WWI hero's son to be at Anzac centenary service at Gallipoli

HERO: Fred Hocking survived the horrors of the First World War.
HERO: Fred Hocking survived the horrors of the First World War.

ERIC Hocking's father, Fred, fought in one of the bloodiest trenches at Gallipoli's Lone Pine, so it's fitting his son has won a coveted seat at next year's Gallipoli centenary on Anzac Day.

Mr Hocking said for many years his father Fred never really talked about the war.

It wasn't until 1988, when Eric was planning a trip to Gallipoli, that his father told him he was a "bomb thrower" in "bomb pit B", which according to Anzac historian C. E. Bean was one of the bloodiest trenches in the Gallipoli campaign.

"They were only fighting metres apart," Mr Hocking said.

"My father could name all the men who came in and were killed.

"When the bombs were thrown in the pit, the 'blanket man' would fall on it with a big heavy blanket."

Fred Hocking managed to survive the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, and was sent to the Western Front, where after two years his legs were badly wounded by German machine gun fire on the Somme.

Eric Hocking remembers his father telling him about that fateful day.

In a notorious "over-the-top" charge, 1000 men leapt out of the trenches only to be cut down by German machine guns. Only 361 survived.

"My father was crawling back to the Australian lines and the soldiers were taking potshots at him. They thought he was a German," Mr Hocking said.

Fortunately he survived with legs intact and lived until 1993.

In 1985, he visited Gallipoli for the 70th anniversary of the landings. There were nine veterans in the group, and two of Eric's brothers, both of whom served in the Army in the Second World War.

In 1988, Fred Hocking was awarded the France's highest military decoration, the French Legion of

Honour, in an Anzac Day ceremony in the town of Villers-Bretonneux for his service on the Western Front.

The Hockings later donated the medal to the Franco-Australian Museum of Villers-Bretonneux, where it holds pride of place behind inside a glass cabinet alongside a photo of Mr Hocking.

Of the 8000 places reserved for Australians at next year's Gallipoli centenary service, 400 were reserved for first-generation descendants of those who served. Mr Hocking was chosen to represent his father.

He has offered to take a Remembrance Day poppy and small Australian flag with him to place on the graves of service-men related to locals.

The Lismore RSL Sub-Branch needs the names of local forebears who died near Lone Pine. The sub-Branch can be reached any weekday morning on 6621 3851.

Topics:  anzac-centenary anzac day editors picks gallipoli

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