Museum on Wednesday (May 27).
 
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 the Second World War 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 to all of you for the tremendous job you've done."
 
The Mayor presented Fenland District Council chairman Councillor Carol Cox with a lavishly illustrated 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 whistlestop tour of the district that also included meetings with senior FDC councillors and council officers, as well as Bob and Lenie Gosling from the Fenland Twinning Association.
 
The visit was hosted by Councillor Mike Cornwell, FDC's Cabinet member responsible for communities and secretary of the Fenland Twinning Association.
 
Cllr Cornwell said it had strengthened the links between Fenland and the Sunshine Coast. "It gave the Mayor a taste of Fenland and an explanation of the deeper reasons behind our twinning arrangement. He clearly enjoyed his whistlestop 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.
 
"The project by the pupils at Cavalry and their plans to twin with a Nambour school will add greatly to the future of the partnership and I know the two young representatives who met the Mayor together with their families thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.
 
"The Mayor will have to stand for re-election next year but he is hopeful of returning to Fenland in 2017 with a party of residents to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the link and spend more time here to get a better knowledge of Fenland."

Article added May 29, 2015