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Walter George (Wally) Bourne (1911–1985)

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Walter George (Wally) Bourne (1911-1985) fitter, die setter and gaoled Communist activist 

Birth: 14 March 1911, Leytonstone, Essex (now in East London), England, son of James Charles Bourne (1875-1966), stoker on steamship, and Helen Selina, née Aslett (1878-1966).  Marriage: (1) 22 July 1933 at the Salvation Army Citadel in Port Adelaide, South Australia, to Mary Ann Guscott (1915-2008), a dressmaker born in Adelaide. They had two sons and one daughter and divorced in October 1942. (2) about 1943 to Marjory Ferguson Noblet (1913-1991), a munitions worker. They had a son and a daughter. Death: 11 January 1985 in hospital at Modbury, South Australia.

  • Arrived in South Australia with his mother and siblings aboard the S.S. Bendigo in 1926. Helped to form Young Communist League in Port Adelaide. Became National Secretary.
  • In 1928 depressed conditions prompted strike of rank and file waterside workers over method of employing labour. Physical violence over scab labour at docks. Adelaide middle class formed the Citizens League to support the scabs. Bourne led Young Communist League in taking over and breaking up League’s meeting.
  • Communist Party of Australia took complete leadership of all working class activities in Port Adelaide and was the only active political group during the Depression.The party held a public forum every Friday, had running battles with the police.
  • Bourne was involved in forming the Workers Defence Corps. During the ‘Beef March’ on 9 January 1931, demonstrators protesting against the action of the government in omitting beef from the ration issued to the unemployed strapped placards to their arms with sheets of tin to defend themselves against the police brutality. They were attacked by police with batons and mounted police. A riot ensued in Victoria Square. Horses chased men into hotels. At the end of the march Bourne was one of a deputation of six to meet the minister in order to get the beef restored to rations.
  • Police arrested him the next night while giving a speech. He was gaoled for one month and a further two weeks for contempt of court and was in solitary confinement for three days for inciting prisoners.
  • Bourne was prominent in the Unemployed Workers Movement, which started its own charity organisation. He was also active in Militant Minority Movement.
  • In 1951 his evidence led to the expulsion of Laurence Short from the Federated Ironworkers’ Association.
  • Worked at General Motors Holden, Woodville, from January 1934 and retired after forty-two years. During the war he had been sacked for political activity.
  • Cause of death: oesophageal carcinoma and pulmonary effusion.

Oral History interview, 7 April 1978, by Annely Aeuckens and Susan Marsden, held in State Library of South Australia.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Bourne, Walter George (Wally) (1911–1985)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


14 March, 1911
London, Middlesex, England


11 January, 1985 (aged 73)
Modbury, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (oesophageal)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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