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Harry Cobby received a commission in the 48th Infantry, Brighton Rifles, when he was 18 years old. When the First World War broke out he tried to go to war and fight with the AIF but his employer refused to release him. Harry eventually enlisted with the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in 1916. After minimal flying instruction at Point Cook, he went to England with 4 Squadron RAAF in March 1917. Cobby went on to become the AFC's most successful Ace in WWI with a total of 29 confirmed kills. 

Harry became one of the founding members of the new Royal Australian Air Force in 1921. He resigned in 1936 having achieved the rank of Wing Commander. He rejoined the RAAF when WW2 broke out in Europe. Group Captain A.H. Cobby was made Director of Recruiting on 25 July 1940.  

Air Commodore A.H. Cobby took over as Air Officer Commanding North-eastern Area (AOC NEA) from Air Commodore Lukis on 25 August 1942. His North-eastern Area Headquarters were located in the old Commonwealth building in Sturt Street, Townsville. In April 1943, Air Commodore Cobby had the following RAAF Squadrons under his command:-


7 Squadron General-reconnaissance Beauforts Ross River airfield, Townsville
9 Squadron Fleet cooperation Seagulls Bowen
11 Squadron General-reconnaissance Catalinas Cairns
20 Squadron General-reconnaissance Catalinas Cairns


Welcoming ceremony for Brigadier General Walker, the Commanding Officer of
Fifth Bomber Command, at the RAAF Officer's Mess, North Eastern Area HQ.
Air Commodore A.H. Cobby can seen in the centre of the photo with the pipe.


While in Townsville, Cobby lived in a flat on Melton Hill rented from a Mr Emmerson. (Can anyone please confirm its location? Or put me in touch with the Emmerson family)

Ethel May Pepperday (105971) was Air Commodore Cobby's secretary during WW2. She enlisted in the WAAAF's in Sydney, NSW on 29 August 1942. May Pepperday was discharged from the WAAAF's on 25 March 1946 while posted to 11 Stores Depot in Townsville

Cobby was luck to survive the crash of RAAF PBY-5 Catalina, A24-52, of 11 Squadron into Cleveland Bay at Townsville, while attempting to land in rough conditions on 7 September 1943. Thirteen were killed in this crash with only six survivors. Harry was awarded the George Medal for his efforts in rescuing the few survivors of this tragic crash.


ahcobby01.jpg (554386 bytes)
 via Chris Stephens

Cartoon in "The Argus"
Saturday 1 April 1944

Click on picture above to enlarge it


Air Commodore A.H. Cobby went on to become the Commandant of the RAAF Staff College from 1943 to 1944. Harry had a few clashes with Wing Officer Clare Stevenson, Director of the WAAAF's. 

Air Commodore Cobby was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) on 16 June 1944.

Harry Cobby became Air Officer Commanding 10 (Operational) Group RAAF in August 1944 after Air Commodore Scherger was injured in a jeep accident. 10 Group  was renamed as the First Tactical Air Force, RAAF on 25 October 1944. 

In April 1945 a number of high ranking officers at Morotai resigned in protest at their annoyance at what they considered "senseless unimportant ground targets". Cobby became a casualty of this so called "Morotai Mutiny" and lost his role as AOC First Tactical Air Force. He resigned from the RAAF on 19 August 1946 and went on to hold senior positions in the Department of Civil Aviation until he died on 11 November 1955 (Armistice Day).


Photo:- from Graeme Blair via Chris Stephens

Air Commodore A.H. Cobby's Funeral. The Reverend in the centre is Air Commodore
E. F. (Franklin) Cooper. He was Principal Chaplain (CE) RAAF 1941/1950's. He was
the Vicar of St.Mary's Church of England, Caulfield. This was the Cobby's family church.


Photo:- from Graeme Blair via Chris Stephens

Air Commodore A.H. Cobby's Funeral


Photo:- from Graeme Blair via Chris Stephens

Air Commodore A.H. Cobby's Funeral



I'd like to thank May Gerber (nee Pepperday) for her assistance with this home page. S/O May Pepperday was Air Commodore Cobby's secretary.



Who's who in Australian Military History (AWM)


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This page first produced 7 October 2004

This page last updated 03 February 2017