Commander of the Order of the British Empire (military division) : Air Commodore A H Cobby, RAAF

Accession Number REL28778.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Enamel, Silver gilt
Maker Garrard & Co Ltd
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

CBE (military) in original case. Unnamed as issued.

History / Summary

Associated with the service of Air Commodore Arthur Henry 'Harry' Cobby. Cobby was born in Prahran, Victoria on 26 August 1894 and was a bank clerk on enlistment in the AIF on 23 December 1916. Cobby applied for, and received, a commission as a second lieutenant in the Australian Flying Corps (AFC), which was part of the AIF at the time. He had previously gained a commission as a second lieutenant in the militia, when he served with the 46th Infantry Battalion (Brighton Rifles) on 1 May 1914, before transferring to the 47th Infantry Battalion on 1 July 1915. Cobby embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, with 'A' Flight, 4 Squadron for England on 17 January 1917 aboard RMS Omrah.

Arriving at Plymouth on 27 March, Cobby was sent to Castle Bromwich for training. After learning to fly Sopwith Camels he arrived in France with 4 Squadron on 18 December. He shot down his first enemy aircraft on 3 February 1918 and by September had shot down 29 aircraft and 13 balloons becoming the highest scoring ace in the Australian Flying Corps. By the end of the war Cobby had been awarded the DSO and DFC with two bars, as well as being mentioned in despatches. Cobby was then posted to England as an instructor before returning to Australia in 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 24 July.

On 31 March 1921, Cobby became a foundation member of the newly formed Australian Air Force. He was promoted wing commander on 1 May 1933 but left the RAAF on 6 May 1935 and became a member of the Civil Aviation Board and its controller of operations in March 1936.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Cobby rejoined the RAAF and was promoted firstly to group captain then to air commodore. He served in a number of capacities including Air Officer Commanding Headquarters North-Eastern Area. In March 1944 he was awarded the George Medal for his outstanding bravery in rescuing survivors of an air crash in which he had been involved as a passenger.

In April 1945 as Air Officer Commanding, 1st Tactical Air Force on Morotai, Cobby was presented with the resignations of several high ranking personnel who were annoyed at flying dangerous operations against what they considered 'senseless unimportant ground targets'. Known as the 'Morotai Mutiny', the episode resulted in Cobby being relieved of his command on 10 May.

On 30 November he was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Governor General at Government House, Melbourne. The citation for his CBE reads: 'Air Commodore Cobby, DSO, DFC, has, for the past eighteen months, held the appointment of Air Officer Commanding in one of the most active areas in the RAAF. For the first six months (when No. 9 Operational) Group was a subordinate formation to North-Eastern area) he was responsible for administration of all RAAF units in New Guinea. To this extent he was responsible for the efficiency displayed by the RAAF at Milne Bay and Buna, and New Guinea generally. At all times he has ably commanded his area, which includes Dutch New Guinea and the units therein. Under his command, effective offensive operations have been conducted continuously against the enemy. In this regard, his able handling of the three Catalina Squadrons is worthy of particular mention. To these efforts must be added the G.R. work of his Beaufort Squadron, the successful interception and "strafing strikes" by his fighters, and good, steady, reliable work by all his other units. For 1943, his Area has flown most operational hours of any of the three forward formations. Air Commodore COBBY's efforts have taken the form of good leadership, personal example, keen understanding and continued encouragement.'

Post war, Cobby resumed his career in civil aviation and was appointed regional director, New South Wales, before becoming director of flying operations. He died suddenly on 11 November 1955 in Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital and was accorded full military honours at St Mary's Church of England, Caulfield.