Biography

Birth date: 26 August 1894
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Prahran
Death date: 11 November 1955
Final rank: Air-Commodore
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • Royal Australian Air Force
  • NE Area HQ
  • Australian Flying Corps
  • No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps

Harry Cobby was born in Prahran, Melbourne, on 26 August 1894. At the age of 18 Cobby received a commission in the 48th Infantry (Brighton Rifles) and when the First World War began he was quick to offer himself to the AIF. However, his employer, the Commonwealth Bank, refused to release him. Cobby finally enlisted in the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in 1916 despite a self-confessed lack of interest in flying.

In October 1916 Cobby was sent to Point Cook for flying instruction. There he became an original member of No. 4 Squadron, AFC. With no more than 30 minutes of flying instruction behind him, Cobby arrived in England with the squadron in March 1917. By December, having now learnt to fly Sopwith Camels, the squadron was in France. Although their training had ended, Cobby - who had only flown solo for 12 hours - noted the squadron was made up of novices.

In February 1918 he made the first of his 29 kills, the highest score by a member of the AFC. By May, Cobby was an experienced combat airman, having flown against enemy aircraft and participated in low-level attacks against German troops during their March offensive. The latter, which subjected an aircraft to sustained ground fire, was a particularly dangerous undertaking. On 21 May Cobby shot down the first of 13 German observation balloons; like ground strafing, this brought a pilot dangerously close to ground fire. On 25 May 1918 Cobby was promoted to captain, having by now regularly led his flight on operations.

In June 1918 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross; less than a month later he received a bar to that decoration. On 16 August he led an attack on a German airfield at Harboudin, the largest bombing raid carried out by the Allies in France to that date. He led a similar raid the next day and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In September Cobby returned to England as an instructor; he was still trying to rejoin a combat unit when the war ended.

Cobby led the AFC fly-past over London on ANZAC Day 1919. In 1921 he became a foundation member of the newly formed RAAF, resigning in 1936 with the rank of wing commander. When the Second World War began, Cobby returned to the RAAF. He served in a number of capacities and, as an air commodore, won the George Medal in 1943 for 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 personal 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's sacking. He left the RAAF in 1946 and joined the Department of Civil Aviation, where he held senior appointments until his death on 11 November 1955.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
  • Date of embarkation: 17 January 1917
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
  • Date of embarkation: 17 January 1917
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Recommended for: Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: George Medal
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Military Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Military Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: George Medal
  • Unit: Royal Australian Air Force
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Unit: NE Area HQ
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: United States Medal of Freedom
  • Unit: Royal Australian Air Force
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: 2nd Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Collection Items

Photograph

Film

Digitised Collection

Timeline

Date of birth 1894-08-26 Prahran, VIC.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1916 Australian Flying Corps.
Other 1916-10 Sent to Point Cook for flying instruction and to join the No 4 Squadron, AFC.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917
Date of embarkation 1917-01-17
Other 1917-03 Arrived in England with the No 4 Sqaudron.
Other 1917-12 No 4 Squadron was posted to France.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918
Date promoted 1918-05-25 Promoted to captain.
Date of honour or award 1918-07-02 Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-07-16
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-08-20
Other 1918-09 Returned to England as an instructor.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-09-03
Date of honour or award 1918-09-21 Awarded 2 bars to the Dintinguished Service Cross on the same day.
Date of honour or award 1918-11-02 Distinguished Service Order (DSO).
Other 1919-04-25 Cobby led the Australian Flying Corps fly past over London on Anzac Day.
Date returned to Australia 1919-05-06
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1921-03-31 Enlisted in the RAAF.
Date of discharge 1936 Resigned from the RAAF with the Rank of Wing Commander.
Date and unit at appointment (Officers) 1939 Returned to RAAF.
Date of honour or award 1943 Recieved George Medal (GM) for rescuing the his fellow survivors of an air crash.
Date of honour or award 1944-06-16 Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Date of discharge 1946-08-19 Left the RAAF.
Date of death 1955-11-11