11/26 Lieutenant Walter Leonard Cobb MC (Military Cross)
Walter Leonard Cobb was born on 12th August 1886 in Liverpool, England and in the early 1900’s, like many other young single men, was recruited to help staff New Zealand Mental Institutes. Walter’s sister in Liverpool is listed as his next of kin on his 1914 enlistment papers.[i]
Walter Cobb worked as a medical attendant at the Porirua Mental Hospital and like many of his fellow countrymen played Association Football (Soccer) for the Porirua Hospital team with Walter also representing Wellington in 1914.[ii]
In the New Zealand Freelance on 27th August 1913 a report on the senior final for the Charity Cup played by the Wellington sides, Hospital and YMCA mentioned that:
On the outbreak of war Walter Cobb was quick to answer the call for men enlisting on the 12th August 1914 in the Machine Gun section of the 6th Squadron (Manawatu) of the Wellington Mounted Rifles. 11/26 Trooper Cobb sailed from New Zealand on the 16th October 1914 with the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). Also sailing with the Machine Gun section of the 6th Squadron was another Porirua Hospital staff member 11/713 Trooper John William Reichart.[iv]
On arrival in Egypt the Wellington Mounted Rifles with other New Zealand and Australian mounted units began training for the defence of Egypt. In April 1915 the Wellington Mounted Rifles units remained in Egypt while the New Zealand infantry regiments and support units sailed for the Gallipoli landings. The heavy loss of men at Gallipoli meant a need for replacements and as 11/24 Lance Corporal Hector Craw[v] noted in his diary on 5th May 1915:
The Wellington Mounted Rifles (WMR) sailed on the 9th May 1915 arriving off the Dardanelles on the 11th May 1915 when they landed at ANZAC Cove. The WMR squadrons would be engaged at ANZAC Cove from May 1915 leading up to the August 1915 Battle of Chunuk Bair.
At Chunuk Bair the objectives for the Wellington Mounted Rifles, as part of a ‘Right Covering Force,’ were to capture “Destroyer Ridge” and “Big Table Top”. The attack started at 21:30 hours on 6th August 1915 with the 6th Squadron overpowering Turkish positions and then scaling the north-eastern face of the hill where they attacked the Turks from the rear, capturing their first objective. All day on 7th August they were under heavy attack from Turkish forces which continued into the night. That day the regiment had lost forty-three dead and seventy–four were wounded.[vi] Early on 10 August the regiment, including the 6th Squadron, moved back to the rear.
11/26 Trooper Cobb pictured with a captured Turkish Machinegun.
Cobb was the only man from the original WMR machine gun section when this photo was taken.
The official history of the Wellington Mounted Rifles notes that[vii]
Trooper Cobb remained at Gallipoli until the final evacuation of the peninsula when with other members of the Wellington Mounted Rifles they returned to Egypt to rest, refit and redeployment.
Trooper Cobb was posted to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade’s machinegun section and was promoted to Sergeant on 15th July 1916 and Sergeant Major on 18th July 1916 with the Brigade during its campaign in Egypt and Palestine. Sergeant Major Cobb was identified as ‘officer material’ and returned to New Zealand in late 1916 to Featherston Camp for officer training and the Evening Post on 30th May 1917 along with military promotions carried:[viii]
2nd Lieutenant Cobb returned to Egypt and was used as an instructor on the Vicker's machine-gun but also served with the NZ Mounted Rifles Brigade, Machine Gun Squadron in the continued campaign in Palestine against Ottoman Empire Forces. It was during an attachment with the NZ Mounted Brigade that the now Lieutenant Cobb won his Military Cross, the citation published in the Evening Post on 18th December 1919 reads:[ix]
2nd Lt Cobb on his horse, Mrs Ball.
The awarding of the Military Cross was notified after Lt Cobb had returned to New Zealand he had arrived in April 1919 on the Kaikoura with ‘1114 members of the NZ Mounted Rifles Brigade, which formed portion of the famous ANZAC Mounted Division which fought throughout the Sinai Desert and Palestine campaign.’[x] Lieutenant Cobb was discharged from the army and his papers indicate he intended to return to Porirua Hospital.
Walter Cobb in 1921 married Emma Martha Dorathea Jessen they would have three children. In October 1940 Walter Cobb again entered the New Zealand Army Two, in October 1940, from the retired list, as 804515 Lieutenant Cobb, New Zealand Transport Section and was appointed 2nd In Command, New Zealand Military Reserve Guard Company (Home Guard) Area 5, Wellington. Lieutenant Cobb was later moved to the Wellington Regiment with the temporary rank of Captain and served with this unit until the end of the war.
Walter Leonard Cobb died Palmerton North on 17th July 1974, aged 88. The Cobb family presented his WW1 & WW2 medals to the Waiouru Army Museum and they were, along with a large number of other donated medals, stolen in a robbery and have not yet been recovered.
Allan Dodson – March 2015
Porirua Hospital Staff enlisting 12/09/1915: List all those I know of.
11/606 Sergeant James Cornelius Read, Wellington Mounted Rifles took a number of photos at Gallipoli.
11/713 Trooper William John Reichart was killed at Gallipoli during the Battle of Chunuk Bair.
Lucas & Moran (2007) Mental about Wests. Porirua. Porirua Press
Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Records: 11/26 Trooper Walter Cobb
Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Records: 11/713 Trooper William John Reichart
A H Wilkie (1924) Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919, Auckland, Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd
Walter Cobb of the Wellington Mounted Rifles machine gun section with a machine gun captured from the Turks ( photo James Cornelius Read): Alexander Turnbull Library ¼-058062 F
2nd Lt Cobb & his horse Mrs Ball at Tel el Funa, Palestine 1917: National Army Museum
[i] 11/26 Trooper Walter Leonard Cobb: Archway - Archives New Zealand
[ii] Lucas and Moran (2007) Mental about Wests: Wellington Men’s Senior Representatives, pg iv
[iii] Charity Cup Final (27th September 1913) New Zealand Freelance
[iv] Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Records: 11/713 Trooper William John Reichart
[v] Personal Diary – 11/24 Lance Corporal Eric Hector Dunstan Craw B Squadron, 6th Manawatu, Wellington Mounted Rifles.
[vi] Regimental History – Wellington Mounted Rifles: Wikipedia
[vii] Official War History of the Wellngton Mounted Rifles 1914-1919: Page 58
[viii] Military Promotions (30th May 1917) Evening Post
[ix] Gallantry Awards (18th December 1919) Evening Post
[x] Coming Home Kiakoura’s draft ABZACs fron Palestine (31st March 1919) Evening Post