George Herbert Bourne was appointed Major in command of B Squadron, 2nd Light Horse Regiment when he enlisted in August 1914. Aged 33 he had already served 8 years with the Queensland Mounted Infantry.
Bourne’s collection of papers, held at the State Library, tell us the story of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment as it sailed towards Egypt, unaware of the strength they would need and the part the would play in such significant and terrible battles at Gallipoli, Palestine, Jordan and the Sinai.
The Regiment was part of a massive convoy of ships that left Australia late 1914, and with its cargo of troops and horses, they spent their six week voyage forming life-long bonds that would keep them strong in the months and years ahead.
A real sense of the man is brought out by his conversations with family and friends – he knew many of his fellow officers personally – almost all being from his home town Brisbane – they enlisted, trained and socialised together. They included Major William Glasgow, Doctors George Macartney, Espie Dods & Alexander Marks, and Chaplain George Green.
When Bourne landed with the unmounted Light Horse troops at Anzac Beach on 12 May 1915 they went into the front line the very next day at Quinn’s Post, he wrote to his mother …
“I had 9 men hit in the first 2 hours – bombs doing most damage. On the night of the 14th Major Graham’s Squadron was ordered to charge – they took the enemy’s trench but suffered horribly from machine guns. Graham was killed & lost 50 men out of 90.”
Letter #OM68-25/22, dated 29 May 1915
Early in his letters he is confident of their success, the men eager and well, but as the casualties mounted he expressed his disappointment in the lack of reinforcements.
Bourne was evacuated sick in September 1915. When he rejoined his unit it was heavily involved in the campaigns at Romani, Rafa and Gaza. Bourne was made commanding officer of his regiment on 27 June 1916 and was later awarded the DSO for his contribution in the Battle of Romani.
Upon his return to Australia he rejoined the Bank of NSW, and in 1924 married Frances McConnel. He retained his connection with the army, commanding several reserve regiments and published History of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment Australian Imperial Force August 1914 – April 1919.
George Bourne’s story was featured in the Library’s 2015 Distant Lines Exhibition, and his collection is now fully digitised, the letters have been transcribed and available online.
- TR 1835 Henderson Family and Jimboomba Station Papers 1834-1973
- OM68-25 George Herbert Bourne Papers 1846-1956
- APE-39 Bourne Photograph Album 1910-1918
- History of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force, August 1914-April 1919 by George Herbert Bourne
QANZAC 100 Content Technician
State Library of Queensland