- Name: Roland Richard Louis BOURKE
- D.O.B: 28th November, 1895
- D.O.A: 10th May, 1918
- D.O.D: 29th August, 1958
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Lieutenant, HM Motor Launch 276, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
The Second Ostend Raid, Belgium 9-10 May 1918
The First World War 1918
After the unsuccessful attempt to block the Ostend exit to the German naval base at Bruges as part of the Zeebrugge Raid on 22-23 April 1918, a second attempt was made on 9-10 May 1918. HMS Vindictive under Commander A E Godsal was accompanied by HMS Sappho. Sappho developed engine trouble and had to return to base, but Godsal succeeded in sailing Vindictive into the harbour of Ostend, where he was killed by a shell which hit the bridge and also badly wounded the navigation officer, Lieutenant Sir John Alleyne. Lieutenant V A C Crutchley assumed command and tried to manoeuvre Vindictive to block the channel but the ship was already aground and could not be moved. Crutchley nevertheless set the charges and ordered his crew to abandon ship. Two motor launches, ML 254 and ML 276, had been detailed to evacuate the crew. The closer, ML 254, commanded by Lieutenant G H Drummond, had already been hit by a shell before it reached Vindictive. Despite having two bullet wounds in his forearm and shrapnel in his left thigh and by his collar bone, Drummond reached Vindictive and took off two officers and 38 men before the ship blew up. However while heading out to sea he collapsed, and it was Crutchley who assumed command and kept ML 254 afloat long enough for the survivors to be rescued by HMS Warwick. As ML 254 left Ostend harbour, she collided with ML 276, commanded by Lieutenant Commander R R L Bourke, which was heading in, but by good luck neither launch was further damaged by the mishap. ML 276 searched for ten minutes near Vindictive under very heavy fire to make sure that everybody had got away. Just as he was leaving, Bourke heard the shouts of Lieutenant Alleyne and two sailors, all very badly wounded, who were clinging to an upturned boat. Bourke succeeded in rescuing all three men before heading for the open sea. ML 276 had been hit fifty-five times in all by German fire before a monitor took her in tow. Despite the gallantry shown by the participants in the raid the canal exit at Ostend was only partly blocked.
Volunteered for rescue work in command of M.L. 276, and followed “Vindictive” into Ostend, engaging the enemy’s machine guns on both piers with Lewis guns. After M.L. 254 had backed out Lieutenant Bourke laid his vessel alongside “Vindictive” to make further search. Finding no one he withdrew, but hearing cries in the water he again entered the harbour, and after a prolonged search eventually found Lieutenant Sir John Alleyne and two ratings, all badly wounded, and in the water, clinging to an upended skiff, and he rescued them. During all this time the motor launch was under very heavy fire at close range, being hit in fifty-five places, once by a 6 in. shell – two of her small crew being killed and others wounded. The vessel was seriously damaged and speed greatly reduced. Lieutenant Bourke, however, managed to bring her out and carry on until he fell in with a Monitor, which took him in tow. This episode displayed daring and skill of a very high order, and Lieutenant Bourke’s bravery and perseverance undoubtedly saved the lives of Lieutenant Alleyne and two of the “Vindictive’s” crew.