Brigadier: The Honourable Sir Murray William James Bourchier
Our school and the Street it is situated on is named after Sir Murray Bourchier. This page is dedicated to him and includes information about Sir Bourchier's life.
C.M.G. – Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.
D.S.O.- Distinguished Service Order. – for service at Beersheeba.
V.D. – Volunteer Decoration –awarded to mark his service in the peacetime Militia.
Murray William James Bourchier was born at Portilla near Ballarat on April 4th 1881, the son of Edward and Frances Bourchier, members of the oldest known pastoral family from along the Murray River. Edward came to Strathmerton as a young married man and, with the help of his brother Trevor built a timber and mud cottage on the property he had selected. He then brought his young wife and infant son, Murray. Whilst living in the hut they proceeded to build a house for the expanding family. This house is still occupied by the Bourchier family today. Murray started his schooling at Mywee and later attended Strathmerton Public School. He then worked on his father’s farm. As a young man he joined the fifteenth Light Horse Regiment and in 1909 he was appointed Lieutenant.
Murray Bourchier enlisted for the first world war on August 25th 1914 and joined the 4th Light Horse Regiment which was sent to the Middle East. The Light Horsemen distinguished themselves with emu feathers in their hats and rode horses they fondly called “Wallers”. They soon had a reputation of being better riders than their English companions. Murray Bourchier sailed on a ship called the “Wiltshire” on October 20th 1914 and served in Egypt. In May 1915 he was sent to Gallipoli, where he served for seven months. Here the 4th Regiment fought bravely until the evacuation. They remained in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine. Murray Bourchier was promoted to Captain, Major and then Lieutenant Colonel commanding the regiment on March 15th 1917. He was mentioned in Despatches London Gazette of December 1st 1916 “for consistently good work and being cool and resourceful under fire” at Gallipoli and received the Distinguished Service Order on November 4th 1917 “for the gallant and capable manner in which as commanding officer of the 4th Light Horse regiment he personally directed his Regiment into action on the attack on Beersheeba on October 31st 1917. This officer displayed skilful handling and magnificent example of courage and determination and personally accompanied the charge of the reserve squadron. He shot six Turks with his revolver and assisted in fighting whilst still directing his Regiment.” Lieutenant Colonel Bourchier had led a crucial assault on Beersheeba leading his men, many of them his mates form his own district, at full gallop over two miles to capture water wells which were of vital significance to the allies.
Lieutenant Murray Bourchier was awarded Companion of the most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George on June 3rd 1919 for the following recommendation: “In the face of very heavy fire this officer led his regiment on September 27, 1918 across the Jordan below Jisr Benat Yakub over a very difficult crossing and thus outflanked the enemy and compelled his to withdraw from the position. On September 30 this officer was in command of the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments, which form the advance guard of the Australian Mounted Division in its advance from Sasa to Damascus. He captured the enemy position at Kaukab, held by 2500 Turks with machine guns. He led a spirited charge of two Regiments without any delay and thus opened the way to Damascus where his troops were the first to enter.” Thus, although outnumbered, they were able to capture the town in what was to be the last ever cavalry charge. The 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments were known from then on as “Bourchier’s Force.”
Murray Bourchier returned to the district to farm at Katandra when the war ended. He transferred back to the Malitia Light Horse commanding the 5th Cavalry Brigade, a Melbourne Head Quarter unit. He rose to the rank of Brigadier by November 1 1931. He was a popular leader and was very caring of the returned soldiers and the many problems they faced settling back into life after the war. For his efforts he was awarded the Volunteer Decoration.
His leadership qualities led him to enter politics as a Member for the Legislative Assembly for the Goulburn Valley in 1920. His farming background stood him in good stead as Minister for Agriculture and Markets from 1924 to 1927. His ministerial portfolios also included Chief Secretary, Labour and Deputy Premier. He held the position of Leader of the Country Party in 1933.
While holding the office of Chief Secretary Colonel Bourchier was able to offer assistance in working with the Shepparton City Council to start the Shepparton Art Collection. Here an association with the famous painter Sir John Longstaff not only secured of some of his paintings, but also resulted in a portrait of Brigadier Bourchier himself. This impressive portrait is now part of the Shepparton Gallery’s collection.
On January 31st 1936 Brigadier Bourchier accepted the position of Agent General for Victoria in England. He was well equipped for the position with his knowledge of the problems of primary production and difficulties faced by producers in Victoria at the time. At this time Murray Bourchier in fine regalia as seen in the photograph attended the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Colonel the Hon.Sir Murray William James Bourchier MB DSO died of pneumonia in London on December 16th 1937 after an illness lasting several weeks. He was survived by his wife Minona, two sons and a daughter. His body was returned home and finally laid to rest at the Shepparton cemetery. Colonel Bourchier was knighted posthumously.
Colonel Bourchier will always be best remembered for the charge of the 4th Light Horse Regiment at Beersheeba. A book has been written by Elyne Mitchell which was the basis of a film that was produced in 1986 by an American film company and starred the Australian actor Tony Bonner.
Bourchier Street Primary school is proud to be associated with Brigadier Bourchier. Like our school, the Bourchier family have a motto which has been with the family since as far back as the times of Oliver Cromwell. Translated the motto means “I would rather die than be disgraced.” Brigadier The Honourable Sir Murray William James Bourchier certainly lived up to this motto. Many chapters in history can come alive through the studies of his lifetime achievements during war and peace. Students of today can learn much from the fine example he set as a dedicated soldier and as a great leader of his time.
Sir Brigadier Murray James Bourchier set an example for us all by the way he lived his life.
• He grew up on a farm in this area just like many of our parents or grandparents.
• He developed leadership skills when he joined the Light Horse Brigade. We are learning leadership skills as Student Representative Councilors.
• He cared for and looked after his soldiers. Many of them would have been his friends. We care about our friends and other students at school.
• He showed bravery and courage when in battle and could have lost his life at any time. He went into seemingly hopeless situations both at Gallipoli and Beersheeba and lived to fight in other places. Sometimes we have to do difficult things because we know it is the right thing to do. We may need to tell one of our friends to do the right thing.
• When he finally came home from the war, Brigadier Bourchier went back to farming but he also put his leadership skills into action again. He became a politician and served Victoria in many positions including Deputy Premier and Agent General in England. One day we might aspire to be leaders in our community.
A portrait of Brigadier Bourchier in uniform, possibly early in his career.
Brigadier Sir Murray Bourchier as a politician.
Brigadier Sir Murray Bourchier as Agent General in England in his regalia as he went to the coronation of King George VI.