3185 Private James Douglas Cockburn (1895–1916)
“A” Company, 1/14 County of London Regiment,
(also known as 1/The London Scottish ).
Killed in Action, 8 September 1916,
Interred at Flatiron Copse, Mametz.
Was James Douglas Cockburn being true to his rather distant Scottish roots in enlisting in the 14th Battalion of the County of London Regiment, a Battalion which has been celebrated ever since as The London Scottish? James’s great great-grandfather, Andrew Cockburn (1760–1833), reputedly a native of Edinburgh, migrated south, probably in the early 1780s. In 1794, following the death of his first wife, Margaret Clark, Andrew married Susannah Keziah Knights, the widow of Samuel Newson.
Their son, James Robison Cockburn (1798–1856), a Silversmith, was James’s great-grandfather. James Robison and his wife, Ruth Sarah White, moved to King Street in Richmond in the 1820s, from where he conducted his business as a watchmaker, jeweller and pawnbroker until his death. Given that skilled tradesmen often took over premises vacated by a predecessor following the same trade, it is possible that these were the premises at 20 King Street—at the start of Paved Court, where Alianti is today. These premises were occupied by Walter Joel, Watchmaker and Jeweller and the father of Harold Joel, after his move to Richmond from Eton.
Their son, John Cockburn (1831–1891) continued in his father’s profession as a jeweller at 28 George Street. The move to Richmond had clearly not broken the Cockburns’ link with the parish of St John, Hackney, because it was there, in 1861, that John married Anne Hoare, the daughter of John Hoare, “Gentleman”. Their married life started out at Two Old Palace Place but by the time of the birth, of their third child and eldest son, James, on 24 June 1865, John and Anne were based at the George Street address. The young James would later become the father of James Douglas Cockburn.
In time the business expanded. John and Anne took on 2 Old Palace Place as their family’s home, with the business continuing at George Street. Old Palace Place stands on part of the site of the Convent of the Observant Friars. By the time of John’s death in 1891, this house, known as Abbotsford when they first lived in it, had become Abbotsdene.
On 20 August 1893, James and Fanny Louisa Brown were married in the Church of St John the Baptist in Hampton Wick. Their son, James Douglas Cockburn, was born on 22 April 1895 at their home, ‘Briony’ in Hampton Wick, followed on 17 January 1899 by a second son, John Stuart Cockburn. By the time of their younger son’s birth, the family was living at 205 Park Road, in Ham, then part of Kingston.
They were later to move to another ‘Briony’ in Latchmere Road—this house has been identified as 20 Latchmere Road, close to the home of William Samuel Hudson Palmer, Dalkeith, now numbered 37. We do not yet know which school James attended. His name is not on the Tiffin Boys’ First World War Memorial, nor that of Epsom College, nor the Hampton Grammar School, which William Palmer, his near neighbour, attended. Perhaps sharp-eyed readers will spot his name on another school’s war memorial or on the Imperial War Museum’s War Memorial Register and let us know.
James was awarded three medals for his service during this conflict. One of them, the 1915 Star, indicates that he enlisted fairly early on in the war, though not during its first five months (i.e. in 1914). Following training, James arrived in France on 7 October 1915 and was killed in action thirteen months later.
At the time of James’s death, his battalion was near Leuze Wood, from which the Fourth Army had made successive attempts to re-take the village of Ginchy, then in German hands. These attacks had all been defeated by German counter-attacks. On the evening of the 6th, the Germans had launched a bombing attack which the London Scottish believed was in support of a counter-attack on the French to their right. The casualties that day amounted to two officers wounded, [and] 64 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.
At dawn on 7 September, “A Company held a strong point behind the left of C Company…There appeared to be none of our troops on the left of our front line. During the day, B Company advanced a platoon to dig a trench on the S[outh] border of BOULEAUX WOOD. Good opportunities of inflicting casualties on the enemy occurred, & were taken advantage of. Sgt Smith of B Company shot 8, & 3 prisoners were taken. Intermittent shelling took place all day. In the evening, the London Scottish were relieved by the Queen Victoria’s Rifles, & moved into Brigade Reserve near MALTZ-HORN Farm.
James’s death is likely to have been caused by action on the previous day, 7 September, or in the very early hours of 8 September, since the battalion’s diary for 8 September, the day James was killed, simply reads: B[attalion]n in B[riga]de at MALTZ HORN FARM.
Records state that James was killed in action. On the Medal Roll, he is KinA 8.9.16. and in the 80 volumes which provide a List of Soldiers Died in the Great War, he is also recorded as Killed in Action. As A Company was stood to in its trench for most, if not all, of this action, James may have been a victim of the ‘intermittent shelling’ mentioned on the 6th or 7th.
James is commemorated in a Memorial Book for the London Scottish Regiment at the Scottish National War Museum. As a native of Richmond, he is also commemorated on the Richmond War Memorial. As early as 1917, his parents had left Latchmere Road for 24 Mount Ararat Road, Richmond.
James’s grandmother, Anne continued to live at Abbotsdene until 1915, when she agreed to vacate the house so that it could be connected to 1 Old Palace Place, which was being used by the Red Cross as an auxiliary hospital.Anne Cockburn moved next door to Oak House, which had, until 1915, been the Headquarters of the YMCA in Richmond. She died there on 10 February 1918.
James died in 1921, five years after the death of his elder son. The family business continued to be listed at what is now 26 & 28 George Street until about 1929, when it seems his brother John closed down the business and retired.
John Stuart Cockburn, James’s younger brother, signed up on 15 January 1917 with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) as an Airman (3rd Class) two days before his 18th birthday. His service, however, dated from April 1917. He gave as his address 24 Mount Ararat Road, Richmond. However, in August of 1917, John was transferred to the 2/28th London Regiment (The Artists’ Rifles) the very same regiment which the RFC had advised the Cockburns’ near neighbour, William Palmer to join “to gain further training” before applying to join the RFC.
A chartered accountant and auditor, John Stuart Cockburn never married, but he did return to Ham, and was living at The Vicarage, Ham Common when his mother, Fanny, died there in 1933. John was the first Scoutmaster of the Ham Scout Troop and continued to reside at the Vicarage into the 1960s when Ernest Barton Beard, retired after 30 years as the Vicar of St Andrew’s. Ernest Beard died in 1966, and John Cockburn in 1972.
Like John, Ernest Beard had lost an older brother, David, during the Great War and their long friendship is likely to have begun after the war, when Ernest was appointed Curate in the parish of Richmond in 1922.
John was the first Scoutmaster of The Ham Troop, which was formed because of the success of the Choir Camps organised by St Andrew’s. This explains why many of the ‘founding’ Scouts were members of the St Andrew’s Choir. The Scouts’ early meetings were held at the Ham Institute, but the Troop later made use of the Vicarage grounds with the Court of Honour meetings held in the Vicarage sitting room, followed by tea and cakes provided by the Vicar’s housekeeper. The icing on the cake was the chance, sometimes, to play billiards after the meeting.
Sources and Places of Interest
Ham Scouts, ‘The first 50 years’, http://www.hamscouts.org.uk/history/50THANIV.html, accessed 2/7/2018.
The Regimental Roll of Honour and War Record of the Artists’ Rifles, 1/28th. 2/28th. 3/28th Battalions, London, 1922, https://archive.org/stream/regimentalrollof00highiala#page/n5/mode/2up, accessed 2/7/2018.
The National Archives, PROB 11/2243/528, ‘Will of James Robison Cockburn, Pawnbroker of Richmond, Surrey’, 31 December 1856.
The National Archives, WO 95/2956/1, War’ Diary of 1/14 Battalion London (London Scottish), 1/1/1916–31/5/1919.
Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive, Local History Notes, Richmond Green Properties, King Street to Friar’s Lane’, p.9.
Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive, Photograph of Red Cross Hospital, Richmond, c. 1915.
The Scottish National War Museum, in Edinburgh Castle
The Memorial to Scots serving in Scottish Regiments raised outside Scotland is in the area of the Museum designated as ‘M’. You do not have to buy a ticket to visit Edinburgh Castle if you only wish to visit the Scottish National War Memorial. Without a ticket, you may not visit any other part of the Castle, and that includes the various regimental museums. As the Scottish National War Memorial is at the highest point of the castle, you will get some amazing views as you make your way up through the castle grounds to the very top of the rock. I doubt anyone would stop you from taking a photograph of the vistas on the way.
Incidentally, you can visit the castle without an entry charge if you are a member of Historic Scotland or English Heritage, or are prepared to pay the entry fee. It is well worth the visit but allow plenty of time as there is so much to see.