Gunner 144 Edmund James Bourne

Killed in Action on Wednesday, 18th July 1916, age 24.
Commemorated on Pier and Face 1 A and 8 A of Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

Royal Field Artillery, North Midland Division Ammunition Column.

Son of the late Mr and Mrs Charles E. Bourne, 38 Neptune Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Dudley, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 24th February 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. Matthew's memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/766871/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Edmund James Bourne registered December quarter 1892 at Dudley.

1901 Census
10 Price Albert Street, Dudley (as in 1891)
Charles E Bourne (45, Stock Taker in Iron Works, born Tipton), his wife Amelia A. (44, born Tipton), and their 4 children: Charles E (15, Polisher in Fender Trade, born Dudley), Elizabeth E. (11, born Dudley), Sarah E. (10, born Dudley), and Edmund (8, born Dudley).

1911 Census
38 Neptune Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Charles Edward Bourne (55, Widower, Gas Stoker, born Tipton), his wife Amelia A. (44, born Tipton), and 3 of his 5 surviving children of 7: Ethel Elizabeth (21, Assistant Mistress at Council School, born Dudley), Evelyn Sarah (20, Housekkper, born Dudley), and James Edmund (18, Foundry Labourer, born Dudley).

Personal Data

The Tipton Library Memorial has an entry CS Bourne, the 'Staffordshire Roll of Honour' shows this was intended to have been CE Bourne, Gunner RFA, and CS is a sign-writing error. It has, however, been impossible to trace either set of initials to a casualty with or without RFA connection.

I believe that this man, Gunner EJ Bourne, is the man who was intended to be commemorated, but there was some form of clerical error which lead to CE Bourne, Gunner RFA, being recorded. He is also recorded as E Bourne on the St. Matthew's Memorial.

The father of Edmund Bourne was Charles E Bourne who had died in late 1918, this could have caused some confusion "the late Charles E Bourne". Additionally Edmund had an elder brother, also Charles E Bourne, who had attained the rank of Company Sergeant Major in the 6th South Wales Borderers. CSM Bourne had been Mentioned in Dispatches (Tipton Herald 30th June 1917: CSM CE Bourne, SW Borderers, Mentioned in Dispatches) and was discharged in 1919 after suffering from severe appendicitis in December 1917 when it was thought he would not be fit to serve abroad again, but he did from August 1918. Their father's address given as 28 Neptune Street, Tipton.

On 26th March 1912, Edmund Bourne enlisted in Tipton as Private 1562 with the 6th Battalion, South Staffs, a Territorial Battalion. He underwent a medical examination a few days later, and was 19 years and 183 days old, 5 feet 5¾ inches tall with a 35¾-inch chest and his Physical Development was noted as ‘Good’. As a Territorial soldier he attended annual training camps in 1912 and 1913.

Before the war he had been employed by J & J Whitehouse, Tipton, this was the Phoenix Foundry of Jabez and John Whitehouse located in Castle Street, Tipton.

As a Territorial soldier, Edmund was called to his unit on 5th August, his initial contract with the South Staffs was purely for Home Service intended to free up Regulars on Home Defence to be sent abroad. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 15th September 1914, and then on 31st October 1914, transferred to the North Midlands Division Ammunition Column. On 10th November, Edmund signed to agree to change his Territorial Home Defence contract so that he could serve abroad. A week later, on the 18th November, he was promoted to Bombardier.

Things seemed to go wrong in January 1915. On the 2nd January, Edmund reverted back to his rank of Driver. Three weeks later, on the 23rd January, Edmund went ‘absent without leave’ from the North Midlands Division Ammunition Column, then training at Luton. He was still absent on the 26th when his details were forwarded to the Editor of the ‘Police Gazette’ at New Scotland Yard on a “Report of a Deserter or Absentee without Leave.” This was retracted when Edmund returned to his unit on the evening of the same day, no mention is made of any resulting punishment.

On 26th February, Edmund landed in France with his unit. All was well until 28th July when Edmund was sentenced to 14 Days field Punishment No.1 for an unspecified charge. This punishment was unpopular with the men, being thought degrading, as the man was tied to a fixed object, often a wagon wheel, for a period of time on each of the days of the punishment. Possibly to remove him from the scene of his misdemeanour, Edmund was transferred to the 23rd Brigade, RFA, on 20th August 1915, this unit belonged to the 3rd Division.

Edmund was admitted to the No. 8 Field Ambulance, attached to 3rd Division, on 8th March 1916 suffering from Scabies. This led to his admittance to the No. 50 Casualty Clearing Station at Hazebrouck before being discharged back to his unit on 22nd March 1916.

The final entry on Edmund’s papers was on 28th April when Edmund was sentenced to 5 days Field Punishment No. 2, again for an unspecified offence.

After Edmund's death, there was no army pay to distribute as his payments were up to date. In December 1919 his War Gratuity of £9/0/0d was paid to his brother Charles E. Bourne, the value and date of death suggest that Edmund enlisted in August 1914.

Edmund’s father, Charles Edward Bourne, was awarded a Dependant’s Pension of 5/0d (5 shillings exactly) per week with effect from 19th March 1918.

Action resulting in his death

The 23rd Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division. From 14th July 1916 they were involved in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, before moving north to join the attack on Delville Wood. On 18th July, the date of Edmund's death, the 23rd Brigade RFA would have been supporting the action in Delville Wood. The RFA will always be some distance behind the infantry, and it is believed that the 23rd Brigade was located just south of Montauban. The Divisional Ammunition Column would have been bringing necessary supplies to the Brigade from a position further south of Montauban.

The circumstances of Edmund's death are not known, but as he was in the Divisional Ammunition Column it is easy to imagine that his ammunition wagon was destroyed by enemy artillery. This may be easy to imagine, but it is not fact and many other causes of his death are possible. Edmund has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald August 28th 1915
Gunner Edward Bourne of the 23rd Ammunition Column, British Expeditionary Force, writing to a friend at Hurst Lane, Tipton, says:- "Just a line to let you know I am still alive and kicking. We were at work, in the vicinity of Ypres. All went well, except one or two shells which were going over our heads, until about 6pm. We were taking a good load up, and we were just outside a village when the Military Police turned us back, as the Germans were shelling it very hot. If they had let us go on we should have been blown up. Three "Jack Johnsons" dropped 100 yards ahead of us in the road. We turned back to go to the place where we had the limber from, but then received orders to take it under any consideration, as they could not do without it. We turned once again and wnet another road, across some cornfields. We had just started to unload when the enemy started shelling that place, so we had to run for our lives to the dug-outs until things came a bit quiet. Then we came out and just got on the wagon to unload the limber, when the enemy sent a dozen or two big shells , which dropped about 70 yards from us. My mate saw a piece of steel fly past my ear, and thought it had knocked my brains out. The fragment weighed 4lbs. A minute after, a shell dropped about 20 yards away, and there was a terrible explosion, the vibration raising us off our feet and dropping us on our backs."
Gunner Bourne's home is at 22 Hurst Lane.

Tipton Herald July 20th 1918
In Memoriam
BOURNE - In loving memory of Gunner Ted Bourne, killed in action on the Somme, July 18th 1916.