The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (V65927) Private Vernon Charles Scattergood, 39th Battalion, AMF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.82
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 23 March 2018
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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (V65927) Private Vernon Charles Scattergood, 39th Battalion, AMF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

V65927 Private Vernon Charles Scattergood, 39th Battalion, AMF
Presumed dead 10 August 1942
Story delivered on 23 March 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Vernon Charles Scattergood.

Vernon Scattergood, known as “Vern”, was born on 9 August 1922 in Elsternwick, Victoria, the son of Charles Edward and Constance Scattergood. He grew up in Elwood with his two sisters, attending the local Elwood Central School, and later Melbourne High School. He was a boy scout, and became captain of the local hockey team. After his education, Vern Scattergood went to work as a stock clerk for United Artists.

Scattergood was 16 years old on the outbreak of war in 1939. When he turned 18 he joined the Militia’s Victoria Scottish Regiment before he transferred to the 39th Battalion.

Two days after the Japanese attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbor and on the British in Malaya, on 9 December 1941, the 39th Battalion was ordered to “prepare to move” as it was mobilised for war service.

Scattergood spent Christmas Day 1941 in camp, before his battalion left for Papua, arriving in Port Moresby in January 1942.

There the 39th Brigade was primarily involved in labouring duties. There were ships to unload, roads to construct, defensive positions to be dug and wired – and a constant battle against malaria, dengue fever and dysentery.

Scattergood suffered a bout of dysentery in January, but had recovered by the time that the Japanese made their first air raid on Port Moresby on 3 February 1942.

In June, as the military situation in the South Pacific deteriorated, the 39th Battalion received orders to move up the Kokoda Trail in order to act as a blocking force against a possible Japanese advance overland from the north coast.

In order to counter this threat, Maroubra Force – composed of troops from the 39th Battalion and the Papuan Infantry Battalion ¬– was sent to Kokoda, a Papuan administration post with houses for magistrates and police, a hospital, a rubber plantation, and the only airfield in the region.

Scattergood and his battalion began the laborious march over the Kokoda Trail – a 96-kilometre, single-file foot thoroughfare running through the Owen Stanley Range – arriving at their destination in mid-July.

Shortly afterwards, Japanese forces began landing on Papua’s north coast, and in the early hours of 29 July, they attacked the main position of Kokoda. Only 80 men from B Company were there at the time, and they were no match for the Japanese. Casualties were high and Kokoda was lost.

The battle to retake Kokoda began on 8 August. Scattergood’s A Company entered Kokoda and, surprisingly, found it held by only a small group. But the Japanese reacted with fury and force: on 9 August they responded with two attacks of about 200 troops, and in the afternoon launched a force of about 300.

What happened to them the next day is described best by John Donald McKay, who was in A Company alongside Vernon Scattergood:

Just on dusk there was a nice little shower of rain and the first assault wave came in and we stopped ‘em. My Bren gun group … were firing and I can see the gun firing now – no kidding, you could see the bullets going up the barrel and it ran red-hot. Vern Scattergood had a Bren too and he was firing wildly. We stopped ‘em again. Then there was a bit of a pause before the next wave came in and overran us. So we said, “We’d better get out because they’ve gone past us.” Well … Scattergood … he got excited. He was standing up firing the Bren from the hip and that was the last I saw of young Scattergood. He must have been hit. We couldn’t find him in the dark and we moved back.

The Japanese counter-attack decimated A Company, forcing the few remaining soldiers to retreat. McKay was later awarded the Military Medal for his action in this conflict. But Private Vernon Scattergood was never seen again.

His body was never recovered, and he was presumed dead. He was 20 years old.

Today his name appears on the Port Moresby Memorial, which commemorates over 700 men who gave their lives during the operations in Papua and who have no known grave.

His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Vernon Charles Scattergood, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (V65927) Private Vernon Charles Scattergood, 39th Battalion, AMF, Second World War. (video)