Ernest Radcliffe Cockburn, the son of Robert Aldolphus Cockburn and Mabel Rose Radcliffe, was born in Kensington, London on 17th September 1875. In 1881 he was living at 20 St Stephens Road, Paddington with his parents, two brothers and a sister. He was educated at Harrow between 1888 and 1893. By 1881 the family had moved to 57 Leinster Square, Paddington. However his father Robert had died in 1889. His mother died two years later in 1893. On 11th November 1893 he joined the Army and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment. On 24th April 1895 he was promoted Lieutenant. On 14th May 1897 he joined the Wiltshire Regiment.
On 20th December 1899 at St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square, London, he married Jean Henderson Rodgers a native of Selkirk, Scotland. The marriage planned for January was brought forward as he was under orders for South Africa.
He served in The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment) during the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. He took part in the operations to relieve the besieged garrison in the diamond mining town of Kimberley, seeing action at the battles of Diamond Hill, Paardeburg and Witterbergen. As the war progressed into it’s second phase in 1900 the need for more mobile mounted infantry increased, Ernest Cockburn served with the mounted infantry being one of only thirty-one men and one of only three officers to receive the combination of bars to his Queen’s South Africa Medal. Transferring to the Manchester Regiment in 1901, he was specially promoted to Captain, continuing to serve with the mounted infantry of the regiment. His service in South Africa qualified him for the:
Queen’s South Africa Medal – bars Relief of Kimberley, Paardeburg, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill and Wittebergen.
King’s South Africa Medal – bars South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902.
1908 saw him transferring back to the Wiltshire Regiment as Adjutant of the 3rd Battalion. In 1911 he is shown as a Captain at Le Marchant Barracks, Roundway, Devizes. He retired in 1912.
During the Great War he served as a Major in the Reserve of Officers, not qualifying for any medals. On 7th June 1918 he was appointed ‘Secretary to the Territorial Force Association of the County of Ayr’ and ‘Assistant Director of Engineering Work, Department of the Controller-General for Merchant Shipbuilding, Admiralty’. His service as Secretary Ayrshire Territorial Force Association from 1912 to 1919 earned him an O.B.E. military in 1918.
1918 saw him appointed as Chief Constable of Ayrshire County Constabulary. He got the appointment by the casting vote of the Chairman of the Standing Joint Committee. The salary was £600 a year. He held the post for eleven years before being appointed Chief Constable of Hampshire County Constabulary.
On 29th October 1928 he was appointed Chief Constable of Hampshire, subject to confirmation of the Home Secretary. There were 136 applicants for the post, the holder of which controlled over 300 constables.
On Thursday June 9th 1938 the Birthday Honours, King George VI’s first, included the award of CBE (Civil Division) to Major Ernest Radcliffe Cockburn, OBE, Chief Constable of Hampshire.
He died at Kings Cross Railway Station on 15th September 1955.