Our Family History - Person Sheet
Our Family History - Person Sheet
NameRonald Maxwell (Max) Burke
Birth17 Nov 1919, Australia, VIC, Warracknabeal
Death7 Jun 2014, Australia, WA, Mosman Park
MemoRiversea Nursing Home
Burial30 May 2015, Australia, VIC, Moyston
MemoMax ashes were interred in Moyston Cemetery
OccupationBanker, Bank Manager at Westpac, WW2 - RAAF Flight Lieutenant
FatherRobert Joseph Burke (1889-1957)
MotherMargaret Liela Cameron (1893-1984)
Notes for Ronald Maxwell (Max) Burke
There were seven in the family, six boys and one girl. Eunice, the eldest, then Stanley, Maxwell, John, William, Rex and Alan. When Eunice was seventeen, Alan, the youngest was born and so the children ranged in ages between. Robert Joseph Burke and Margaret Leila Cameron were the parents. Robert Burke died on the 8th of October 1957 and Margaret Burke passed away on the 26th of May 1984.

It was a happy childhood, filled with mischief and fun. Grandpa was born in the little Victorian town of Warracknabeal but after a short period of time moved with his parents, his sister Eunice and brother Stanley to Moyston, a town on the outskirts of Ararat, where they lived for 12 months and then bought a property in Ararat where Grandpa spent the next 15 years of his life. In 1924, at age five, Grandpa started school at the Church of England Grammar School in Ararat and there he stayed until the Great Depression broke out in 1929. His parents could not keep him at the school during the Depression, but let him finish his primary schooling at Ararat State School.

Grandpa's strong interest at school was sport. He was an average student, he passed his exams, but couldn't be happier than on the sports field. Grandpa was the captain of the Athletics team and the Football team and participated in a range of sports including cricket.

In 1930, Grandpa attended Ararat High School and it was there that he completed his schooling and received his matriculation or TEE.

The greatest memories that he has are the happy times spent with his family. He remembers crowding around the family's piano and playing tunes for guests and also taking the fathers trotting mare for a ride in the buggy on Sundays. The family had a 1925 yellow Studebaker, the only car in his street. One afternoon, while his parents were entertaining guests, Grandpa and his brother John found a pot of red paint in the shed and decided to paint the car. Once they were discovered, they got into huge trouble and were locked in the bathroom, where they combed their hair and tidied themselves up, and were allowed out when they apologised. The car was then repainted a very boring fawn colour.

After School
After Grandpa had finished his final year of school, his parents were eager for him to become a Pharmacy Apprentice as he had all the necessary qualifications. Robert, Grandpa's father had a friend who owned a chemist and so it was there that Grandpa should start work. Unfortunately the man later had a nervous breakdown and never continued his work. After that, Grandpa put in a job application for the Bank of New South Wales and another bank in the area. A short time after he heard that he had been accepted into both of them. After some decision, Grandpa chose the Bank of New South Wales and started work on the 6th July 1936.

War Days
The War broke out on the 3rd of September 1939 and Grandpa was keen to volunteer to help. He was especially eager to enlist in the Air Force as a few years prior Charles Kingsford-Smith had been barnstorming in the country areas and had stopped off in Ararat. Grandpa's father had paid a sum of money (10 shillings, which was a lot in those days) for Grandpa to go up flying with him. Grandpa was around fifteen at the time and planes had intrigued him ever since.

Grandpa started his training at the Empire Air Training in Somers, Victoria, where they learnt drill, marching, navigation, morse code and all about aircraft engines. At the end of the course all students were to have an exam and were broken into categories. There was Pilot, Observer, Wireless and Air-gunner. Grandpa was lucky enough to receive Pilot. From there he volunteered to sail to Rhodesia and left in May 1941 aboard the Queen Elizabeth. It took six weeks to reach Rhodesia via the Middle East. From there they boarded another ship to Durban and from there took a train to Harare.

Grandpa and the others in the air force travelled around Rhodesia for a while and then sailed from Capetown to Liverpool and were greeted by bombs but fortunately there was no damage. They arrived in the early months of 1942 and flew Spitfires all around England. Grandpa also taught beginner pilots to fly. In Christmas 1944, Grandpa was told he was no longer needed and was to return to Australia. The airmen then boarded the Queen Elizabeth again and sailed to America where they stayed in New York City. They were there for around six weeks and in that time got to know 42nd Street and all the nightclubs fairly well. They invariably wound up on stage singing Waltzing Matilda to the audience. They then travelled across America before boarding a ship home to Australia via Papua New Guinea.

Grandpa's elder brother, Stanley Cameron lost his life on the Burma Railway on the 29th of January 1944 and younger brother John Robert was killed in action on the 9th of June 1945.

Max Service Number was 401762

Post War
After arriving back home in Australia, Grandpa rejoined the bank in Ararat where he met my Grandmother, Marion McPhee who was also working at the bank at the time. They were married on the 7th of February 1948 and from there went to live in Tatura. My mother Judith Helen Burke was born in the Tatura Bush Nursing Hospital on the 12th of November 1948.

The family then moved to Hamilton and from them to Beaufort and then on to Heywood where twin brothers Simon Maxwell and Michael William were born on the 30th of May 1963.

In September 1963, the family moved to the bank in Brighton where in 1966, one of the first ever bank robberies took place by a notorious criminal.

Before coming to Bunbury in Western Australia, the family lived in Bairnsdale, Victoria, and in Alice Springs. In 1974, during the time that they were living in Alice Springs, cyclone Tracey struck Darwin.

In 1980 they all moved to Perth and have stayed here ever since.

His Life Today
Since his retirement, Grandpa has found the occupation of time difficult. He is a member of Legacy assists war widows, plays golf, watches cricket on television and has a keen interest in gardening.

Grandma and Grandpa have had an overseas trip around England, have been to Bali with our family, journeyed across the Nullarbor, visited Cairns, Brisbane, Alice Springs and Darwin and once ever year they pay a visit to our relatives in Victoria. They have also made many visits to see twin sons, Michael in Sydney and Simon in Geraldton.

It has been an interesting and happy life, full of memories that are important to everyone. To me, doing this project has helped me to understand and appreciate the wonderful life of my Grandfather, Maxwell Burke.

o “Maxwell Burke’s life” Audio tape (1977) Perth
o Burke M Family History (Unpublished paper) Perth

Extracts from Annika Kristensen's primary school project
Last Modified 13 Jun 2019Created 15 Mar 2021 by Peder Kristensen
Updated 15 Mar 2021

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