Soham Grammarians : Fred Hockley

In memory of FRED HOCKLEY Sub-Lieutenant (A)
H.M.S. Indefatigable, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who died on Wednesday, 15th August 1945. Age 22.

12 Hempfield Road, Littleport, Cambridgeshire.
Parents, George and Hannah Rebecca Hockley. Sister, Kathleen.
Father worked as a Gang foreman on ground works for local Waterboard, also a Bellringer at St.George's Church.

Fred was an excellent Swimmer, and would thrill crowds at galas by diving from the top ironwork of the Old Sandhill Bridge.

As an Officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve flying Seafires with 894 Squadron, 24 Wing with the Fleet Air Arm on H.M.S. Indefatigable he took off early on 15th August 1945 to protect aircraft attacking airfields in the Tokyo Bay area of Japan.

894 SqnFAA

pleas click for FAA source website
HMS Indefatigable

His aircraft was shot down, he parachuted to land near Higashimura. At midday that day the Emperor of Japan declared the war was officially over.

Three senior officers nine hours later executed Fred. All three were later tried by a War Crimes Court in Hong Kong in May/June 1947. Colonel Tamura and Major Hirano were hanged in September 1947 and Captain Fujino sentenced to 15 Years imprisonment. It was an inexcusable barbaric act by these Japanese soldiers.

YOKOHAMA WAR CEMETERY, Japan. Ref. Brit. Sec. P. A. 6.
CWGC Certificate showing cemetery

The Hockley Memorial Prize for Drama was created in memory of Fred Hockley.

source: Colin Thornhill (1940), writing from Australia 22.09.03: "By way of introduction I am a former student of the school (1940-44) and at that time my home was in Littleport. We were a small group travelling from Littleport by train and one of that group during my first year was Fred Hockley, a local well known to me who was subsequently killed during World War 2 in extremely unfortunate circumstances ... I enclose a copy of an entry from an (as yet) unpublished well researched history listing the men from the Littleport district killed during this war."

In fact the publication - The Littleport Fallen 1939-1945 - is being published by Mr Rex Strawson - for more information please contact Rex [ - replace AT with @ before sending]. The editor is grateful to Rex for the above information and photo.

The following two articles were provided by Wilkes Walton (1936):

Pilot murdered in cold blood hours after Japan's surrender

Michael Smith in the Daily Telegraph of Monday September 6th 1999

The extraordinary story of a British pilot who was executed after the Second World War had ended has emerged as a result of an In Memoriam notice published in The Daily Telegraph.

The notice stated simply that Sub-Lt Fred Hockley RNVR was shot down over Tokyo Bay on Aug 15, 1945, the day Japan surrendered, and later executed.

But those bare facts hide the story of a British airman's courage in the face of the determination of Japanese officers that, regardless of their emperor's announcement that the war was over, he should be killed.

Hockley, from Littleport, Cambs, was a quiet man in his early twenties flying Seafires, the naval equivalent of the Spitfire, with 24 Wing, Fleet Air Arm, on the carrier Indefatigable. On the morning of Aug 15, Hockley and six other members of 24 Wing were assigned to escort 10 Firefly and Avenger aircraft attacking airfields in the Tokyo Bay area - the last mission to be flown by British aircraft in the war. Weather conditions were bad and the aircraft were forced to pull out of the attack on the first airfield. As they searched for a fresh target, they were attacked by 12 Zero fighters.

The Seafires managed to shoot down seven of the Zeros, scaring the others off. But as they looked around they realised that Hockley was missing. The pilot, whose wireless was not working, had been shot down but had parachuted to what seemed safety. Nakamura Kiyozo, an air raid warden in the village of Higashimura, saw Hockley walk towards him. The pilot appeared unhurt and was not armed. The two shook hands and smoked two cigarettes that the British airman produced. Nakamura then took Hockley to the local civil defence HQ, where the commander decided to hand him over to the local military unit, the 426th Infantry Regiment.

The Japanese soldiers were waiting for the emperor's noon broadcast to announce that the war was over and there was no anger at Hockley. One soldier even slackened the rope around the pilot's hands since "the war is over". At regimental headquarters, Col Tamura Teiichi, commanding officer of 426 Regiment, listened to the emperor announce the end of the war and rang divisional HQ to ask what should be done with the prisoner.

"You are to finish him in the mountains tonight," said Major Hirano Nobuo, divisional chief of staff. Tamura considered questioning the order with the commander but decided not to risk angering him. He rang Capt Fujino Masazo, the officer commanding the local unit, to tell him that Hockley must be executed. "Do it so that no one can see it," he added. Fujino was stunned.

"I was very much surprised," Fujino said. "In the past, the division had never issued such an unkind order. I decided there was no other way but to send the prisoner to Col Tamura." Fujino told Sgt-Major Hitomi Tadao to move the prisoner to regimental headquarters, where another officer ordered him to take six soldiers equipped with shovels and pickaxes up into the mountains to dig a grave.

Hockley, with his hands tied, was later led up to the mountain grave. It was about 9pm, nine hours after the emperor had officially declared the war over. "Fujino made the prisoner stand with his back to the hole," Hitomi said. "The prisoner was blindfolded with his hands tied lightly in front.

"I heard a pistol shot. The prisoner seemed to collapse and I heard two more shots. The prisoner fell on his back. There was another shot and he rolled over into the hole. "He seemed to be in pain. Fujino borrowed a sword from Sgt Kusume and thrust the sword into the prisoner's back. The prisoner did not move any more. The soldiers filled up the hole."

The details of Hockley's fate would never have been known had not Col Tamura panicked and, fearing that wild animals might find the body, ordered it to be exhumed and cremated. When American occupation forces heard of it, Tamura attempted to persuade Fujino to lie about what had happened. But he refused. Tamura, Hirano and Fujino were handed over to the British, accused of a war crime.

It was only then that Hockley's friends on Indefatigable heard what had happened. Mike Brown, another of the ship's pilots, said: "We were appalled to learn that he had been executed. By rights poor Freddie should have returned home." The trial was held in Hong Kong in May and June of 1947. The military prosecutor was a young British Army officer, Murray Ormsby.

"We hanged Tamura and Hirano in September 1947," said Major Ormsby. "But Fujino, who was completely honest about what had happened, was given 15 years' imprisonment. I doubt he served it all. I just thought it was such a tragic case that it should be brought to people's attention. So in 1995, I started putting the notice in The Daily Telegraph and I have done so ever since."

Shot in cold blood - nine hours after war ended

Chris Bishop, Eastern Daily Press, Thursday October 28, 1999

The real story behind the death of an East Anglian wartime pilot has finally come to light more than 50 years after he was murdered in cold blood. Family and friends always knew that Sub-Lt Fred Hockley, from Littleport, near Ely, died after his Seafire plane was shot down in an air raid on Tokyo.

Now it has emerged that the 22-year-old flier was executed on the day Japan surrendered - nine hours after the war ended.

Sub-Lt Hockley's relatives pieced together his final hours after a cryptic In Memoriam notice appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

The brief announcement said simply that Sub-Lt Hockley was shot down over Tokyo Bay on August 15, 1945, and later executed.

It was placed by Major Murray Ormsby - the British Army officer who prosecuted Fred Hockley's killers and who decided it was time the case was brought to the public's attention.

Sub-Lt Hockley was shot down as he took part in the last mission flown by British aircraft in the Second World War. His plane, which took off from the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable, was hit during a dogfight. Fred Hockley parachuted to safety and was handed over to Japanese soldiers, who were waiting in their barracks for the Emperor's broadcast to announce that the war was over.

A Cambridgeshire artist, Rod Kirkby, who had worked as an aerodynamicist, became interested in this action and was put in touch with Gerry Murphy, who shot down two of the Zeros: here he depicts Gerry's Seafire III in that last battle, in which Fred Hockley 'Failed to Return': for the story: image shown with Rod's permission, his copyright

After listening to the Emperor's announcement, the local commandant phoned his HQ to ask what to do with the prisoner. The divisional commander told him to take Sub-Lt Hockley up into the mountains and "finish him". Sub-Lt Hockley was executed beside a makeshift grave. But American forces heard about his death and his killers were eventually brought to trial and hanged.

Fred Hockley has few surviving relatives but nephew Steven Kerridge, 47, [right] who farms near Littleport, tracked down Major Ormsby. "I knew my mother had a brother but it was something she never really talked about a lot," said Mr Kerridge.

"All she'd say was that he was shot down on the last day of the war and executed by the Japanese. I've spoken to one or two people in the village who knew him well and they were pleased that at last they knew how he died."

Sub-Lt Hockley's name is on Littleport's war memorial [right], together with the names of 32 other Servicemen and one civilian from the village who died in the war.

Family historian Bruce Frost, treasurer of the Littleport Society, said: "People knew he was killed in the war but nobody knew he was executed by the Japanese after the war ended. I went all round the village trying to find out about him but had great difficulty finding anyone who really remembered him. One thing I did find out was that he was an exceedingly good swimmer who was remembered for diving off the bridge into the River Ouse."

Major Ormsby was prosecutor at the trial of the two Japanese officers who were hanged in 1947 for Sub-Lt Hockley's murder. Major Ormsby began placing In Memoriam notices to Sub-Lt Hockley in 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. "I just thought it was such a tragic case that should be brought to people's attention and the family should know," said Major Ormsby, then     80.

"I continued putting it in until this year when one of the surviving relatives got in touch. It was such a tragic case in that it all happened on the day Japan surrendered."

Murray Ormsby died aged 93. His obituary appeared in The Times of 1st February 2013.  However the notices about Freddie that he placed continue to appear, remembering also Major Murray Ormsby.

On 14th August 2015, the day before the 70th anniversary of VJ Day, the Sydney Daily Telegraph published an article by Jamie Seidel The Final Dogfight of World War II. This recounted the background to this final dogfight. It states that Fred Hockley was a member of 894 Squadron Fleet Air Arm.

Soham Grammarian Spring 1940

F Hockley is a railway clerk at Littleport.

Soham Grammarian Spring 1942

F Hockley has been accepted for the Navy under the Y scheme and is taking pre-entry training with our ATC

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page last updated 8 Sep 15