Lieutenant Wallace Allan Cochrane was born at Toowoomba in Queensland on 15th March 1920 to Lot Haynes Cochrane and Eva May Cochrane (nee Hooker) He completed his primary schooling at the East State School in Toowoomba and then attended the Toowoomba Grammar School. At the age of 20 years and 2 months, he was enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Toowoomba in Queensland on 21st May 1940 after swearing the statutory oath that he would serve in the armed forces for the duration of the war and an additional 12 months. At the time of his enlistment, he was unmarried, employed as a Clerk and residing with his family at 215 Hume Street in Toowoomba. He gave his next-of-kin as his father, Lot Haynes Cochrane at 215 Hume Street in Toowoomba. He stated that he was of the Presbyterian religion. His physical description on enlistment was that he had dark brown hair and grey eyes.
Lieutenant Wallace Cochrane, on the day that he enlisted, was allotted the regimental number of QX5560 and he joined the Northern Command A.I.F. Reception Depot. He was sent to the 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Battalion at Enoggera on 26th May 1940. He later trained at the Redbank Camp and he left there on 23rd June 1940 and proceeded to the E.C. School at Liverpool Camp in New South Wales where he completed No. 2 Potential Officers Course that was held during the period 24th June until 16th August 1940. During the course, he was promoted to the rank of Acting Sergeant on 12th July 1940. He rejoined the 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Battalion at Redbank Camp on 19th August 1940. He was sent to the S.A. School in Sydney on 31st August 1940 and rejoined the 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Battalion at Redbank Camp on 15th November 1940. He was transferred to the Machine Gun Training Company at the Grovely Camp on 26th December 1940 as an instructor.
Wallace Cochrane was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 10th March 1941 and his promotion was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 85/41. He was allocated to the 2nd Reinforcements of the 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Battalion on 13th March 1941. He proceeded to the 11th Training Battalion at Redbank on 16th March 1941 and on the following day he proceeded on pre-embarkation leave during the period 17th March until 25th March 1941. He left Redbank Camp on 7th April 1941 and travelled by train to Sydney where he embarked by ship on the following day.
He disembarked from the ship in the Middle East on 3rd May 1941 where he joined the Machine Gun Training Battalion in Palestine. He attended Chemical Warfare Course at the (Middle East) Tactical School during the period 22nd July until 8th August 1941. He attended the Australian Imperial Force (Middle East) Infantry School during the period 7th September until 23rd October 1941. He qualified at both courses. He left the Machine Gun Training Battalion on 31st October 1941 and joined the 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Battalion later that day. In June 1942, the 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Battalion as part of the 9th Division, returned to Egypt to reinforce the British Eighth Army that had retreated to Alamein. It fought alongside the infantry in defending the Alamein line.
Whist commanding No. 3 Platoon of “A” Company of his battalion near Tel El Eisa Ridge, he was wounded on 10th July 1942 and he died as a result of his wounds on 11th July 1942. At the time of his death, Wallace Cochrane was 22 years of age. He was buried in Grave No. 6 at Elimayad. After the war, his remains were interred in the El Alamein War Cemetery in Egypt. His family placed the following inscription upon his headstone in the El Alamein War Cemetery: “Jesus called him O’er the tumult of our life’s wild restless sea”. For his service during World War 2, Wallace Cochrane was awarded the 1939/1945 Star, the Africa Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal and the Australian Service Medal. His medal entitlement was sent to his father on 21st May 1952.
Lieutenant Wallace Cochrane’s name is commemorated on Panel No. 74 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and locally on the Toowoomba Mothers’ Memorial, the Toowoomba Soldiers’ Memorial Hall World War 2 Honour Board, the Toowoomba Grammar School World War 2 Honour Board and St Stephens Church Honour Board. As a former Toowoomba Grammar School Student, who brought honour to his school and country, his name is recorded in John K. Winn’s publication, “Toowoomba Grammar School – Steadfast, Brave and True”, published by the Toowoomba Grammar School in 2010.
The 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Battalion War Diary records that Lieutenant Wallace Cochrane was the officer commanding No. 3 Platoon, A Company of the Battalion that was supporting the 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion during its attack on Tel El Eisa Ridge. The following entry gives details on the circumstances of Wallace Cochrane’s wounding:
“In the afternoon the 2nd/48th Battalion moved southward and reached the railway line east of Tel El Eisa Station. Lieutenant Cochrane’s platoon moved forward with the two companies of the 2nd/48th Battalion, C and D, and took up defensive positions near the railway line. About 1430 hours, German tanks swept right through Lieutenant Cochrane’s positions and overran the area. The enemy tank crews endeavoured to crush the personnel, who were sheltering in their slit trenches (at that time only about 18 inches deep), by running the tank tracks down the trench. Lieutenant Cochrane, Officer commanding No. 3 Platoon of A Company was mortally wounded shortly after the platoon first took up their position near the railway line, and though he reached the Medical Dressing Station, he died the next morning.
Wallace Cochrane’s photograph and the following obituary appeared in the local newspaper shortly after his parents were notified of his death.
Mr and Mrs L.H. Cochrane, 215 Hume Street, Toowoomba, have received notification from the Minister for the Army that their fifth son, Lieutenant Wallace Alan Cochrane, died of wounds on July 11. Lieutenant Cochrane joined the A.I.F. in May 1940, and was drafted for overseas service in Palestine, Syria and Egypt. He was an old boy of the Toowoomba Grammar School. After leaving school he was employed on the clerical staff of the Downs Co-operative Bacon Factory. Lieutenant “Wally” Cochrane was well known in Toowoomba, particularly by the men of the old 25th Battalion. Lieutenant Cochrane’s brother Douglas is serving overseas with his late brother’s battalion, and his eldest brother, Rupert, is a member of the R.A.A.F. Another brother, Bill, was discharged from the A.I.F. some time ago. Lieutenant Cochrane was 22 years of age.
Wallace’s brother, Douglas Clive Cochrane, QX10201, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Toowoomba on 24th June 1940 and eventually served as a Warrant Officer Class 2 in anti-gas warfare instruction. He was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on 4th February 1946.
Wallace’s brother, William Hooker Cochrane, QX16422, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Toowoomba on 18th July 1940. He was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on 31st July 1940.
Wallace’s brother, Rupert Gordon Cochrane, 272697, enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was discharged from the R.A.A.F. on 18th September 1945. Prior to enlisting in the R.A.A.F. he was employed as a School Teacher at Dalby and Mackay in Queensland. He served as a Navigator in the R.A.A.F. and achieved the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He saw active service in Papua/New Guinea with No. 20 Squadron flying operations using Catalina aircraft. At the time of his discharge, he was serving with No. 2 Flying Boat Repair Unit. He was a member of the 25th Battalion Cadet Colour Party at the opening of Federal Parliament in 1927. He was educated at the Toowoomba High School & Technical College during the years 1926 and 1927.
Toowoomba Grammar archives records show that he enrolled as a day student on 3oth January 1934 and left the School on 17th April 1935. His parent was shown as Lot Haynes Cochrane, Farmer & Wheat Classifier, Toowoomba. After leaving school he was employed as a Clerk at the Downs Cooperative Bacon Factory.