Driver James Harrison Bourke

St Patrick’s Catholic School Roll of Honour 

Born: 12 October 1886 - Carlton, Victoria

Enlisted: 11 November 1914 aged 28

Unit: 5th Company, Australian Service Corps (SERN: 2781)

Served: Egypt & Gallipoli 

Died: 9 July 1956 - Heidelberg, Victoria 


James was a younger brother of Robert Ievers Bourke. Like Robert, James became an auctioneer, and was employed by Theo Little and Co (1). He enlisted in November 1914 at Stratford (2) and was assigned to the 5th Australian Army Service Corps as a driver. This unit provided horse transport and specialised support services to the 1st Light Horse Brigade. When that unit arrived at Gallipoli in May 1915, their horses and “wheels” were found to be useless due to the nature of the terrain and fighting, and so were left on the boats to return to Egypt. One man for every four horses was also sent back to Egypt (3). This explains why James never actually ended up landing at Gallipoli (4). Back in Egypt, James was thrown from his horse in June 1916, which aggravated an old hernia condition. James refused to have the necessary operation in Egypt, perhaps because of the poor sanitary conditions there, and was sent back to Australia as permanently unfit on medical grounds (5). 

After returning to Australia, James resumed his career as an auctioneer, being granted his licence at Stratford in November 1917 (6). He later worked in Sale, Bendigo and Fitzroy. Other jobs he held over the years included a stint running a hotel, another profession which also seemingly ran in the Bourke family. In April 1919, he married Margaret Ellen (Marjorie) Coloe of Stratford at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sale. Marjorie was well known in Gippsland musical circles. The marriage was celebrated by the Catholic Bishop of Sale, Dr Phelan (7), no doubt reflecting the very high esteem in which both families were held in the Sale Diocese. James and Marjorie were still living in Stratford in the 1930s, but later settled in St Kilda. They had no children.Despite his previous medical conditions, James enlisted for army service again during WWII, stating that he was six years younger than he really was in order to do so. James served in Australia as a clerk with the 6th Supply Personnel Company (V83370), and attained the rank of Lance Corporal. James was discharged from the Army in late 1943 when his hernia condition became an issue again (8). After the War, James returned to St Kilda. In later life, he suffered from significant ill health. His wife Marjorie died in April 1954, while James died in July 1956.



(1) Gippsland Mercury 19/9/1916, p.3

(2) and (4) NAA, CRS B2455, Bourke, H J

(3) AWM 4 10/1/9 Part 1 May 1915 - Unit Diary for 1st Light Horse Brigade 

(5) NAA CRS B73 M3563 

(6) Gippsland Mercury 30/11/1917, p. 3

(7) The Advocate 24/5/1919, p. 26

(8) NAA, CRS B884, V83370