HOCKING, Boyns Hedley
Captain Boyns Hedley Hocking (VX68883) was a dentist with the Australian Army Medical Corps serving on the Australian Hospital Ship Manunda, when he was killed at the age of fifty-four during the Japanese air attack on Darwin.
Captain Hocking was born on 23 December 1887 at Rupanyup, Victoria, to William Henry and Louisa Elizabeth Hocking. He spent his childhood and early school years in Healesville. When his father took on a new job as Sergeant in Charge of Security at the Royal Mint, the family moved to Melbourne. Hocking was able to embark on studies at the Melbourne Dental Hospital and thus the University of Melbourne, where he gained his dental degree.
Before the war he resided at 44 Burwood Road, Hawthorn and also established his own practice in Hawthorn. Hocking had a keen interest in nature and took himself off on hikes, recording the details of each of his trips. He collected fossils and snakes and over time built these into a collection. In 1917, at twenty-nine, he married Florence Elizabeth Taylor and in the following years their two children, John and Jean, arrived to complete the family.
He served with the Red Cross Emergency Service and was also actively involved with the Scouts. Combining his interests, he was able to put together an exhibition of local fossils to raise funds for his Scouting Group. As a leader he took part in Jamborees in Sydney and Frankston.
While serving as District Commissioner of the Hawthorn District he founded a camping ground at Lilydale (now Wishard Lodge), and arranged for the purchase of a church hall and for its transport from Heidelberg across the river to Auburn Park, where it remains today.
Hocking practised as a dentist for more than twenty years before joining the army. He initially joined the citizen forces (V84374) on 31 May 1940, but later enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corp (AAMC) Dental Services on 18 December 1941, and was given the rank of Captain. He was posted to 2/1 Hospital Ship Manunda on 6 January 1942 and served for less than two months before being killed.
On 19 February 1942, HMAHS Manunda was anchored in Darwin Harbour near the merchant ship Zealandia and the oil tanker British Motorist during the first Japanese air raid. It was hit by shrapnel and then a bomb. Twelve members of the crew and hospital staff were killed, including Captain Hocking, and forty-seven others were wounded. The medical and nursing staff quarters were destroyed, B and C decks were severely damaged and fires started on board. Despite the chaos, Manunda continued to treat the incoming wounded and staff manned the life-boats to rescue injured men from the water of other ships in the harbour.
Hocking left behind his wife, Florence Elizabeth, and his two adult children, Jack (RAAF) and Jean (AWAS). Tributes to the memory of Captain Boyns H. Hocking from friends and associates were placed in The Argus (a Melbourne newspaper) after his death.
'A tribute of respect and affection to 'Skip' a great scout and a gentleman', came from Officers and men of the Puckapunyal Dental Centre.
The Hawthorn Boy Scouts Association showed their respect and esteem for 'our late District Commissioner (Tracker) who gave his life for King and country. Faithful, kind and helpful, Beloved by all who knew him.'
His associates of the Hawthorn Red Cross Emergency Services Company and the Phonograph Society of Victoria also paid their respects, as did friends and family members.
Captain Hocking has no known grave, but is commemorated at The Northern Territory Memorial, which stands in the Adelaide River War Cemetery.
Compiled with assistance from Fred Mitchell (retired dentist).
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