John William Comberbach 1891-1967

John William Comberbach

John William Comberbach was born on 18th April 1891 in Blackburn, Lancashire, England. He was the son of John William Comberbach and Isabella nee Edmundson. He was one of three brothers who served together in Salonika in the Balkans. The three brothers were

John William Comberbach was a weaver when he enlisted on 17th January 1915. On enlistment he was described as:

  • Age: 23 years 9 months
  • Occupation: Weaver
  • Height: 5 feet 5¼ inches
  • Weight: 134lbs
  • Chest: 37½ with 3½ inch range
  • Vision: Right eye= 6 left eye = 18

He was originally assigned to the 9th (Service) Battalion Scottish Rifles as Private 16819 and briefly served in the British Expeditionary Force in France. On the 12th November 1915 he caught a troop ship at Marseilles in France and travelled to Salonika. He arrived there on 24th November 1916.
During his time in Salonika he was quickly reunited with his two brothers who were also serving there. On the 3rd April 1916 he transferred to the A Battery of the 115th Brigade of the RFA under para 333 (iv) Kings Regulations. This regulation states:

"To enable a younger brother to serve with an elder brother (both units being in the same country)"

Military Medal Presentation

There was an interesting ceremony at the meeting of the town Council on Thursday afternoon [4 April 1918], Bomb. John W. Comberbach, of the 115th Brigade, R.F.A., who resides at 2, St Barnabas street, being presented by the Mayor (Mr. L. Cotton, J.P.), with the Military Medal and the Serbian Silver Medal. The Town Clerk (Mr. Lewis Beard), read the official account of the deed for which Bomb. Comberbach was awarded the honours, as follows:-

“On the night of 8th-9th May [1917] he accompanied the Forward Observer Officer with the party attacking an enemy position. He and another signaller maintained communication throughout the night by lamp, under heavy shell fire, sending a constant stream of messages. He showed utmost coolness at all times. He has gone forward with attacking and raiding parties on several previous occasions. He was awarded the Serbian Silver Medal for his good work. Next morning he stayed till one of the last tending the wounded and helping them down the hill." (Applause).
The Mayor said he was sure every member of the Council would appreciate very much the record that had been read of Bomb. Comberbach’s valour on the battlefield. It had come to a great number of local lads up to now to receive honours, and distinctions in various ways, but few had received higher distinctions that those which had been awarded to Bomb. Comberbach. The latter had shown extreme valour in the field, and had done credit to himself, to the town, and also to his relatives and friends. He was pleased to see such a large attendance to witness the ceremony. The Mayor then pinned the medals on Bomb. Comberbach’s breast, amid applause. The recipient, in reply, remarked that he would rather go into battle than address them. (Laughter). From the hearty reception they had given him he could see that they took a big interest in what Blackburn lads were doing. (Applause).
Bomb. Comberbach’s two brothers, Arthur and George, are serving in Macedonia.

6th April 1918, page 4 Blackburn Times

In addition John William was awarded the Serbian Silver Medal, the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals. His engraved medals were returned for amendment in November 1921 as they had been engraved with the surname GUMBERBAGH.

Malaria in Salonika

30,000 soldiers were diagnosed as suffering with malaria in 1916; 63,000 in 1917 and by 1918 a staggering 67,000 men. The “Y Scheme” was established to repatriate and to treat soldiers never to return to this theatre of war. John William Comberbach had his treatment on 23rd April 1918 after being repatriated to the UK.

John William was transferred to Class “Z” Army Reserve on Demobilization on 19th February 1919.

John William Comberbach married Mary Lydia Moulding on 3 Aug 1918 at St Barnabas Parish Church, Blackburn, Lancashire, England. They had three children:

  • Mary Comberbach, 1922
  • Alan Comberbach, 1925 and
  • Edwin Comberbach, 1927.

John William Comberbach died in 1967 in Blackburn.

Medal Card




Regtl No.



Scottish Rifles



Royal Field Artillery






John William

Military Medal

















British War & Victory Medals returned for amendment CRV 458/B 3 Nov 1921

British War & Victory Medals reissued IV 774/B 29 May 1922

[1914-15 Star] returned for amendment CRV 284 3 Nov 1921 5695/adt reissued IV 456/A date 12 Dec 1921 5695/adt




 15 STAR












Theatre of War first served in

(1)     France


Date of entry therein

12 May 1915







5697/adt 5695/adv