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Army May 24, 2012
Upholding the tradition
CAPT Justin McBurney
deployed to Afghanistan
with a Bible that has gone to
war with his family for five
Inscribed by its past custodians, the
small, fragile relic is kept safe and secure
by the 16 AL Regt officer on his deploy-
ment with Combined Team -- Uruzgan.
Before Federation, the NSW
Government issued copies of the
Testament to contin-
gents deploying to
the Boer War.
great, great uncle,
Tpr Alfred Maxwell,
served with the NSW
Mounted Rifles and
was issued the Bible
before he sailed
to South Africa in
The Bible was
passed to his son, Pte
Alfred E. Maxwell,
who deployed with
the 55th Bn in World War I and fought at
It was then passed on to his nephew,
Pte Ernest McBurney, who served with
the 8th Division in World War II when
they surrendered to the Japanese at
Singapore in 1942.
Ernest died on the Burma railway and
the Bible was recovered by his brother
and fellow prisoner of war, Pte Ronald
McBurney, from the 2/30th Bn, who hid
it from his captors while working on the
railway and in Changi Prison for two
Ronald, Capt McBurney's grand-
father, passed the Bible to his son,
Leut Phillip McBurney, when he was
deployed for three tours in Vietnam
on board HMAS Sydney and HMAS
Capt McBurney's father offered him
the Bible when he deployed as a platoon
commander to East Timor in 2008, but
he turned it down as he felt a peacekeep-
ing mission would not uphold its tradi-
Capt McBurney monitors the Shadow
and Heron UAVs from Multinational
Base Tarin Kot as they seek out insurgent
He said the Bible reminded him of
where he came from and of the bond of
his family with the military.
"I keep it stored
in several plastic
bags, inside an
in a locked building,
can be here," Capt
"Because of its
age and condition I
am always nervous
when handling it
and feel even read-
ing it could cause
Before he left for his deployment
Capt McBurney's mother jokingly said,
"If you lose the Bible, don't bother com-
Future plans are to have the Bible
restored and possibly loan it to the
Australian War Memorial on the proviso
it is returned when wanted by the family.
Apart from the fine religious draw-
ings, the Bible also contains souvenirs
such as dried leaves collected from South
Africa and Palestine.
Capt McBurney said when he had
children he would explain to them
his own experiences with the Bible in
Afghanistan and then have his father
explain his history with it in Vietnam.
"If my children should ever be
required to go to war, I will hand the
Bible down to them and continue this tra-
dition for a sixth generation," he said.
Cpl Mark Doran catches up with a captain
carrying on a long family tradition in Afghanistan.
If my children
should ever be
required to go to
war, I will hand the
to them ...
-- Capt Justin McBurney,
16 AL Regt
Good book: Capt Justin McBurney deployed to Afghanistan with a Bible that has gone to war with members
of his family since the Boer War.
Photos by Cpl Mark Doran
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