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Robert O’Hara Burke was an Irish soldier, police officer, and explorer who rose to fame as the leader of the Burke and Wills expedition, which sought out to cross Australia from south to north between 1860 and 1861. With a thirst for adventure, Burke was a driven man who had a yearning for a life of distinction. He was born in 1821, joined the military in 1835, worked as a police officer in the late 1840s, and migrated to Australia in 1853. His famed Burke and Wills expedition saw him travel south to north across Australia in 1860, eventually leading to his tragic death in 1861.
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Key Facts & Information
EARLY CAREER IN THE MILITARY AND CONSTABULARY
- Burke was born on May 6th, 1821 in Galway, Ireland to a British army officer and his wife; he was one of seven children.
- At the age of fourteen, he entered the Royal Military Academy, but failed his probationary exam and decided to further educate himself in Belgium.
- In 1841 he entered the Austrian army and worked as a lieutenant in a cavalry regiment.
- Most of his time in the Imperial Austrian Army was spent in Italy and, in 1847, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. He was discharged from the army the following year (at his request).
- When Burke returned to Ireland in 1848, he decided to join the Irish Constabulary, did his cadet training in Dublin for the next two years, and was finally stationed in County Kildare by 1850.
- By the year’s end of 1850, he got transferred to the Mounted Police in Dublin until he decided to migrate to Australia in 1853.
- Before he decided to leave for Australia, people described him as generous, kind-hearted, and charming, but also as impulsive and quick to anger.
- Burke was also described by friends and people who worked with him as someone who was brave and took many risks, yearning for distinction and more than life was offering him with his police duties in Ireland.
- His thirst for distinction and a life with more adventure and purpose was answered when he decided to leave Queenstown on November 24th, 1852 and make his way on a convict ship to Tasmania, and then to Melbourne shortly after.
MIGRATING TO AUSTRALIA
- Once Burke arrived in Australia, he took up a post with the Victoria police force as the Acting Inspector under the Chief Commissioner in Melbourne.
- He moved around the force quite a bit over the next few years, being appointed and promoted many times between 1853 and 1855.
- When news of his brother’s death in the Crimean War reached him, Burke switched course and decided to sail back to England to enlist; unfortunately by the time he returned to England the war had ended, so it was back onto the ship and back to Australia.
- He became a Police Superintendent in November of 1858, but this still was not enough to satisfy Burke.
- He heard about a £2,000 reward to someone willing to cross the Australian continent from the south to the north following the route that Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart had taken; Stuart had narrowly failed to cross the continent, so the government was eager for someone to complete the crossing.
- The “Burke and Wills Expedition” was organized by the Royal Society of Victoria, consisting of 19 men taking on a 2,000-mile journey from the south of Australia to the north, as Europeans had not yet explored most of the inland of Australia.
- Eager to make his mark and take risks, Burke was appointed to lead the “Victorian Exploring Expedition” in June of 1860, alongside William John Wills, who acted as a surveyor and navigator.
THE BURKE AND WILLS EXPEDITION
- With over 15,000 spectators surrounding them, Burke and Wills set off from Royal Park, Melbourne in the late afternoon of August 20th, 1860.
- Along with their committee, they also brought horses, wagons, and camels with which to navigate and carry supplies that would last them for at least two years.
- The crew, after several people had resigned from the journey, reached Cooper Creek on November 11th, 1860.
- Cooper Creek was the farthest away from the south that had been explored by Europeans up until that point.
- Burke was originally going to wait until the Australian summer season had ended in March of the following year to reach the end of the journey, but he decided to split the party and head north on December 16th.
- The terrain wasn’t too difficult for Burke and his small crew to manage, but it was the heat that proved difficult.
- Flinders River, the final destination, was reached on February 9th, 1861.
- The return journey was less than ideal, as the tropical monsoon season began which brought about wet conditions, and a lack of food meant killing some of the camels and horses they had brought.
- Unfortunately, exhaustion and starvation on the return journey resulted in the death of Wills first, with Burke dying shortly after.
- Burke’s place of death was under a tree now known as the “Dig Tree” on Cooper Creek; historical consensus states that this happened on June 28th, 1861.
- There have been many places named after Burke in Australia, including Burketown in Queensland, and Burke River, among others.
Robert O’Hara Burke Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Robert O’Hara Burke across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Robert O’Hara Burke worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Robert O’Hara Burke who was an Irish soldier, police officer, and explorer who rose to fame as the leader of the Burke and Wills expedition, which sought out to cross Australia from south to north between 1860 and 1861. With a thirst for adventure, Burke was a driven man who had a yearning for a life of distinction. He was born in 1821, joined the military in 1835, worked as a police officer in the late 1840s, and migrated to Australia in 1853. His famed Burke and Wills expedition saw him travel south to north across Australia in 1860, eventually leading to his tragic death in 1861.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The Exploration Committee
- True or False?
- See, Think, Wonder
- Dear Diary
- Picture Timeline
- Robert O’Hara Burke Crossword
- Alphabetical Siblings
- Robert O’Hara Burke Wordsearch
- Opinion Piece
- Photo Analysis
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Link will appear as Robert O’Hara Burke Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 19, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
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