John Edward Bourne

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Born:   Late 1878 or 1879, Worcester
Parents: Edward and Fanny Bourne
Wife: Ellen nee Thornton
Unit: Royal Engineers 65th Field Coy
Regimental Number: 41545
Rank: Sapper
Died: Killed in Action, 13/08/1916
Commemorated: Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery, Thessalonika

John Edward Bourne married Ellen Thornton of Balls Green at Great Bromley in 1908.  John was the son of Edward Bourne, and his late wife Fanny, and appears to have been born in or near Worcester, where his father was a builder, in 1878 or 1879.

During the course of John's childhood the family moved around the country; for a time they lived just outside Worcester before moving to Liverpool.  By April 1891, they had moved again and were living in King's Norton, south of Birmingham.  Tragedy struck shortly afterwards, when John's mother died.  

John followed his father's trade, and became a bricklayer.  After his marriage to Ellen, the couple moved down to Hampshire, and later Wiltshire.  They had four children, the first being a boy who was named John Edward after his father.

John enlisted in the Army at Devizes in Wiltshire, joining the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. By 1916 John had been posted to the 65th Field Company of the Royal Engineers, though circumstantial evidence suggests he joined them prior to his departure from Britain in July 1915. He took part in the Suvla Bay landings on the Gallipoli Peninsular in early August.  His unit remained there until September when they sailed to the island of Mudros before disembarking in the port of Salonica.

The move of two British Divisions to Salonica (Thessaloniki) in Greece, was part of a belated and unsuccessful Anglo-French attempt to aid Serbia against a combined attack from Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. After advancing into Serbian territory, the Allies were forced to retreat following defeat at the Battle of Kosturino in December 1915.  They retreated to Macedonia where they were able to able to fortify the line, and the front remained there in a state of stalemate until 1918.

The Salonica campaign has been described as one "fought with limited resources, over difficult terrain, in extremes of climate and with the ever present threat of malaria."  In fact, non-battle casualties were approximately 20 times greater than those from the fighting.  John was one of those who contracted malaria.

On 13 August 1916, aged 37, John Bourne died of the disease at the 21st Stationary Hospital in Salonica.  Unlike many of those who died in that campaign, John has a known grave and rests in Grave 310 in the Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery in Thessaloniki.

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