John William Bourke was born in Allendale, VIC and was a Clerk living in Ballarat when he enlisted in the Railway Unit on 20 May 1918 at the age of 21. His unit embarked for the A.R.O.D. aboard the Zealandic, disembarking at London on 6 December 1918. ON 19 December he was awarded forfeiture of five (5) days' pay for being absent without leave from a surprise roll call. In February 1919 he was admitted sick to hospital with influenza while in France and re-joined his unit a week later. He completed his tour of duty without any major illness or injury, but was admonished for being AWOL twice more before returning to Australia aboard the Cap Verde on 15 February 1920.
Tree No. 3622