Rowland Bourke VC, D.S.O., R.N.V.R.

Rowland Bourke's story

Rowland Bourke was born in Chelsea in 1885. When he was 17 years old he and his family moved to Canada and in Nelson, British Columbia, he began work on the family farm.

He was a quiet, introverted man but when the First World War broke out he left the farm and volunteered to enlist in the Canadian forces. He was rejected on the grounds that he had very poor eyesight. Undaunted by this, he returned to England at his own expense and successfully joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was posted to serve on motor launches.

Rowland Bourke was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in the Zeebrugge Raids.

After the war

After the war Rowland Bourke returned to British Columbia and married. At the time of the award of his Victoria Cross he had, with great modesty, asked his family not to inform the press of his achievements.

In 1932 he and his wife moved to Victoria and Bourke started work at the naval dockyard in Esquimalt as a civilian clerk. He was instrumental in organising the Fishermen’s Reserve West Coast patrolling operation, just prior to the Second World War. He also served as a recruiting officer for a time, but in 1941 again became an active serviceman, this time with the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve.

In 1950 Bourke ended his long and dedicated career with the Navy, retiring as Supervisor of Civilian Guards. He died in August 1958 and was buried with full military honours. He left his Victoria Cross, his DSO and his Legion d’Honneur to the National Archives in Ottawa.