The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (WX9858) Private Arthur Stanley Gurney, 2/48th Battalion, 2nd AIF, Second World War

Place Africa: North Africa, Western Desert, Western Desert (Egypt), El Alamein Area, Tel el Eisa
Accession Number PAFU2014/149.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 4 May 2014
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on (WX9858) Private Arthur Stanley Gurney, 2/48th Battalion, 2nd AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

WX9858 Private Arthur Stanley Gurney, 2/48th Battalion, 2nd AIF
KIA 22 July 1942
Photograph: 100639

Story delivered 4 May 2014

Today we pay tribute to Private Arthur Stanley Gurney of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

Arthur Stanley Gurney - known as Stan - was born at Day Dawn on the Murchison goldfields in Western Australia on 15 December 1908. The son of George and Jane, he was the fourth of five children.

Having attended Stott's Business College in Perth, Gurney began a career as a real estate agent before gaining employment with the Perth Electricity and Gas Depot in 1927, where he worked as a clerk and meter fixer. A keen sportsman, Stan Gurney was a champion cyclist, winning a number of road races in Western Australia.

In December 1940, just shy of his 38th birthday, Gurney enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He embarked for overseas service in July 1941 and, joining the 2/48th Battalion in September 1941, served during the siege of Tobruk.

The following year on 22 July 1942, during fighting at Tel el Eisa at the first battle of El Alamein, Gurney attacked three enemy machine-gun posts which had been holding up his company's advance. He had already stormed the first two, killing the occupants with his bayonet, and was approaching the third when a stick of grenades exploded, knocking him over. He continued on and charged the third post, "using the bayonet with great vigour", before being killed. His body was later recovered from the post. For this action, Gurney was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. His citation claimed that his company's successful attack "was almost entirely due to Private Gurney's heroism at the moment when it was needed".

After learning of Gurney's posthumous award, his sister said: "It is just the sort of thing we could imagine him doing. Whenever he saw a thing to do he would hop in and do it ... He was very vigorous and a real sport."

In his home state of Western Australia the Stan Gurney VC Memorial Bike Race is held annually in his honour.

Stan Gurney is buried in the El Alamein Commonwealth War Cemetery. His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 Australians killed in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Arthur Stanley Gurney, and all of those Australians - as well as our Allies and brothers in arms - who gave their lives for their nation.

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