G.E.G. Cockburn

Gilbert Eric Graham Cockburn: (Military Officer and Half-back)

Born in Barrackpore, Bengal, India on April 7, 1894, the son of William Cockburn, a major in the Royal Artillery, Cockburn was educated at Repton, he entered the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 1912 where he played football for the Sandhurst XI, the Regimental XI and for ‘Officers in the Army’. He was a member of the British Army team that played against Holland in 1914 and the Belgian Army in 1915. He was a regular in the Reptonian First XI and was also in the Old Reptonians side that won the Arthur Dunn Cup against Old Cholmeleians in 1914 at Twickenham. In the Old Reptonians side that day was N.V.C. Turner, a fellow traveller in 1914 to South America. He had yet to play for either Corinthian or Casuals so was another newcomer to the team.

At Sandhurst, Cockburn was commissioned into the Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers), and was promoted to lieutenant in August 1914. He went out to the Front and saw action in the trenches, before being transferred and promoted to the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry as a temporary major. He was mentioned in dispatches twice, won the Military Cross and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1917 for leadership and gallantry in the field. The citation stated, “...at a most critical period of an attack was sent out with orders to clear up the situation, if possible, and to assume control of his battalion if he could reach his front line. This he eventually succeeded in doing, under heavy fire, during which he was shot through the right eye. Undeterred by this he stuck most gallantly to his mission and although wounded again in the shoulder by a sniper, he displayed the most magnificent fearlessness and determination in re-organising and leading his men against the enemy's position. Though under intense fire he sent in valuable and accurate reports on the situation and remained directing operations until nightfall. His great gallantry and initiative and the example of devotion to duty which he set to all ranks were beyond all praise.”.

After the end of hostilities and despite losing an eye in the War, he continued to play football and in December 1919 he was selected to play for the Army and later for the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was selected to play against Fulham for Corinthians in December 1919, in front of a crowd of over ten thousand spectators. In the Corinthian team that day were I.E. Snell, N.V.C. Turner and H.G. Yates, fellow passengers in 1914. He also played for Corinthians in November that year, against Oxford University, and in the Isthmian League for Casuals against West Norwood, Clapton, Dulwich Hamlet, and a friendly against Highgate School.

His brother, Guy Leslie Cockburn also survived the First War having been mentioned in dispatches and winning the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry, but who died in 1942 in service with the Royal Navy. Gilbert was married twice producing one son, also called Gilbert, who also served in the RAF in the Second War, and lived until 1990.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Cockburn was called up from the Regular Army Reserve of Officers and attached to, (later officially transferred) to the Intelligence Corps. He was deployed with the BEF to France but during the fighting at Dunkirk, and was reported as missing in June 1940. He was later listed as 'died at sea', having been killed on 27/28 May; officially recorded as 27 May.

Major Gilbert Eric Graham Cockburn DSO, MC, was listed in the Army Roll of Honour and is commemorated on the Dunkirk Memorial, Column 155.