FAMILY AFFAIR: Pilot officer Albert John Cockerill’s (inset) niece Janet Wiseman, niece Stephanie Watson, daughter-in-law Catherine Cockerill, granddaughter Phillipa Cockerill, son Ralph Cockerill and granddaughter Josephine Cockerill.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Pilot officer Albert John Cockerill’s (inset) niece Janet Wiseman, niece Stephanie Watson, daughter-in-law Catherine Cockerill, granddaughter Phillipa Cockerill, son Ralph Cockerill and granddaughter Josephine Cockerill. Doug Eaton

Alby honoured for service

ALBY Cockerill lost his left eye doing battle over the skies of Second World War Germany, and returned home a hero.

Now the Casino-born wartime pilot, who would have turned 90 yesterday, has received his own plaque - in a park named in his honour.

The emotional unveiling took place yesterday when Richmond Valley Mayor Ernie Bennett and general manager John Walker joined members of the Cockerill family, who came from as far as Brisbane and Cairns, and Casino RSL sub-branch members at Albert Park.

"We are really proud of Pa," Mr Cockerill's granddaughter Phillipa said. "It's special to be here with dad and the rest of the family."

Son Ralph said he was glad after all these years the park was officially dedicated to his father.

"It's an emotional and fantastic thing," he said.

Pilot officer Albert John Cockerill worked as a clerk at the Casino Dairy Company before enlisting in the RAAF in 1942.

Heading to the UK and serving under the RAF's Bomber Command, he captained bombing runs over Germany where the chances of surviving a 30-mission tour were as low as 16%.

He completed 34 missions in Halifax heavy bombers between 1943 and 1944 until a fateful night raid over Duisberg in western Germany that saw a badly wounded Alby fly his plane, with the help of his aircrew, to a 'crash drome' in southern England.

He had been hit by shrapnel in his left eye and passed out, causing the plane to plummet earthward, losing 17,000 feet in altitude before the aircrew managed to get to him and adjust the joy stick.

Slipping in and out of consciousness and a few hours of arduous flying, Alby managed to get the plane back to England.

Once they were safely back on the ground he slipped into unconsciousness and was taken away in an ambulance.

Mr Cockerill was later awarded a Distinguished Service Order.

He died in Tasmania in 2008, where he had moved with his young family in 1960.



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