Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn VC

b. 19/11/1867 Toronto, Ontario, Canada. d. 12/07/1913 Maple Creek, Sasckatchewan, Canada..

Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn (1857-1913) was born on 19th November 1857 in Toronto, Canada, the son of George Ralph Richardson Cockburn, a Director of the Ontario Bank, and also MP for the city of Toronto and Principal of Upper Canada College. Hampden was educated at Upper Canada College, and later at Rugby School in England. On 20th November 1891, he entered the Governor-General’s Bodyguard as 2nd Lieutenant.

Hampden Z C Cockburn VC

The first act of gallantry he is noted for, actually came on 20th September 1897, when he saved the lives of two brothers, Robert and James Harris, who were drowning in Lake Rousseau, and was awarded the Royal Canadian Humane Society’s Medal.

Early in 1900, he volunteered for service in the Boer War which raged until 1902, and would be awarded the Victoria Cross (London Gazette, 23rd April 1901) for his actions with the Royal Canadian Dragoons on 7th November 1900.

During the Battle of Leliefontein at the Komati River, South Africa, Lieutenant Cockburn, with a handful of men, at a most critical moment held off the Boers to allow the guns to get away; to do so he had to sacrifice himself and his party, all of whom were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners, he himself being slightly wounded.

Cockburn was awarded his Victoria Cross on 11th October 1901 by the Duke of York (later King George V) in Toronto. He was also awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for Cape Colony, Diamond Hill, Johannesburg and Orange Free State. He commanded a troop of the Royal Canadian Dragoons in all of these actions and during the regiment’s entire service, covering 1,700 miles and involving 45 engagements.

Following his service and return to Canada, he was promoted to Major and belonged the Canadian Reserve of Officers. He retired to run a ranch in Saskatchewan, where tragically, on 12th July 1913, aged just 45, he was killed in a riding accident. He was buried in St James’ Cemetery, Toronto. His medals were donated to the Upper Canada College (his old school), and are loaned to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.




Hill A, Section S 1/2, Lot 11.


Bill Mullen – Cockburn VC Grave

Upper Canada College – images of Cockburn’s VC medal