William Charles SCURRY MC, DCM

SCURRY, William Charles

Service Numbers: 2668, V5985
Enlisted: 19 July 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: 17 Garrison Battalion (Vic)
Born: Carlton, Victoria, Australia, 30 October 1895
Home Town: Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria
Schooling: Ascot Vale State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Architecural model maker/Orchardist
Died: Natural causes, Croydon, Victoria, Australia, 28 December 1963, aged 68 years
Cemetery: Lilydale Lawn Cemetery, Victoria
RC, Sect 1, Grave 177
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World War 1 Service

19 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2668, Melbourne, Victoria
26 Aug 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2668, 7th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
26 Aug 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2668, 7th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Anchises, Melbourne
11 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 2668, 7th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
1 Mar 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 58th Infantry Battalion
1 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 15th Light Trench Mortar Battery, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)
13 Sep 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Captain, 58th Infantry Battalion

World War 2 Service

5 Sep 1940: Enlisted Captain, SN V5985, Royal Park, Victoria
5 Sep 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Major, SN V5985
8 Oct 1945: Discharged Major, SN V5985, 17 Garrison Battalion (Vic)

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William Charles Scurry MC, DCM (30 October 1895 – 28 December 1963)

 Comprehensive biographies are found in the Australian Dictionary of biography - HERE (adb.anu.edu.au), and Wikipedia HERE (en.wikipedia.org) - also links in the sidebar.


William Charles Scurry was born on 30 October 1895 in Carlton, a suburb of Melbourne. He was the fourth (surviving) child of native-born William Charles Scurry, architectural modeller, and his English wife Bessie (formerly Preston). 

He had trained as an architectural modeller in his father's company.  He had also joined the militia gaining a commission in May 1914.  William resigned his militia commission and enlisted as a Private in July 1915 and was allocated to the 8th reinforcements to the 7th Battalion.  He landed at Gallipoli on the 11th November 1915.

Within a month the ANZAC force was preparing to withdraw under a cloak of secrecy and deception.  The critical success factor in a tactical withdrawal in the face of the enemy was to achieve a 'clean break' so the withdrawal could be conducted out of contact in order to avert a catastrophe as troops and materiel was extracted under direct fire and observation of the enemy.   William Scurry and a mate,  'Buntie' Lawrence (2863 Pte Alfred Hughes LAWRENCE, 7th Bn) were to play a key role.  They both realised that something needed to be done to create an impession that the ANZACs were still at their posts ready to repel any attack.  Sporadic firing at night characterised both sides.

They developed the famous 'self-firing rifle' that was intended to create the illusion of troops at their posts firing intermittently across the front each night. Starting out with two weighted containers containing sand to trigger the rifle, operating like the 'sand through the hour glass' it was refined to use water trickling from one container, into another, connected by a string to the trigger of a rifle.  Eventually the weight of the water would cause the container to drop and pull the trigger.  It worked a treat. 12 rifles per battalion were set up thus, in each of eight forward battalion frontages.  Timing was controlled by the rate at which the water dripped - the size of the hole saw to that.   As men left the forward positions, the water containers were filled and shortly afterwards, desultory shots began to ring out along the front, as they had done for months, only this time there was no one behind the rifles.  The evacuation was brilliantly executed - arguably the only unqualified success of the  entire campaign.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his invention and was later commissioned and transferred to the newly raised 15th Division into the 58th Battalion.  He went on to serve as an officer during the fighting on the Western Front, initially withthe 58th Battalion but he was appointed OC of the newly raised 15th Light Trench Mortar Battery under command of Brigade Headquarters .

By then he had been assigned to command the 15th Light Trench Mortar Battery which he commanded at the battle of Fromelles before being wounded in action on 3 September 1916 near Petillon (in the same vicinity as Fromelles).  He was examining the fuze from an unexploded German bomb.  It exploded and wounded Scurry in the face, causing the loss of one eye and degradation of the other, and the loss of a finger.

His Brigade Commander was the legendary Brigadier General 'Pompey' Elliot who wrote of Scurry 'He was the best and most enthusiastic officer in my brigade, without exception'. For his work with the 15th LTMB, Scurry was awarded the Military Cross and confirmed as captain in December 1916.

After recuperation in June 1917 he was sent to the 1st Anzac Corps School at Aveluy, France, as an instructor and from May 1918 was its chief instructor.  An accompanying photograph shows him with other officer instructors at the time.    He chose to return to the front line during periods of down time. 

After leaving the Army, he returned to work as an architectural modeller but his eyesight ruled him out.  He then became an orchardist at Sylvan before his war injuries forced him to retire. During the Second World War, he served on home service, as commandant of an internment camp before retiring to civilian life following the end of the war. He died in 1963 and is buried at Lillydale Cemetery.