Medals and awards

Cockburn, Hampden Zane Churchill

1900, Komati River

COCKBURN, HAMPDEN ZANE CHURCHILL, Major, the son of Mr George Ralph Richardson Cockburn (a Director of the Ontario Bank at Toronto, and for many years MP for that city, as well as Principal of Upper Canada College); was born on 19 November 1857; was educated at Upper Canada College (Toronto), and Rugby School, England. On 20 November 1891, he entered the Governor-General's Bodyguard as 2nd Lieutenant On 20 September 1897, at great risk to himself he saved the lives of two brothers, Robert and James Harris, who were drowning in Lake Rousseau, Canada, and was awarded the Royal Canadian Humane Society's Medal. Early in 1900 he volunteered for service in the Boer War of 1899-1902, and won the Victoria Cross as described in the London Gazette of 23 April, 1901: "Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn, Lieutenant, Royal Canadian Dragoons. Date of Act of Bravery: 7 November 1900. 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". Lieutenant Cockburn, Lieutenant Turner and Sergeant Holland won the Victoria Cross in a very gallant defence of the guns at Komati River. General Smith-Dorrien, by a wide turning movement, compelled the enemy to vacate a very strong position. The Boers were very strongly reinforced during the night and tried to recover their position next day; but Colonel Evans, with the Canadian Mounted Rifles and two guns of the 84th Battery, forestalled them, after a gallop of two miles. On the returning march, the rearguard consisted of the Canadian Dragoons and two Canadian 12-pounders, under Colonel Lessard. After some heavy fighting they were unexpectedly charged in the afternoon by 200 mounted Boers, who got within seventy yards before they were stopped by the Canadian Dragoons. Lieutenant Cockburn held them off at a most critical moment and deliberately sacrificed himself and his party to let the guns get away. He was slightly wounded himself, and his men were all either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. Later in the day Lieutenant Turner, who had already been twice wounded, dismounted, and deploying his men at close quarters, drove off the enemy. Sergeant Holland worked a Colt gun with most deadly effect, until at last he found the enemy almost on top of him, and the horse attached to the carriage much blown. He then lifted the gun off the carriage, mounted his horse, and rode away with the gun under his arm. Besides the Victoria Cross he also received the Queen's Medal, with clasps for Cape Colony, Diamond Hill, part in forty-five engagements. He won the Victoria Cross under the command of Colonel Lessard, commanding the unit, and Major-General Smith-Dorrien, General Officer Commanding. He was decorated by HRH the Duke of Cornwall and York at Toronto on 11 October 1901, and on the same occasion a sword of honour, voted to him by the council of that city, was presented to him. Major Cockburn later belonged to the Canadian Reserve of Officers. He was killed by his horse on his ranch at Maple Creek, Canada, July, 1913.

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