b. 06/06/1870 Naini Tal, India. d. 29/06/1931 Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire.
Sir Alexander Stanhope Cobbe (1870-1931) was born on 5th June 1870 in Naini Tal, Bengal Presidency, India, the son of Lt.-Gen. Sir Alexander Hugh Cobbe and Emily Barbara Cobbe, née Jones. In 1881 he was a pupil at Eagle House School, Wimbledon. He went on to Wellington College and then followed his elder brother Henry Hercules Cobbe to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, from where he passed out in 1889. At the age of 19 he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the South Wales Borderers, 10 years after that regiment had earned seven Victoria Crosses and immortal fame at the battle of Rorke’s Drift. In India in 1895 Cobbe gained his first medal, the India Medal (1895–1902), with the clasp “Relief of Chitral”. This campaign was one of the many on the Northwest Frontier to quell unrest against British rule.
By July 1900 he was commanding the Central Africa Regiment and had been given the local rank of Major. Earlier that year, a major rebellion had erupted in West Africa, in what is now Ghana, and this developed into the final campaign of the Ashanti Wars known as the War of the Golden Stool. In January 1902 Cobbe was granted the local rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed Commandant of the 1st (Central Africa) Battalion, the King’s African Rifles, and in this post he deployed with his men to British Somaliland to take part in the “Mad Mullah War”.
During the action at Erego, on 6 October, 1902, when some of the Companies had retired, Lieutenant-Colonel Cobbe was left by himself in front of the line, with a Maxim gun. Without assistance he brought in the Maxim, and worked it at a most critical time. He then went out under an extremely hot fire from the enemy about 20 yards in front of him, and from his own men (who had retired) about the same distance behind, and succeeded in carrying in a wounded Orderly.
Cobbe was awarded the Victoria Cross on 20th January 1903, and was presented with his medal on 22nd February 1903 by Major-General W Manning in Obbia, Somaliland. Serving primarily in staff positions in India Cobbe received promotions to Captain and Major before returning to the War Office in London in 1912.
Appointed to serve with Sir John French’s British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at the outset of the First World War, Cobbe was nevertheless despatched back to India shortly afterwards. Reaching Major-General rank Cobbe served thereafter in the rejuvenated Anglo-Indian force operating on the Mesopotamian Front under Sir Frederick Maude. With III (Indian) Corps Cobbe saw a run of success at Kut-al-Amara in February 1917, along with the capture of Baghdad the following month.
Playing a notable role in the British successes at Samarrah in April and at Ramadi in September 1917, Cobbe also defeated a Turk force at Sharqat in October 1918 (the final action on the Mesopotamian Front) before peacefully capturing Mosul in November 1918. Appointed Military Secretary at the India Office after the war, Cobbe was promoted full General in 1924 and was given charge of Northern Command in India from 1926-30. In 1930 he returned to the India Office though he died less than a year later on 29th June 1931 in Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire. He was buried in St Peter’s Churchyard in Sharnbrook and his medals are held and displayed at the South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon, Wales.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SOUTH WALES BORDERERS MUSEUM, BRECON, WALES
BURIAL PLACE: ST PETERS CHURCHYARD, SHARNBROOK, BEDFORDSHIRE
Victoria Cross Trust – Image of his renovated grave in April 2021.