Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2006, Corporal John Johnston Cosby, 1st Battalion, the Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, was killed in Iraq.
He had been involved in an operation involving the search of a building which contained a large cache of weapons and explosives and to capture two terrorists in North Basra. During the operation he and his colleagues came under small arms fire. Corporal Cosby was shot in the head, and although transported to hospital, he could not be saved. The inquest heard that the fragments removed from his skull came from the British Army’s standard combat rifle, and it was determined that the soldier whose gun was a match was not aware that he had fired the fatal bullet. The coroner said that Corporal Cosby’s family and their lawyer had to fight for documents to find out the truth; the family found out that it had been a “friendly fire” situation when it had been confirmed in the press.
Corporal Cosby had joined the army in 1998. He passed the Close Observation Platoon course and spent two years as second-in-command of a team on operations in Northern Ireland. After excelling in that role he attended the Section Commanders’ Battle Course and went on to gain the Instructor’s Grade Pass, a rare thing. He then joined the Reconnaissance Platoon, reserved for the top percentage of infantry soldiers, and achieved a Distinction on his gunnery course. In Iraq he became team commander in the Brigade Surveillance Company and excelled on the Covert Surveillance Course. He is remembered as a well-liked, well-respected, enthusiastic and compassionate soldier.
Lieutenant Colonel Toffer Beattie said of him: “Corporal Cosby (commonly as ‘Gorgeous’ George), was a monumental Battalion personality. An Ulsterman in a West Country Regiment he was always going to stand out, but he did so for all the right reasons. First and foremost he was an infantry Junior Non-Commissioned Officer in the finest tradition…..tough, determined and a talented low-level tactician. John’s sense of humour was perhaps his most memorable characteristic. His Northern Irish wit meant that a clever observation or delightfully unexpected turn of phrase was never far below the surface. He always saw the lighter side of a situation; he instinctively understood that humour is a force multiplier. He was leading from the front, he was putting the success of the mission and the safety of his men before his own, just as we would have expected from such a well loved and respected soldier.”
John, born in Belfast and raised in Exeter, was 32 years old.