People from the past
From Docking to a place in history
Saint Henry Walpole
Henry Walpole was born in Docking in 1558, the eldest son of Christopher Walpole and Margery, heiress of Richard Beckham of Narford. He was educated at Norwich School, Peterhouse, Cambridge, and The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court in London.
He converted to Roman Catholicism, gave up his law practice and went to Reims, where he arrived on 7th July 1582. On 28th April 1583 he was admitted into the English College in Rome, and in October received minor orders. On 2nd February 1584 he became a probationer of the Society, and soon after went to France, where he continued his studies.
He returned to England, and after being twice imprisoned at Newgate jail in London for religion he returned to Reims, arriving back in 1589 where he was ordained Sub-deacon, Deacon and Priest.
After acting as chaplain to the Spanish forces in the Netherlands, suffering imprisonment by the English at Flushing in 1589, he was at last sent on the mission in 1590. He was arrested shortly after landing at Flamborough for the crime of Catholic priesthood, and imprisoned at York. The following February he was sent to the Tower, where he was frequently and severely racked. He remained there until the spring of 1595 when he was sent back to York for trial where on 7th April he was hung, drawn and quartered. He was canonized, becoming a saint, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
Padre George Smith
Padre George Smith, born in Docking on 8th January 1845, was an unmistakable man, about six feet tall with a long red beard. He served as a missionary in South Africa from 1870 and is best remembered for his part in the Battle of Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu War of 1877-79.
He played a role in the defence of the mission station, in Natal Province, by keeping the 139 soldiers of the 24th Regiment of Foot supplied with ammunition as they successfully fended off an attack by about 4,500 Zulu warriors. After the battle he was regularly referred to as “Ammunition Smith”. Despite playing such an important support role in the battle, when the film “Zulu” which stared Michael Caine was made, no mention was made of Padre Smith. After South Africa he was a chaplain in many theatres of war including Egypt and the Sudan. He later served in posts in England before retiring to Preston in Lancashire, where he died in November 1918.
Docking’s airmen remembered
Docking Heritage Group is researching the histories of four pilots of the first and second world wars whose graves are in St Mary’s churchyard.
Two were members of the Royal Flying Corps who were training at Sedgeford aerodrome, near Docking, in 1917 for frontline service in France.
Second Lieutenant Arthur Dean, a Canadian from Ottawa, died from his injuries in August 1917 after his Sopwith Pup spun and crashed near the Sedgeford-Docking road. He was 20.
Second Lieutenant James Pearson died in a crash flying from Sedgeford aerodrome in December that year. He was 18.
Captain Cecil King MC, DFC, Croix de Guerre was a fighter pilot in the RFC with 43 Squadron in France, an “ace” credited with 22 victories. He survived the war but was killed in a mid-air collision over Sedgeford in January 1919 while flying from there as an RAF combat instructor. He was 19.
Squadron Leader Ernest Deverill AFC, DFC and Bar, DFM was an RAF pilot who served in both Coastal Command and Bomber Command during the second world war; and made his home in Docking.
He enlisted in the RAF as a Halton apprentice at 15 and trained as a pilot in 1938. When war began he was flying with Coastal Command in 206 Squadron based at Bircham Newton, carrying out reconnaissance and convoy patrols.
In May 1940 three Messerschmitt fighters attacked his Lockheed Hudson off the German coast, killing the gunner and wounding the pilot. Deverill, flying as second pilot, took command of the badly damaged aircraft and brought it home. For his actions he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM).
While stationed at Bircham he met and married Joyce Burgis who lived at North Farm. Then in 1941 he was commissioned and posted to 97 Squadron in Bomber Command.
In April 1942 he took part in the daring Augsburg raid, in which a small force of Avro Lancasters crossed France in daylight, without escort, and made a successful attack on a German factory producing engines for U-boats. Deverill’s aircraft was set on fire, which his crew put out. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and two crew were also decorated.
The Bar to his DFC was awarded at the end of his tour, for operations that included the 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne and industrial targets in the Ruhr. The citation stated: “This officer has invariably endeavoured to press home his attacks with great vigour.”
After being rested Deverill, aged 27, was posted back to 97 Squadron in December 1943. But returning from his first raid his Lancaster crashed in fog at an airfield near Cambridge; he and five crew were killed. He is buried at Docking in St Mary’s churchyard.
Dr W E Ripper
Dr Walter Eugene Ripper was a farmer and landowner in Docking. Born in Vienna in 1908, he was a world-renowned agricultural scientist and skilled entomologist. He left Austria and moved to America where he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before moving to England where, together with Sir Guy Marshall, he embarked on the pesticidal control of insects with the formation of Pest Control Ltd. This company eventually was absorbed by Fisons and became Fison Pest Control.
It was during mid-1950s that Dr Ripper entered into a partnership with Dow Chemical at Kings Lynn where he built a factory. He left Dow to concentrate on running his spray contract business in the Sudan.
It was while piloting one of the companies planes on 21th March 1965, on flight from Athens to Naples, that Dr Ripper was killed when the plane he was in crashed on a remote mountainside about 40 miles west of Corinth in Greece. He was 57.
During his career Dr Ripper was chairman of Ripper Robots, founder and managing director of Pest Control (1938-1953), vice-chairman of Fison Pest Control Ltd (1953-1958), and managing director of Dow Agrochemicals (1958-1962). In 1940 he introduced the first synthetic selective herbicide to Britain.
With a lifetime’s experience in pest and weed control, Dr Ripper’s main work was devoted to the better and more fruitful production of crops, which gave a better return to farmers and helped increase food production, the results of which we still benefit from today. The village hall in Docking, The Dr W E Ripper Memorial Hall, is dedicated to his memory.