Source: Fred Hockley – Wikipedia
The case haunted Major Murray Ormsby (1919-2012), who was the military prosecutor at the trial, for he feared that Hockley’s sacrifice would be forgotten. In 1995 he started placing a memorial notice in the Daily Telegraph on 15 August each year, the anniversary of Hockley’s death.
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.