The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (23916) Major Donald Mackenzie Bourne, 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam

Accession Number PAFU2013/004.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 16 August 2013
Access Open
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial every day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on (23916) Major Donald Mackenzie Bourne, 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam.

Film order form
Speech transcript

23916, Major Donald Mackenzie Bourne 5th Battalion RAR
KIA 14 February 1967
Photo: P04431.001

Today we remember and pay tribute to Major Donald Mackenzie Bourne.

Born in Tamworth, News South Wales, in 1931, Bourne enlisted in the army in 1950 and attended the Officer Cadet School at Portsea, Victoria. He served in Malaya, and arrived in Vietnam with the 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit on 22 October 1966. He joined the 5th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, in early February 1967.

Bourne had been a staff officer at the Vietnam headquarters of the 1st Australian Task Force, but persuaded the task force commander to give him a turn in the field. His first operation as a company commander came during Operation Beaumaris, a cordon-and-search of a small village called An Nhut in Phuoc Tuy province. The village had a strong Viet Cong influence.

Bourne's C Company had carried out a preliminary check for mines in their area. He gathered his officers and senior non-commissioned officers to discuss the next phase of the operation. As the men dispersed, a member of the group triggered a well-concealed mine. The effects were devastating: Bourne and two others were killed outright, and five more were wounded.

The tragedy was a blow to 5RAR. Second Lieutenant David Harris, who had served with Bourne on the task force headquarters and knew him well, wrote in his diary: "I just sat down and cried my bloody eyes out. Those poor blokes ... it was his [Bourne's] birthday too." Bourne had turned 35 that day.

Bourne's body was returned to Canberra, where he had lived with his wife and four children. His funeral and Requiem Mass were held at the newly built ANZAC Memorial Chapel, Duntroon, and afterwards the coffin, mounted on a gun carriage, moved off to Woden Cemetery for the burial service.

The name of Major Don Bourne is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 500 others from the Vietnam War, and his photograph is displayed by the
Pool of Reflection. Bourne's story is also featured in the Memorial's new exhibition, Salute: Canberra's military heritage, which has been produced as part of this year's Centenary of Canberra celebrations.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Major Donald Bourne and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (23916) Major Donald Mackenzie Bourne, 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam (video)