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Trooper John Cobb, 3rd Queensland Mounted Infantry Contingent - died 3.7.1901 2 weeks 2 days ago #72942

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John Cobb's grave is in Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, Queensland. My thanks to Kevin Dyson for taking the photos in the cemetery, and for permission to post them here.


A gallant defender at Elands River and Rhenoster Kop.


....The defence of Elands River by a small party of Australian Bushmen against a Boer attack for thirteen days has been already described in this journal, but interest in the heroic defence has been resuscitated by the receipt of a letter written by Trooper John Cobb to his mother, Mrs. G. J. Cobb, of Calala, West Maitland. Trooper Cobb, with other Hunter River men, was amongst the defenders, and he enclosed in his letter a copy of a letter written by a young imperial cavalry officer, who was with the relieving column, and who had an opportunity of going over the ground, and of gauging the worth of the gallant defenders. The Hunter River men who were amongst the defenders were: - Troopers W. Nowland (Muswellbrook), Bowcock (Singleton), F. Nott (Maitland), and John Cobb (Maitland), serving with the Queensland Bushmen; and Troopers George Charles (Maitland), Belman (Maitland), Cobcroft (Maitland), Smith and Keene, serving with the N.S.W. Bushmen.
....The following are extracts from Trooper Cobb's letter: - "We are camped here for a few days, and will shortly start again to chase the enemy. The war has now developed into a regular guerrilla warfare, and may last for months. All hope of a speedy return home has vanished. This morning General Paget addressed us on parade, and told us we must not expect to get away until the war was over, as we were the men required to fight the Boers at their own game, and we could not be spared. This was a great compliment to us, and we must just content ourselves till the snipers are all taken or till they give in. We must expect a rough time till they do. For my part, I like this kind of life much better than garrison duty, as there is always some excitement. Our Generals are very cautious, and won't run into any danger if it can be avoided. A short time ago we all paraded, and requested to be allowed to follow up the enemy, and make short work of it, or be sent home. But General Paget said our lives are too valuable, and he would run no risk, but simply take time and drive them out of the country or quieten them without the loss of men. In fact they don't want to kill more of the enemy than they can help. The Canadians left for home a few days ago, and gave us three cheers. They are a fine lot of fellows, and did good work here. We expect every hour to get the order to march to the front, and I am writing these few lines, as I may not get the chance again for some time. I enclose a short report, written by a young Imperial Cavalry officer, who was at the relief of Elands River, and who went all over the ground after the siege. As many of the Hunter River men were present, it may be of interest."
....The following is a copy of the letter referred to by Trooper Cobb: - "I cannot omit to tell you about the very finest thing of the whole campaign, and probably the finest thing ever done. Colonel Hore's column consisted of 300 Bushmen from Australia, and he had with him a convoy with immense supplies for us. On the march they got to this place, Brakfontein (Elands River), which is commanded on all sides by kopjes. De la Rey surrounded them with about 2000 men, eight guns, and three Pom-Poms. Colonel Hore had two guns, one an old 9lb muzzle-loader, the other a Maxim. There was absolutely no cover for them, and the first day the Boers fired 1700 shells into them. Under cover of darkness they decided they would never surrender, and sent word to that effect to the Boers. Then they began to dig, and before daylight dawned they had made huge excavations. On the third day the Boers sent them a flag of truce, saying that owing to their gallant defence they would, if they surrendered, be allowed three days' rations, be escorted back to the British lines, and the officers allowed to retain their arms, but if they did not surrender at once they would all be blown off the face of the earth forthwith. The Bushmen sent back word - 'We are all underground now; we have dug a tunnel down to the river, and you can shoot away as much as you like. We shall fight to a finish.' The Boers replied - 'We don't want you, we want your supplies.' 'If you want them, come and take them,' was the only answer the Boers received. They were days' and days' march from anywhere, Carrington, who had come to their relief, had been driven back, and the Boers had spread the report that the Bushmen had surrendered in order that no more help should come. However, one runner managed to get through, and saved them. The officers behaved wonderfully well. One of them, Captain Arnet, remained out in the open, every day, with his glasses, giving the ranges to his men. He was first wounded in the forehead, but it did not seem to affect him, and he still remained on the parapet doing his duty, until a shell caught him in the back and blew him to pieces. Out of 500 horses, 60 alone remained. The dead ones were all heaped up in the rear as a further parapet. I visited the place yesterday, and Cronje's laager was a joke to it. Yesterday was the 13th day, and the Bushmen lost 77 men. It is impossible to give you any idea of what they must have gone through. I do hope Great Britain will show her gratitude to these Australians for the brightest page in the history of the war. Let it be known far and wide. Come out and see the place, and if your heart does not tingle with pride or a lump get into your throat, and if a prayer does not fly to Heaven at the sight, you must be harder and colder than an iceberg. I tell you these men deserve anything the old country can give them."
Newcastle Morning Herald, Saturday 5th January 1901


....The following letter has been received by Mrs. G. J. Cobb, of Calala, West Maitland, from her son Trooper John Cobb, of the Bushmen's Contingent, and is dated March 15, from Bloemfontein: - After the battle of Rhenoster Kop we have been on the go, and at Commanders Nek I took the fever and was sent to Pretoria Hospital, where I remained for three weeks. I left before I was quite strong to join our troop, who were ordered south into Cape Colony to try and capture De Wet, who was down there trying to stir up the disloyal Dutch. We took train to Naauwpoort with General Plummer in command. We were almost all Australians, with one regiment of 1st Dragoon Guards - a crack cavalry regiment just landed from England, and in all about 1500 strong. After marching two days we came in touch with De Wet with about 2000 men, and had our first engagement with him, but after a few hours' long-range fighting he retired, doing little damage, and night coming on we had to camp. Early next morning we got going again and caught up to his rearguard strongly posted. After hunting them out of that position and following his retreat, we were stopped by heavy rains, and had to camp all soaked to the skin. Next morning we again came up with the enemy, who occupied a lot of kopjes while we were on the open country. De Wet made a good stand, and his orders were (we heard afterwards) to hold out till dark, so as to give his convoy time to get away. We commenced at about 11 o'clock and tried to out-flank him on the right, in which 30 of the 1st Dragoons with two officers were captured. We then tried the left flank, and succeeded in rushing the kopjes on that side under heavy fire, and the Boers had to clear. We followed, and sighted their convoy, which had crossed a big plain, and we thought De Wet was ours at last; but when within about a mile and a half of him a most terrible storm came on. The rain simply fell in sheets, and in a short time the whole plain was under water, and in trying to follow our guns, horses, and convoy got bogged, and, much to our disgust, we could see the Boers on the hard ground getting away while we were powerless to follow, but had to camp in the water and mud till next day. We were not long in having our revenge, for next day we came on our foe with half of his convoy bogged, and we took about 50 waggons, thousands of rounds of ammunition, 40 prisoners, and lots of horses, mules, and cattle, and following the retreating enemy to Hopetown we captured all his convoy, guns, and a lot more men. De Wet escaped with about 300 followers, his army being scattered all over the place. In speaking to many of the captured they said the Bushmen gave them the worst time they ever had. Since then we have tried to sight him again; but as he had no convoy he was able to get away much faster than our little army could travel. I hope it won't be long before we return home, and things look now as if we shall soon get away; but the truth is we are too useful, and are the only troops fit for guerrilla warfare. The Tommies cannot get about as we do, and Plummer when offered a regiment of the Sussex refused to take them, and said they were no good to him. As for the crack Dragoon Guards during our march after De Wet they were scattered all along the line of march. They are a fine lot of men, but too fresh for the kind of work. When they first joined us we took 40 of their horses, and they paraded before the General, and said they wished to join some other column, as the Bushmen stole their horses. The General asked them if they came out here to fight, and when they replied "Yes," he said, "Well, come with the Bushmen and they will show you how to fight, and also how to look after yourselves. It is not often a Bushman is caught, and if he gets into a mess he generally manages to get out of it somehow, and get to cover as quickly as a Boer."
The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 26th April 1901

Morayshire ..................................
BRISBANE, June 16. ......
....Medals were presented to-day to the third Queensland contingent. The Governor, who performed the ceremony in presence of a large number of spectators at the Victoria Barracks, congratulated the returned soldiers, who, under Mjr. Tunbridge, had acquitted themselves so well on the march to Mafeking, and also at Eland's River. He also, in view of his early departure from Queensland, bade the men farewell.
Adelaide Observer, Saturday 22nd June 1901

....All the men of the Third Contingent have now left the immigration depot, where they were quartered, and the moneys due to them have been paid as far as possible. One month's additional pay was given in the usual course. The only question outstanding is that of the Rhodesian pay, in connection with which all the papers have not yet been received. Some dissatisfaction is said to exist, and it is hoped that this may be overcome. The discharges for the men are being issued as quickly as possible.
Brisbane Courier, Tuesday 25th June 1901

ThIrd Contingent.

....Yesterday's "Observer" says: - The men of the third contingent are being examined to-day by the Medical Board of the Defence Force, appointed in recent "General Orders." The accounts are being made up as quickly as possible, but it is expected that the men will have to be detained at the Immigration Depot for about a week. It is stated that as each contingent arrives the question of getting employment for the returned men becomes harder and harder to solve. Employers are therefore asked to do what they can to assist the Defence Force authorities in seeing that the soldiers arriving are properly provided for.
Queensland Times, Saturday 15th June 1901

....Medical report for the two weeks ended 27th [July]: - ......died, 25......The following are the particulars of the deaths referred to: - . . . John Cobb, aged 44, admitted 1st July, died 3rd July . . .
Brisbane Courier, Thursday 1st August 1901

....Trooper John Cobb, late of the Third Contingent, died yesterday at the General Hospital, and his remains will be interred to-day with military honours, the Q.R.R.A.A. supplying the band and firing party. Major Tunbridge particularly requests that all members of the contingent now in Brisbane will make a point of attending to do honour to their deceased comrade.
Brisbane Courier, Thursday 4th July 1901

....The friends of Mr. George J. Cobb, of Calala, West Maitland, will learn with regret of the death of Trooper John Cobb, who returned with the last batch of Queenslanders from South Africa. Several graphic letters from his pen have been published in the "Newcastle Herald," and though he made no complaints, it was clear that he and his comrades were undergoing great hardships. He was one of the heroes of the gallant stand made by Queenslanders and New South Welchmen at Brakfontein, Elands River - a stand which has been described by Dr. Conan Doyle as "one of the very finest deed of arms during the war." He went on to Brisbane from Sydney to get his discharge, but fell ill and died yesterday.
Newcastle Morning Herald [NSW] , Saturday 6th July 1901

....Quite a gloom was cast over the town this morning when news was received that Mr. John Cobb, who for many years resided in this district, had died suddenly at Brisbane. The deceased was the partner of Mr. H. C. White in the well-known Bando estate, and managed that property until some few years ago. Hence he went to South Africa with one of the Queensland Contingents and had a very rough time, and I understand his health suffered considerably by the grat hardships he endured. Mr. Cobb was well known on the Hunter and throughout the North. He was the eldest son of Mr. Geo. James Cobb, of Calala, West Maitland, and the utmost sympathy is expressed on all sides with his relatives in their sad bereavement.
....July 4.
The Maitland Weekly Mercury, Saturday 6th July 1901

....The funeral of the late Trooper John Cobb, of the Third Contingent, who died at the Brisbane General Hospital on Wednesday, took place yesterday afternoon at the Toowong Cemetery, the Rev. G. H. Frodsham, chaplain to the Queensland Defence Force, conducting the service. The funeral was a military one, the Q.R.R.A.A. supplying the band and firing party. About forty of the deceased's comrades-in-arms were present, also Lieutenant-Colonel P. R. Ricardo and Major Tunbridge (the officer commanding the Third Contingent). The deceased's father, Mr. G. J. Cobb, who with Mrs. Cobb arrived from West Maitland on Wednesday night, was chief mourner, while Messrs. C. S. Cobb and G. F. Cobb, brothers of the deceased, journeyed from Stanthorpe and Scone respectively.
The Brisbane Courier, Friday 5th July 1901

....WEST MAITLAND, Saturday. - Great regret is expressed locally at the death of Trooper John Cobb, who had done some heroic deeds in the South African war. Cobb was once well-known in racing circles, and among horses which carried his colors was Old Clo. Deceased was the eldest son of Mr. G. J. Conn, of Calala, West Maitland.
Evening News [Sydney] , Monday 8th July 1901

....Mr John Cobb, who was long associated with Bando station, Gunnedah, died in the Brisbane Hospital last week. He was well known in the sporting world a few years ago, especially as a particularly heavy backer of horses, and he frequently raced a horse or two, but not with much success. Mr Cobb had only recently returned from South Africa.
The Riverine Grazier, Tuesday 9th July 1901

Funeral of a "Third."
....The funeral of Private John Cobb, a member of the third Queensland contingent, who died in the Brisbane General Hospital on Wednesday, July 4, took place the next day. The deceased was buried with full military honours, and a good number of his comrades attended. Lieutenant-colonel Ricardo and Captain Dowse represented the Headquarters Staff, and there were present: Major W. H. Tunbridge, Captain Fowles, Lieutenant Harris, and about thirty men of the third contingent. The Royal Australian Artillery (A Battery) supplied the firing party, guncarriage, and band. All the artillerymen were clad in dark military overcoats, and marched with arms reversed. Then followed the band, playing the slow and solemn march music, with the drums draped in black, and then the guncarriage, upon which rested the coffin, covered with a Union Jack and numerous wreaths of white flowers. After the military came about a dozen vehicles bearing the relatives and friends of the deceased. His parents and a brother had journeyed from Sydney, and another brother from Stanthorpe. The funeral passed headquarters at 3.45, and reached Toowong about 5 o'clock. The Rev, G. H. Frodsham, chaplain to the Defence Force, officiated at the grave.
The Week [Brisbane] , Friday 12th July 1901

Death of Mr. John Cobb.
....On the 3rd instant Mr. John Cobb, of Bando station, near Mullaley, in the Gunnedah district, died at Brisbane from peritonitis. He had only landed there a few days before off the Morayshire, when he was stricken down. He was on his way home from South Africa, where, as a member of the Queensland Bushmen's Contingent, he had shared with his comrades many hardships and dangers in the war. Mr. Cobb was much beloved and respected on the field of battle as he was by all in the Gunnedah and Maitland districts. He was an excellent judge of all classes of stock, and also an ardent sportsman. These qualities, combined with a fearless outspokenness and a very generous nature, endeared him to all with whom he came into contact. The deceased was the son of Mr. George J. Cobb, of Calala, near Maitland, and a brother of Kenneth Cobb, manager of Bando station, and had other brothers and two sisters. He was related to the White family, being a cousin of his partner, Mr. Henry C. White, also to the Mackays and Hookes, all Northern families connected with pastoral pursuits.
The Sydney Mail, Saturday 13th July 1901

....Trooper John Cobb, son of Mr. George Cobb, of Colala, who recently died in Brisbane almost immediately after his return from service in South Africa, was held in the highest respect by the officers and men of the Queensland Bushmen. The following tribute is an extract from a letter received by deceased's father from a young Bushman, Mr. G. W. Potts, of Bowen, who distinguished himself in South Africa: -
...."As a soldier he was admired and respected by all who knew him. A braver or more fearless man never lived. In the midst of battle, with shot and shell falling about him, and with men about him in their death struggle, he was as cool as though he were in a Sydney street. I have seen him, when he was acting as one of the advanced scouts for our column, ride forward amid a rattle of musketry, with hundreds of rifles levelled at him and bullets falling about him. He sat firmly in his saddle, and rode forward until he had found the exact position of the enemy and gleaned an idea of their strength. Then he would retire to the column to report. He repeatedly did this, and it always appeared marvellous to me how he escaped. During the siege of Eland's River my brother and he were placed together in the same sconce, and in a most perilous position, yet my brother says he was as jolly as a sandboy. To his comrades a kinder or more considerate man he could not have been, for he was the first to render assistance. He was one of the few men of my acquaintance who possessed all the qualities that go to constitute a gentleman. His parents may well be proud of him.
Newcastle Morning Herald, Thursday 22nd August 1901

....A very beautiful and appropriate monument has been erected over the grave of the late Trooper John Cobb, of the Third Queensland Contingent, who died on the 3rd July last, a few days after his return to the State from South Africa. Trooper Cobb was one of the heroes of Elands River, and also served at Rhenoster Kop and other engagements in which his regiment was concerned. The memorial has been erected by his relatives, and occupies a good position in the picturesque Toowong Cemetery. It is constructed of Helidon freestone, and is 6ft. 2in. in length, by 3ft. 1in. in width. On top is a splendidly executed design of rifle, hat with emu plume and badge, and bandolier, a faithful representation of those portions of the equipment of our men who served in South Africa. A marble panel is let in on the top of the tomb, and bears an inscription inlaid with lead letters. The main work is enclosed by a substantial concrete wall with freestone coping and pallstones, with iron bars. Marble chips on concrete cover the space between the tomb and the enclosure. The whole of the work was carried out by Mr. A. L. Petrie, at his Toowong establishment, and the design and its execution are in every sense in good taste and artistically done.
The Brisbane Courier, Friday 4th October 1901 www.findagrave.com/memorial/190697715/trooper_john-cobb
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Trooper John Cobb, 3rd Queensland Mounted Infantry Contingent - died 3.7.1901 1 week 6 days ago #73060

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Thanks for that most informative post. According to the Kaplan RofM roll, "50 Trooper Cobb, J of the 3rd Queensland Contingent (3rd Queensland Bushmen)" earned the clasps Relief of Mafeking, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Rhodesia and South Africa 1901 on his QSA. Interestingly, the NSW Citizen's Bushmen were also considered for the RofM clasp - and initially were listed as entitled. However, the entries were later crossed through "by authority" of 4/5/03. Reference again the Kaplan roll.
The Eland's River siege has quite a degree of iconic status here in OZ. R.L.Wallace published "Elands River Siege, 1900" in 1992 (ISBN 1-876439-01-7) and it covers the siege very well. Wallace comments that a joint submission was made by the Governments of Victoria, NSW and Queensland to the Imperial Government proposing that a suitable clasp be awarded to the men who made up the Elands River garrison. After due consideration, the War Office declined to recommend a clasp.
Unfortunately, there is no listing of those who would have been entitled to an "Eland's River" QSA clasp - although Wallace does mention a number of names in his text and lists the known members of the 3rd Victorian (Bushmen) Contingent who were present. The account published here under the heading "The Defence of Eland's River - Gallant Hunter River Soldiers" really does a dis-service to the Rhodesian units also involved in the siege; such as the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers, the Rhodesia Regiment Mashonaland Sqn or other details.
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