Maldon: Historian campaigns for recognition for hero a hundred years after he died during the First World war

Ben Cobey with his pet dog. Ben Cobey with his pet dog.

Friday, January 17, 2014
4:00 PM

An Essex historian is hoping 2014 is the year a war hero from his town gets the recognition he deserves.

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Stephen NunnStephen Nunn

After decades of research, Stephen Nunn, Maldon’s deputy mayor, has stepped up his campaign to see former resident Ben Cobey awarded a Victoria Cross 100 years after he died in action during the First World War.

He has written to the Queen and tweeted Prime Minister David Cameron about the case of Mr Cobey, who was killed at the Battle of Mons, in Belgium, in August 1914 at the age of 19.

Cobey, a driver with the 37th Howitzer Battery, Royal Field Artillery, was shot and killed rescuing a horse-drawn gun while under heavy fire.

The three other men on the mission survived and were later awarded the Victoria Cross but Cobey received no posthumous honour for his sacrifice.

To make matters worse, his mother was not informed of his death until nine months later and when Maldon’s War Memorial was unveiled in 1921 Cobey’s name was not listed.

He was also not mentioned in the Roll of Honour on the wall of the church opposite where he was born.

Mr Nunn, who is also a historical consultant for the Maldon district, feels a ”great injustice” has been done and in 2010 fought successfully with members of Cobey’s descendants to have his name put on the memorial. He says there are several possible reasons why Cobey was overlooked.

“He was born out of wedlock, which in those days was frowned upon, and the authorities at the time wanted only live heroes as a testament to their victory,” he said.

“This man is not a member of my family, he is a Maldon-born lad. But, as I have researched the incident, I feel a great injustice has been done and that it is time to put the record straight.”

With ceremonies to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War due to take place later this year, Mr Nunn has garnered the support of his MP, John Whittingdale, and also written to the Veterans Minister and Minister for Defence stating his case.

Last week he received a reply from Buckingham Palace stating his request has been passed onto the Cabinet Office.

He added: “If Ben Cobey is ever going to be awarded a posthumous VC, then 2014 is the year it will happen. What a fantastic symbolic gesture – to award a brave soldier, who represents so many other unsung heroes, the medal he deserves a century after his death.”

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