One of the men in later life would marry and have children... and one of those kids would grow up in England. After the press coverage of the work being done by the committee to have a new marker commissioned for Rowland Bourke got well under way, he made contact with descendants of Bourke a few months back, here in Victoria BC. He wanted to thank them for their relative's saving his father's life. Thus saved he survived the war, returned to London, married, had kids, and one of them was the fellow making the contact. Without Bourke he would never have been born!
Some of this has been in three different blogs in this space over the past several months.
Well folks two days ago well over 100 people gathered at the Royal Oak Burial Grounds in Victoria British Columbia under a wonderful sunny sky with more than a slight breeze to yet again give honours to this incredible hero.
Most sat in a viewing stand under an awning to shield them from the sun. The breeze was apparently so bad a few times the awning stated rocking. Perhaps a few may have thought someone above was sending signals that we were all being wached from above, and our actions hopefully approved.
I and others felt that this marker ought to be different..to stand out to make the location of his place of rest easier to find and to attract those wandered about the gorgeous park to walk over to see why this site is different. Then they will discover that a hero lay at rest here. Hopefully that will cause some curiosity that will result and some investigation to see who he was and what he did... And thus our mission is accomplished. Yet again another will learn of this brave man's deeds.
We then stood for the customary General Salute upon the arrival of Rear Admiral Truelove, who is the commanding Officer of MARPAC, the naval element on the west coast of Canada. A third General Salute was then performed for the arrival of Ambassador Bruno van der Pluijm, who represents Belgium in Canada. Among those already having arrived was Lt. Commander Mark Raeburn, the Commanding officer of the ROTC Venture program in Victoria. This officer is in the Royal Navy and was attending at the special request of the British High Commission at Ottawa.
On the left and above is a picture of the ceremony's most able MC, Mr. Darwin Robinson, former Mayor of Esquimalt BC, and neighbouring community just outside of Victoria. Most fitting that Darwin could be with us as Rowland Bourke actually lived in the Town of Esquimalt for close to 30 years after the war, also worked there, and finally passed away whist a resident of that community. His former home still stands.
Next to Darwin is a picture of the Unveiling Committee's Chair... and that would be me. The third gentleman is Captain Jo Nnanna from the clergy who brought us prayers and some most moving spiritual guidance. And to the right is an image of Rear Admiral Truelove.
The Admiral painted for us a picture of a man being honoured. A man who's actions clearly show us that he stood out amongst many others. A man of courage and conviction and tenacity to keep going forward no matter what the dangers, no matter what level of guts and bravery were needed to take those extra steps to get into the thick of things and save their comrades. Bourke was described as a man who's actions were unparalleled in many circles and on that note, not only saved lives... but saved nations.
On briefly outlining his acts of bravery the Admiral noted how fitting such a high level of character of man now has such a high mountain commemorating his deeds and a strength of character as solid as a rock an thus having such a rock near Bella Coola now carrying his name.
He then profoundly thanked the Ambassador from Belgium who honoured us all by taking time to be with us at the service and for bringing forth the true warmth that the Belgium people have for the Allies and particularly Canadians for the price we paid on Belgium soil in the years past.
When his brief greeting was over the Admiral accepted a Canadian National Flag from me and presented it to Mrs. Judith McWilliam Bourke, who's grandmother was a sister of Rowland's. At my request the Rt. Honourable Lt Governor of BC had the flag flown over Government House at Victoria on the 23rd and 24th of April, as those dates were the 95 anniversary of the first battle at Ostend harbour in Belgium and where Rowland Bourke would later be awarded the Distinguished Service Order, (a bravery medal junior only to the Victoria Cross) for saving 38 men from drowning in the first battle at that place.
Government House flew the flag and removed it and gave it to me to have it presented to the family in honour of Mr. Bourke. And this the Admiral did with great dignity, and no doubt incredible pride. This gift from the representative to Canada's Queen, will no doubt be a cherished heirloom for the descendants.
The Ambassador spoke at length about the plans for national celebrations in the not to distant future in honour of wartime service and also brought forth some information about the people in Belgium who will also be celebrating the 95th anniversary of the battles at Ostend on the 24th on this month, but more on that later.
The British High Commission's Lt. Commander Mark Raeburn spoke with considerable pride about the creation of the Victoria Cross back in 1857 and noted that there had only been five Canadian naval men who were awarded the medal. He explained that in battle, the awarding of the VC requires actions in the face of the enemy. A condition rather difficult for the navy, who by the vary nature of the service, often involved battle from miles away... even over the horizon. Thus there being so few Naval VC's.
In commenting on Bourke's actions, in the face of the enemy, the Commander noted that the unveiling service, was another step in commemorating Bourke's bravery and most selfless actions. He added that...""in the erection of this memorial we are ensuring that his legacy shall remain a source of pride and a source of inspiration for generations to come."
Jason Jones is Judith's son. He and his wife Donna and three children, Amy, Jodie and Shane were all at the service. Jason, on the right, above, brought profound thanks to the gathering for the honour we bestowed on the family. But truth be told, it was the family that bestowed honour on those gathered. Jason brought us the story about how the move started for the creation of the marker and of the family's pride in now seeing it in place. With very deep emotion, Jason told those gathered of his contact with the fellow above mentioned from England who's father was saved by Commander Bourke, who, in those days was a Lt. (He was promoted to Lt. Commander after the VC action and just before the investiture of both the DSO and VC at Buckingham Palace.) (Still later he was promoted to Commander)
This is getting rather long so I will cut it off here but will bring a special Saturday blog to finish up on the ceremony,