Rowland Richard Bourke was born near London England and at about age 17 he moved to Canada and ventured to the Klondike. A few years later he moved to the Nelson area where he joined up with some relatives to work their farm. While trying to clear the land he was blowing up stumps when a premature igniting of a fuse resulted in an accident killing one of his relatives. He lost an eye in the accident. After that the family left Canada and went to New Zealand. But it was only a few years before Rowland was back in Canada farming at a place called 9 Mile. Then WW1 broke out and Rowland knew that his calling was to put on the uniform and fight for the cause. But with a loss of 50% of his sight, the army, navy and airforce rejected his enlistment attempts. Not detered he decided to travel south to the US and get some flight training. Before leaving his home town he signed some land over to the authorities so that they could auction it off with the funds to go to supporting veterans and their families. Bourke had to pay for his own way to California and also to take flight lessons. He was awarded a "Flying Certificate" to operate "aero planes."
The men involved in the attack were told that they were not expected to come back, But that detered no one. Bourke's vessel was finally called into action and the voluteers onboard raced into the harbour to save many survivors that had be struggling in the water when their vessel was sunk. Bourke's crew pulled 38 men out of the water. And if that was not enough, before all was done his crew would also tow another Motor Boat off to safety after it became disabled. The picture here is not of his Motor Boat but is the same type that he would have commanded. Bourke would be awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions that night. A DSO is only one medal lower in the British Empire's ranking of bravery awards below the highest medal for bravery... the Victoria Cross.
Bourke's VC would be pinned on his chest by HRH King Geroge V at Buckingham Palace. Bourke would also be awarded with France's Legion of Honor (Chevalier) which is France's equivalent to the VC and the US equivalent to the Medal of Honor. These deeds saw Bourke promoted to Lt. Commander and after returning to civilian life back in BC he would still work with the Volunteer Navy and helped set up a fisherman's patrol along the Pacific Coast line. He would work for many years as a supervisor at the Naval base and would also serve in a recruiting function during WW11.
He and his wife would live in Esquimalt for many years and on passing he received a miltary service and was laid to rest at the Royal Oak Burial Park . His wife would later join him in the same plot. This park and others including myself has joined forces to see the creation of a larger and more prominent marker at his grave and anticipate a formal unveiling ceremony possibly in May of this year... perhaps even on the 10th... the 95th anniversary of the Ostend deed in which he was awarded his Victoria Cross.
Later that month a refurbished monument will be unveiled at Ostend Belgium. This monument commemorates the actions of Bourke and many others sailors and more particularly the men of the HMS Vindictive that was sunk at that battle. That ceremony will be attended by Belgium's King and Queen and it is anticipated that a representative from the British Monarchy will also be in attendance. There will also be many other officials attended including service groups and relatives of those who served. There may also be attendance from BC as well.