Soham Grammarians : Fred Hockley 1934-40

Fred Hockley at Soham Grammar School

Extracts are from the School Magazine the Soham Grammarian.

Fred is on the 1935 School Photo - section 1/10.

He is also on the 1937 School Photo, taken in October - section 8/10. Next to him is Philip Foreman, later Sir Philip Foreman, managing director of Short's Belfast.

He was involved in athletics.

A School & Old Boys' Open Air Production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, June 1937
The striking programme-cover designs were entirely the work of the School, one being by F Hockley (Form 4)...

In distinctness and beauty of speech, in grace and movement and variety of pose, Puck (Hockley) was the best among the younger actors. His movements were those of a born ballet dancer, and he showed a fine feeling for the flexibilities of verse rhythm. His acting was a sheer delight.

Summer 1937 What Shakespeare might have said
My time here is limited and soon I must be gone, but before I fade away I must speak of Puck. How I wish I had had that boy with me in the long ago, when I myself had a more active part than I had on this occasion at Soham. I fume and fret most furiously when I see the part of Puck portrayed by an ugly ogreish being, whose actions are suggested by spite rather than pure mischief. But the Soham Puck was a delight in every way : his grace and agility, his delicate charm, his dainty dress, his lovable impishness, and, beyond everything, his mastery of the suggestion of invisibility.

Valete 1940 F Hockley: Prefect. School Certificate 1939. lst XV Rugby. Captain Chicheley House.

Soham Grammarian Spring 1940 - F Hockley is a railway clerk at Littleport.

The 1941 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Puck (Fred Hockley), who had an amazing versatility of movement, gesture and intonation as well as being gifted with a richly resonant voice, and gave a performance of the part rarely equalled on the professional stage.

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

The SGS Dramatic Society's 1942 production of The Taming of the Shrew
The cast was composed - with only one exception - of present-day scholars. The exception was an Old Boy, Fred Hockley; his part as Sly, the tinker, was extremely well played, especially his antics in the Lord's bed chamber.

Fred visited the School in 1943 and 1944.
In the Autumn 1945 issue Sub Lt F Hockley was reported missing.

Mr Cecil Crouch, who taught Music, set up the Hockley Memorial Prize for Drama.

  Fred Hockley's wartime service and the tragedy that was eventually revealed

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

please 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 page showing various views of this cemetery

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.

from an article Last Strikes by Andrew Thomas in FlyPast magazine, August 2015 issue

After a break to refuel at dawn on the 13th, Indefatigable resumed operations when six Avengers of 820 Squadron and four Fireflies of 1772, escorted by eight Seafire IIIs of 887 and 894, took off for a strike - led by 22-year-old Sub Lt Freddy Hockley. The target was Kisarazu airfield on the eastern side of Tokyo Bay, but after launch they were ordered to switch to a chemical factory on Odaki Bay.

Hockley’s section of five provided close escort to the Avengers with Sub Lt Vic Lowden’s three Seafires as top cover. As they crossed the bay at 05:43 they saw a pair of ‘Zeros’, though it was suspected they might be decoys. This proved to be the case as a dozen more, probably from the 302nd and 252nd Kokutais (naval air groups), dived on the British formation from behind.

Possibly owing to radio failure, Hockley did not react and was shot down on the Zeros’ first pass. He managed to bale out and landed safely on the Chiba Peninsula to the east of Tokyo. He was captured, briefly interrogated and, in a dreadful act of savagery, taken outside and killed - the last Royal Navy casualty of the war. The perpetrators were later tried and executed by the Allies.

The rest of the Seafires engaged the Japanese fighters. Flying LR866, Vic Lowden of 887 Squadron deployed his flight in line abreast and observed: “Eight striking aircraft in two group flights at 3 o’clock, 1,000ft above my flight which was top cover. Four enemy aircraft behind and above from same direction; two decoys below.”

The Japanese fighters peeled over to dive on the Avengers but were swiftly pounced on by Lowden’s flight. He noted they “did little evasion when attacked. Accuracy of enemy fire very poor for the amount of firing they did.”

Lowden found himself in a perfect position and, radioing a final warning, he dived on the rear Japanese formation. Opening fire on a Zero from about 800 yards he saw his shells strike home, causing the undercarriage to drop, and it “flamed nicely going down”. His No.3, Sub Lt WJ ‘Taffy’ Williams, also hit this aircraft with his burst, so the victory was shared.

Switching his fire to another Zero, after three short bursts Lowden saw pieces fly off as it fell away and blew up. “I then found one of the original attacking Zekes [Allied reporting name of the Zero] climbing at 8,000ft and about 1,000 yards from me. I closed to 100 yards at 11,000ft, kicking on the rudder to have a look at the markings, and went back astern and fired two two-second bursts of machine gun, the cannon being finished. Strikes all over the aircraft and the pilot baled out, his aircraft diving past him and smoking somewhat.”

In all, Lowden had hit five of the enemy, and when his gun film was analysed he was credited with two destroyed - and a third Zero shared with Williams - and the other two given as damaged. Williams also shot down another.

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page last updated 8 Sep 15: 26 Nov 17: 9 Dec 17