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Hello Everyone

Another group from my collection. I have done a little research but have not done the full research as yet. A world war one MM + Trio and Delville Wood Survivor. Unfortunately no death plaque with the group :(

1. Military Medal Geo V - 5303 Sgt E.L Coomber 4/S.A INF

2. 1914/15 Star - Pte E.L Coomber 12th Infantry

3. 1914/15 BWM - Sjt E.L Coomber 4th S.A.I

4. Victory Medal - Sjt E.L Coomber 4th S.A.Ied

Died 10th October 1918

Coomber is mentioned in The London Gazette as follows;

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 12 November for 13 NOVEMBER, 1918. Page # 13401;

His Majesty the KING has. been graciously

pleased to approve of the award of the Military

Medal for bravery in the Field to the. undermentioned

Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned

Officers and men: — SOUTH AFRICAN FORCE:

5303 Sjt. E. L. Coomber, Inf.

I also looked Sergeant COOMBER up on the Commonwealth War Graves web site. He is listed as having died on 8 October 1918. This was during the "Pursuit to the Mons" period of pre-Armistice fighting.

With regards to the military Military Medal a check on the book The History of the South African Forces in France, John Buchan, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, London, 1920, 404 pages. Sergeant COOMBER is listed among the 431 MM recipients shown in the book.

Mr. Don R. Forsyth in his book Medals for Gallantry and Distinguished Conduct Awarded to Natal, Cape Colony and Union Defence Force Units, privately published, Johannesburg, 1981, 62 pages; also lists Sergeant COOMBER as an MM winner, along with the gazette date. Breaking down Mr. Forsyth's numbers, he claims to have traced 525 awards of the MM to South Africans in the Great War. Of these he shows 443 awards for France & Flanders, 37 awards for East Africa, 21 awards for the GSWA campaign, 20 awards where no theatre of war is shown, and four MMs were awarded for service in Egypt/Palestine. ( In addition there were 17 first award bars given for France and one for East Africa. ) Mr. Forsyth notes that most MM citations were "weeded" from the service files several years before he began his research. With about 115,000 total awards of the MM in the Great War any MM group to a South African is a cause for celebration.

What I would like to know is, how did he manage to survive the fighting at Delville Wood as well as the later Somme battles, survived 3rd Ypres in 1917, missed out on the action at Marriers Wood on 24 March 1918 (when the South African Brigade was destroyed and all men serving that day either killed or captured), only to die within six weeks of the end of the fighting.

I am looking forward to getting his full research.

If any of the forum members can share any information they may have on Coomber or his regiment, I would be grateful.


Anthony Govender

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That would be a group for me too. Perhaps he was just very lucky to have survived up until Oct. 1918.

I have a book which says awards gazetted 13th Novemver 1918 (you may already know this) were for actions in July and August.

Please post any research you find.


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Incredible group. What a story too. I was actually in Delville Wood yesterday and at the South African memorial. To have survived that encounter in itself was an achievement. Over 3000 other ranks went into the wood n 16.06.12 and by 20.06.12 when they were relieved it was less than 140 that came out. The South African memorial is quite the most moving memorial.

That is a fantastic grouping.

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An excellent group and well worthy of further research.

I am almost sure the research would also describe his movements and you will then be able to determine what other actions he participated in.

I am fortunate to have two military medal groups for Delville Wood to South African participants.

One was awarded a bar to his MM at Ypres in 1917 and survived the war despite having been wounded 4 times!

The other recipient was awarded his MM for a trench raid on the 15th of July during the initial engagements in Delville Wood but was unfortunately mortally wounded during the action and he died a few weeks later.

There were a number of survivors who unfortunately did not survive the war.

I have a death plaque to one of them who "died at sea".

Thank you for posting.

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You have a wonderful medal group there.

As background reading, and if not already obtained or seen, I can easily recommend;

- PYRAMIDS AND POPPIES; The 1st SA Infantry Brigade in Libya, France and Flanders 1915-1919 (Peter K.A. Digby, ISBN 1874800537)

The book - masterfully written - is lavishly illustrated, with much of the images being taken from the archives of the Transvaal Scottish RHQ and Museum, from whose ranks many of the 'Jocks' in 4th South African Infantry (a.k.a. South African Scottish) were drawn

Yours aye,


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Try Audrey at rhino.research@icon.co.za for research. She has carried out research for me, I think it took just a few days, 5 maybe, from first contact to receiving the research by email.


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