We Have Our Lives

Elijah Cobham
  • Born Waterloo, Merseyside, November 1880
  • Died Mihambia, German East Africa, 19th September 1917
  • Age36
  • RankChaplain 4th Class
  • RegimentArmy Chaplains' Department
  • Unitattached King's African Rifles

Elijah Cobham

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Elijah was born in Waterloo, a few miles north of Liverpool, to 42-year-old parents John and Martha. It was a large family – Elijah had one younger and three older sisters, and three older brothers. John, a pub landlord, had died by the time Elijah was ten, and the family later moved to Painswick in Gloucestershire.

Elijah went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and then on to theological college to train for the priesthood. He became Vicar of All Saints Church in Fishponds in 1911, a year after it was granted parish status. He lived in the Vicarage on Stoke View Road, which is now owned by an engineering firm. He left Bristol a year before the war to become a Chaplain in Nakuru, in East Africa. This was for the Colonial and Continental Church Society, a Church of England missionary organisation now known as the Intercontinental Church Society.

When war broke out Elijah entered training to become a Padre, and in September 1917 was Chaplain 4th Class Reverend Elijah Cobham, attached to the King’s African Rifles in German East Africa (which encompassed Burundi, Rwanda and most of Tanzania). He was killed on the 19th, under most heroic circumstances at a bloody battle at Mihambia.

Efforts were made to recover the wounded and Elijah recovered a wounded Major. It appeared that the Germans watching him held their fire. Elijah returned to the battlefield to evacuate other casualties, but he then attracted enemy fire and was mortally wounded. For his gallant conduct on the battlefield Elijah Cobham was awarded the Military Cross. The statement accompanying the medal that his family received read: "He met his death in attempting to bring in wounded under heavy fire. He had already rescued two men and was shot whilst bringing in a third. An officer who exercised a great power for good over all ranks, and one who could ill be spared". Elijah was buried at Dar Es Salaam War Cemetery.

The circumstances of Elijah's death bear a striking similarity to those of George Merrikin, our precentor who died in May 1918.