The AIF Project

Charles BOURKE

Regimental number699
Date of birth6 January 1895
Place of birthCanowindra, New South Wales
ReligionChurch of England
AddressVale Road, Lithgow, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation20
Height5' 5"
Weight136 lbs
Next of kinJ Bourke, 'Wyoming', Vale Road, Lithgow, New South Wales
Previous military serviceServed for 4 years in the Senior Cadets; 2 years in the 47th Infantry, Citizen Military Forces.
Enlistment date21 August 1914
Place of enlistmentKensington, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name3rd Battalion D Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/20/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A14 Euripides on 19 October 1914
Rank from Nominal RollCorporal
Unit from Nominal Roll3rd Battalion
Other details from Roll of Honour CircularEnlisted 21 August 1914. Wounded at Gallipoli, 2 July 1915.
FateKilled in Action 21 July 1916
Date of death21 July 1916
Age at death22
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: John and Sarah (nee NICHOLAS) BOURKE; Brother: George William BOURKE, d. Gongolong, 11 May 1956
Other details

War service: Egypt, Gallipoli, Western Front

Embarked Alexandria to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli, 5 April 1915.

Wounded in action, 2 July 1915 (bullet wound, head/scalp); transferred by HS 'Neuralia' to Alexandria; disembarked, 9 July 1915, and admitted same day to 1st General Hospital, Cairo; discharged to duty, 22 July 1915.

Proceeded to rejoin Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, 4 November 1915; rejoined 3rd Bn, Gallipoli, 13 November 1915.

Medical report, 10 July 1915, stated: Bullet wounds of head & shoulder. Received 7 days ago. Four bullet wounds in head. Sinuses leading to skull. The wound over l[ef]t temporal bone just subcutaneous for about 1". Wound over vault of skull near front parietal suture, with bone apparently depressed. 2 wounds over occipital regions each leading down to skull. 2 woundsin neck just over ant border of left trapezius muscle. 2 small wounds over front of left arm. The bullets causing wounds are apparently still present, but can not be felt.'

Disembarked Alexandria, 29 December 1915 (general Gallipoli evacuation).

Found guilty, Tel el Kebir, 29 January 1916, of breaking Camp and remaining absent from 0600, 24 January, to 2315, 27 January 1916 (89 hours): awarded 7 days' Field Punishment No 2, and forfeited 4 days' pay.

Appointed Lance Corporal, 17 Febuary 1916.

Embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 22 March 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 28 March 1916.

Appointed Temporary Corporal, 20 May 1916; Corporal, 8 July 1916.

Killed in action, 21 July 1916.

Handwritten note on Form B103: 'Buried 'in the vicinity of Pozieres (57 SE X 4 B1056 Sheet 3).

Grave subsequently lost.

Statement, Red Cross File No 04703041, 3124 Pte R.S. KELLY, C Company, 3rd Bn, 28 December 1916: 'I know him quite well. He was killed the 21-7-16 right enough. I was within arms [sic] reach of him when it happened. He was fairly dark chap, medium size, and was made a full corporal about a week before he was killed[.] I am making no mistake about him, so you will be quite right in telling his people what I have told you.'

Second statement, S. RAY [775 Pte S.R. RAY?], C Company, 3rd Bn (patient, Duchess of Connaught Hospital, Taplow, Bucks, England), 18 December 1916: 'He was killed by a shell in the support trenches at Pozieres about 21-7-16 ... There is [sic] doubts about his death but of you wish to make further enquiries, the Chaplain of the 3rd Battalion would be able to supply them.'

Third statement, 1454 Pte A. KENNERWELL [AKA J.A. BITTERS], 3rd Bn (patient, 2nd Southern General Hospital, Southmead, Bristol, England), 30 December 1916: 'Bourke was blown to bits by shell on July 21, 1916. I saw the remains of his body. He was not buried. This occurred at Pozieres.'

Fourth statement, 2656 Pte P. HOOKER, Machine Gun Section, 3rd Bn, 24 November 1916: 'He was killed in the same sap with me on 22nd July at Pozieres, the night before we hopped over ... I heard about his death immediately after it occurred. The body was buried in the open near the sap.'

Fifth statement, 3835 Pte W.L. MORRIS, 3rd Bn (patient, 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Harefield, England), 20 November 1916: 'On the Somme in Reserve Trench before we went over - he was killed by a shell - he was buried same night right opposite to where he was killed.'

Sixth statement, 3200 Pte W. ROGERS, 3rd Bn (patient, 2nd Southern General Hospital, Southmead, Bristol, England), 23 November 1916: 'I and three others buried Bourke behind what was our support trench prebious to the charge on Pozieres on July 23rd. There was nothing erected over the grave as heavy firing was going on at the time.'

Seventh statement, 718 Pte W.H. ETCHELL, 3rd Bn (patient, Dudley Road Hospital, Birmingham, England), 26 November 1916: 'On or about July 21st, at Pozieres, [I] was very near Corporal Bourke when he was hit by shrapnel when in a support trench and killed immediately. At midnight, his body was fetched over the parapet, and Informant helped to bury him, the burial service being read by the Regimental Chaplain.'

Eighth statement, 2668 Lance Corporal F.R. HOPSON, 3rd Bn (patient, Duchess of Connaught Hospital, Taplow, Bucks, England), 13 November 1916: 'Informant states that on July 21st, near Pozieres, L/Cpl Bourke was killed outright by shrapnel, and was buried by his mates. Informant thinks Capt. Wilson, 3rd Batt. was present. He was buried after nightfall on the day of his death.'

Note on file: 'No trace Germany. Cert. by Capt. Mills. 10.10.19.'

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, BOURKE Charles
Red Cross File No 04703041

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