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Bourne, George Herbert (1881–1959)

by M. W. Farmer

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

George Herbert Bourne (1881-1959), soldier and bank manager, was born on 21 November 1881 in Brisbane, son of John Sumner Pears Bourne, civil servant, and his wife Jane Elizabeth, née Hockings. Educated at Queensland state schools and Brisbane Grammar School, he joined the Bank of New South Wales in 1898 and was stationed at Brisbane until 1907, then at Toowoomba until 1913. In 1905 he joined the Commonwealth Military Forces, was commissioned second lieutenant in the 14th Australian Light Horse Regiment in 1908 and by World War I was a major.

Bourne enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 21 August 1914 and was appointed to the 2nd L.H.R. as major commanding 'B' Squadron. The unit reached Egypt in December and in May 1915 was sent to Gallipoli to fight as infantry; there it served at Quinn's Post and Pope's Hill. In the general offensive of 7 August he took temporary command of the regiment whose role was to attack Turkish positions near Quinn's Post in four successive waves. The first wave was annihilated and, realizing that similar attempts must meet the same fate, he ordered his men to stay in the trenches. This decision, which saved many men from certain death, was endorsed by higher authority. On 20 September Bourne was evacuated because of illness.

Rejoining the 2nd L.H.R. in Egypt on 12 March 1916, he participated in the advance into Sinai and in the many patrols and reconnaissances that preceded the battle of Romani on 3-5 August. Bourne was made commanding officer of his regiment on 27 June and was patrolling with it when the Turks attacked an outpost line on the night of 3 August. Against great odds, the light horsemen held up their advance until reinforcements arrived at dawn. He was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order for 'conspicuous gallantry' in this engagement and in the subsequent advance to Katia and Bir-el-Abd. In September he was promoted lieutenant-colonel and two months later his regiment joined Major General Sir Philip Chetwode's Desert Column which defeated Turkish forces at Magdhaba and Rafa. Evacuated sick on 13 January 1917, Bourne returned to duty for the second battle of Gaza, and from October 1917 to February 1918 was brigade commander. He resumed regimental command for the advance into the Jordan valley. In the fierce fighting at Abu Tellul the 2nd L.H.R. 'fought doggedly in the face of irresistible odds'. Charles Bean was later to describe Bourne's leadership as 'cool and admirable' and the work of the regiment as 'never excelled in the career of the light horse'. He contracted malaria late in August and resumed duty only two weeks before the armistice with Turkey.

Bourne's A.I.F. appointment was terminated in June 1919, when he rejoined the Bank of New South Wales. In 1921-24, while stationed at Brisbane, he commanded the 2nd L.H.R., Queensland Mounted Infantry. He married Frances Blanche McConnel at St Faith's Anglican Church, Mondure, on 24 April 1924 and later that year was made manager of the bank's Tamworth (New South Wales) branch. While there he wrote Nulli Secundus, the History of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, A.I.F. (1926); he commanded the 33rd Battalion in 1926-27, and retired in 1941 as honorary colonel. His banking career continued until 1946: he was manager at Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1936-38 and at Rockhampton in 1938-46. On retirement he settled at Brisbane where, survived by his wife and three sons, he died after an operation for prostate on 8 March 1959. He was buried in Lutwyche cemetery after a service at St Colomb's Anglican Church, Clayfield; all his life he had been a strong churchman.

Bourne's sister, Eleanor, was the first woman in Queensland to study medicine. His brother Harold was also a physician and his sister Ida was a teacher.

Select Bibliography

  • H. S. Gullett, The A.I.F. in Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1923)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1924)
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 9-10 Mar 1959
  • staff records (Bank of New South Wales Archives, Sydney).

Additional Resources

Citation details

M. W. Farmer, 'Bourne, George Herbert (1881–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bourne-george-herbert-5306/text8959, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 16 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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