Winter service dress tunic : Private A S Gurney, 2/48 Battalion, AIF

Accession Number REL/13475.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Uniform
Physical description Cotton, Oxidised metal, Plastic, Wool flannel, Wool serge
Maker M J Israel & Co
Place made Australia
Date made 1940
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Other rank's khaki wool winter service dress tunic with oxidised brass Australian Military Forces buttons, Rising Sun collar badges and 'AUSTRALIA' shoulder titles. Each upper sleeve bears a wool flannel colour patch for 2/48 Battalion. The tunic has pleated patch breast pockets and plain expanding patch pockets over each hip. The pocket flaps have a single point. A box pleat extends from the back yoke to the hem for ease of wear. A self fabric band is sewn around the waist in place of a belt. The cuffs fasten with a single button. The inside front waist and top line of the breast pockets are reinforced with bands of plain weave cream cottonl. There is a field dressing pocket made of the same fabric inside the front right skirt. A machine embroidered manufacturer's label, 'M. J. ISRAEL & Co. 1940 SIZE' with '20' stamped on label, is attached to the inside right front together with a label to take the wearer's regimental number and name. This is marked in indelible pencil 'S GURNEY'.

History / Summary

Winter service tunic worn by Private Arthur Stanley Gurney who enlisted in the 2nd AIF at Claremont, WA, on 6 December 1940. After training he embarked at Fremantle for the Middle East on 5 July 1941, joining D Company, 2/48 Battalion (2/48Bn) at Tobruk, Libya on 12 September. In October, the battalion moved to Palestine and in early 1942 to Syria. In June, as part of 9 Division (9Div) under Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead, 2/48Bn was quickly moved to Egypt to meet Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's advance across Egypt. On 29 June, following a series of losses, the allied Eighth Army, of which 9 Div was a part, fell back to the Alamein Line, barely 100 kilometres from the British Naval Base at Alexandria.

On 9 July, 2/48Bn was moved forward to the Alamein Line. With 9Div, the battalion was to counter-attack the northern flank of Rommel's forces. 2/48Bn's objectives were the Hill of Jesus and Tel el Eisa Railway Station. Shortly before the action Gurney wrote home saying: 'I regret that up to date I have not had a chance of locking horns with [the enemy], but I hope we shan't be long now.' At about 3.40 am on 10 July the attack began. D and A Companies' objective of Point 23, north east of Tel El Eisa railway station was taken soon after dawn. D and C Companies then swung down and took the station itself. Counter attacks soon followed and fierce fighting continued for the next two weeks.

At dawn on 22 July, B and D Companies were deployed to take West Point 24, an enemy position south west of the railway cutting. The action had not long commenced when the companies came under concentrated fire and were halted less than 200 metres from the German strong posts. Attempts by the Australians to move forward was met with withering machine gun fire. Casualties quickly mounted to the point where D Company had lost all its officers. 17 Platoon, D Company, of which Gurney was a member, was now commanded by a private, Herb Ashby.

At this point Gurney, closely followed by Private Ivan Hanel, rushed the nearest enemy machine gun post, somehow evading the heavy fire. Nearing the post Gurney threw a grenade and bayoneted a German before he and Hanel jumped into the trench, taking the post. Gurney then turned his attention to the next post but Hanel was killed before he could follow. Gurney continued on alone to take the next machine gun pit, accounting for a further three enemy soldiers in the process. Without slacking he moved toward a third before he was momentarily stunned when a grenade knocked him to the ground. Recovering his senses, he launched forward and disappeared into the enemy trench. He was using his bayonet to effect when he was killed by enemy machine gun fire. His body was later recovered from the enemy trench. For his actions Gurney was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He was later buried in plot XVI. H. 21. of El Alamein War Cemetery.