Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

John Jeken Cockburn

John Jeken Cockburn :

John Jeken Cockburn : (L to R) Crimea Medal with clasps 'Alma', 'Balaklava', 'Inkermann', 'Sebastopol'; Turkish Crimea Medal (British Issue)

(L to R) Crimea Medal with clasps 'Alma', 'Balaklava', 'Inkermann', 'Sebastopol'; Turkish Crimea Medal (British Issue)

John was born in around 1830 in Quebec, Canada. We don't know anything about his family or his early life.

On the 17th March 1848 John was commissioned as an Ensign in the 63rd Regiment of Foot. They had returned from India in late 1847 and were stationed in the UK at the time. They had moved to Limerick in Ireland by April 1851.

It was common for officers or their families to purchase commissions in the Regular Army and then to purchase higher ranks when there was a vacancy. John had not purchased his commission, but he did purchase a promotion to Lieutenant on the 9th September 1851.

The 63rd Regiment moved to Dublin the next year. The Crimean War broke out in October 1853, and Britain and France declared war on Russia in March 1854. At first the 63rd Regiment was not intended to take part in this fighting, but in June it was ordered to prepare to go to war. John arrived in the Crimea, then in Russia but today part of the Ukraine, in September 1854.

John and the 63rd Regiment played a minor role in the Battle of the Alma on the 20th September. They then moved to Cathcart's Hill, where they joined the siege of Sevastopol. The Russians attacked these forces at the Battle of Balaklava on the 25th October. John took part in this battle, which ended in a Russian victory and led to a much larger battle on the 5th November, at Inkerman.

The 63rd lost a large number of officers at Inkerman; this could well be why John did not have to purchase his promotion to Captain on the 29th December.

The war ended in February 1856, but John left the Crimea and the 63rd Regiment on the 16th November due to ill health. He was in London in May 1855, and on the 18th he received his Crimea Medal from Queen Victoria on Horse Guard's Parade. John was one of 10 soldiers from the 63rd to receive their medal at this large parade. Afterwards all the soldiers, sailors and marines who had been presented with medals were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. John and the other officers took lunch in the palace.

John's Army career was drawing to a close. He resigned his commission on the 10th August 1855. We don't know what he did as a civilian; in the 1861 Census he gave his profession as 'Fundholder'. In 1871 he entered 'Dividends' which suggests his income came from investments.

On the 5th October 1857 John was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the City of Edinburgh Regiment of Artillery Militia. The Militia was made up of soldiers who lived as civilians and trained for a short period every year. John was promoted to First Lieutenant on the 12th May 1859, and then to Captain on the 22nd March 1860. He resigned his commission on the 27th May 1861.

Between January and March 1872 John married Edith Harison in the Eastbourne area of Sussex. They had 5 children: John W in around 1873, Edith Maud in around 1875, Rudolf Jeken in around 1877, Devereux Shipley in around 1879, and Beatrice Violet Jane in around 1885.

In 1881 the family lived at 48 Cavendish Place in Eastbourne. They had moved to Blatchington, Sussex by 1891 and to 29 Grafton Road in Acton, West London by 1901. John and Edith would live here for the rest of their lives. As recently as 1989 there was still a Cockburn living at 29 Grafton Road.

By 1911 John and Edith were sharing their home with Beatrice, Edith, her husband Lionel and their 2 children Eileen and Mary. Sadly Eileen died between January and March 1912, aged just 10.

John died on the 2nd June 1912. He was 82 years old. Edith was 19 years younger than John, and she lived until the 22nd January 1941, when she died in Godalming, Surrey aged 92.

Deveraux joined the Inland Water Transport Branch of the Royal Engineers during the First World War and was killed on the 2nd September 1917. His service number was 149728 and he is buried in Dunkirk Town Cemetery. Rudolph died in South Africa aged 89 on the 30th June 1966.

John's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in mid 1938.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council