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.
World War 1
Two of the WW1 airmen were members of the Royal Flying Corps who were training at Sedgeford aerodrome, near Docking, in 1917 for frontline service in France, and a third transferred there after the war.
Second Lieutenant Arthur Dean was born in Ottawa, Canada, on 27 September 1898. He came to England and learned to fly at the London and Provincial Flying School at Hendon in their L&P Biplane. He received his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate on 19 May 1917. He was gazetted in the Royal Flying Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant on 24 July 1917, and joined 64 Squadron at Sedgeford shortly thereafter. On 8 August 1917, just 15 days after being gazetted into the RFC he was killed whilst flying near Sedgeford in Sopwith Pup B1788. He got into a spin at 500 feet, initially recovered, but then spiralled into the ground.
Second Lieutenant James Pearson was born on 9 March 1899 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, later moved to Edgbaston, Birmingham, and then to Bushey, Hertfordshire. He learned to fly in a Caudron biplane at the Ruffy-Baumann Flying School at Acton, receiving his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate on 11 September that year. He had been gazetted as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps on 2 August.
He was posted to 110 Squadron, a light bomber unit. It had been formed at Rendcomb, Gloucestershire on 1 November 1917, moving to Swingate Down, Dover, on the 12th and flying a variety of aircraft types including the B.E.2d, B.E.2e, D.H.6, R.E.8 and Martinsyde G.100 Elephant. The Squadron moved to Sedgeford on 26 November.
On 9 December 1917, Pearson lost his life when flying Elephant 8866. When pulling out of a steep dive at Sedgeford, the aircraft structure collapsed following wing failure and Pearson fell out at 1500 feet.
Captain Cecil Frederick King MC, DFC, Croix de Guerre was born on 19 February 1899 in Sevenoaks, Kent.
On leaving school early in 1917 he joined the Royal Flying Corps and went to France in September of that year, where he served continuously for 13 months as Flying Officer and Flight Commander for No.13 Squadron – almost a record for a scout pilot. He shot down 22 enemy aircraft, and in March 1918 was awarded the Military Cross.
He was awarded the Croix de Guerre (avec Palme) for services rendered to the French Army during the second battle of the Marne in July 1918 and the Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded in recognition of gallantry in flying operations.
Having survived the war Cecil was transferred to Sedgeford aerodrome in Norfolk where he became a Combat and Fighting lnstructor.
On 24 January 1919 he was flying a Sopwith Camel Scout aircraft, with several other aircraft being in the air at the same time. A collision suddenly occurred and his aircraft fell to earth. Cecil was killed instantly. He was just 19. His funeral took place with full military honours at St Mary’s Church, Docking, on 28 January 1919.
World War 2
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 RAF Bircham Newton, carrying out perilous reconnaissance and convoy patrols.
While stationed at Bircham he married into a farming family in Docking. 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, when a small force of Avro Lancasters crossed France in daylight, without escort, and successfully attacked a German factory producing engines for U-boats. Deverill’s aircraft was set on fire, which his crew put out, and he brought the aircraft home. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The Bar to his DFC was awarded for further 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, a posting back to 97 Squadron took him into the elite Pathfinder force. But as with so many he did not survive the war.
Now you can read the book
Squadron Leader Deverill is the subject of a recently published biography, Path to Courage, written by Heritage Group member Michael Strutt. It tells the story of Deverill’s early life, exceptional flying career and the everyday realities of his RAF service.
‘A wonderfully compelling book not just about true courage in war, but an insightful commentary on the social fabric of that time’ — Air Marshal Cliff Spink CB, CBE, RAF Rtd.
Path to Courage is available from independent bookshops, price £9.99. Copies also can be purchased at a reduced price by visitors to the Tony Arter Heritage Room in the Ripper Memorial Hall, High Street, Docking, Norfolk PE31 8NG on Wednesdays, 10am to 12 noon, or from this website on our Sales and Publications page.