CWG: Air Mechanic Eustace Bourne

Air Mechanic Eustace Bourne

Eustace Lionel Bourne was born in 1897, one of six children to Robert and Eve, from Westonzoyland, Somerset. Robert was a wheelwright and carpenter and, after leaving school, Eustace followed in a similar vein, becoming an apprentice to an ironmonger.

When war broke out, Eustace’s interest in engineering led him to join the Royal Flying Corps, where he was appointed as an Air Mechanic. His enlistment papers – dated November 1915 – give his trade or calling as “motor cyclist”, so it is obviously a passion that he had.

Air Mechanic Bourne was assigned to Milton Airfield near Abingdon, Oxfordshire and it was there that he served for nearly eighteen months. He seems to have enjoyed his time off as much as his time working, and boating on the Thames nearby was a hobby. Sadly, it was also to be his undoing.

On 2nd May 1917, he was out on the river at Culham Reach; the local newspaper account picked up the story.

Accidentally drowned was the verdict returned at the inquest last Saturday on Eustace Lionel Bourne, 21 [sic], attached to the mechanical department of the RFC, stationed at Milton.

It appeared that while sculling with a colleague in Culham Reach on May 2nd, he lost a scull. His companion, who had dropped a rudder-line, was turning round at the time. Deceased, in leaning over to pick up the scull, fell into the river and disappeared. It was twilight at the time, and a search was unavailing.

The other man, who could neither swim nor scull, was left in the boat, which was half filled with water.

The body was discovered on Friday morning near Sutton Weirs.

Reading Mercury: Saturday 19th May 1917

Eustace Lionel Bourne was just 20 years old when he drowned. He lies at rest in the cemetery of Westonzoyland, his home village.

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