Arthur (Stan) Gurney

Full name:
Arthur Stanley Gurney, VC
Born:

Day Dawn
WA
Australia
Died:

Tel el Eisa
Egypt
Occupation:
Clerk, Electricity worker
Education:
Day Dawn State School, Stott's Business College
Fate:

Killed in action

Highest rank:
Private
Enlistment:
6 December 1940 Claremont, Western Australia, Australia
Decorations/ commendations:
Victoria Cross (VC), 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-1945, Australia Service Medal 1939-45
Service:
Australian Army
Service Number:
WX9858
Conflict:
World War II 1939-1945
Military event:
Siege of Tobruk 1941, Syrian Campaign, Tel el Eisa
Unit:
2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion

West Australian, Arthur Stanley Gurney, embarked for the Middle East in July 1941. He was killed in action 12 months later. His final act of 'gallantry and unselfish bravery' was recognised with the award of a Victoria Cross.

Early life

Arthur, better known as 'Stan', was born at Day Dawn in the Murchison area on 15 December 1908. Now a ghost town, Day Dawn was an important gold-mining community during Stan's childhood but was in decline by the 1930s.

Stan's father, George, was a miner. Both he and his wife, Jane, were from South Australia but they married at Norseman, a gold-mining town 700 km east of Perth. Stan had 3 sisters and an older brother.

Stan grew up with a strong work ethic, helping both his parents after school and on weekends. He loved his sport and played cricket and tennis and was also a competitive road cyclist. In 1929, Stan Gurney won a 50-mile cycling race[Trove] and remained interested in the sport for the rest of his life.

The Gurney family moved to Perth when Stan was 15. He finished his education at Stott's Business College and worked for a short while with a local real estate agent. He also worked with the City of Perth Electricity and Gas Department.

War service

Stan joined the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as a private on 6 December 1940. He left Fremantle for the Middle East on 5 July 1941, where he was posted to D Company, 2/48th Infantry Battalion.

Stan served at Tobruk, Palestine and Syria. Late in June 1942, his battalion rushed to Egypt to head off Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s advance. By 22 July, D Company had lost all its officers in fierce fighting at Tel el Eisa and casualty numbers continued to rise.

It was at this point that Stan sacrificed his own life to make it possible for his company to advance. His citation records:

Grasping the seriousness of the situation and without hesitation, Private Gurney charged the nearest enemy machine-gun post, bayonetted three men and silenced the post. He then continued on to a second post, bayonetted two men and sent out a third as a prisoner.

At this stage a stick grenade was thrown at Private Gurney which knocked him to the ground. He rose again, picked up his rifle and charged a third post using the bayonet with great vigour. He then disappeared from view, and later his body was found in an enemy post.

By this single-handed act of gallantry in the face of a determined enemy, Private Gurney enabled his Company to press forward to its objective, inflicting heavy losses upon the enemy. The successful outcome of this engagement, was almost entirely due to Private Gurney's heroism at the moment when it was needed.

[Victoria Cross Citation, 8 September 1942, London Gazette]

6 medals on ribbons consisting of 3 silver circle, 2 gold stars and 1 bronze cross

The Australian War Memorial holds Arthur Stanley Gurney's medals in its collection. AWM REL22319.006

Commemorating Stan Gurney

Each year, on Anzac Day, cyclists gather for the Stan Gurney VC Memorial Race.

He is also remembered at the Arthur Stanley Gurney VC Memorial Park in Cue, Western Australia.

Sources:

  • 1922 'DAY DAWN.', Kalgoorlie Miner (WA: 1895 - 1954), 13 July, p. 1. , viewed 07 Dec 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93369806
  • 1942 'Private Gurney, V.C., won honor in his first action', The Australian Women's Weekly (1933-1982), 26 September, p 29, viewed 20 August 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46446805
  • Monument Australia (undated), Private Arthur Gurney V.C., viewed 19 August 2020, https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/military/display/60346-private-arthur-gurney-v.c.-
  • The London Gazette, 8 September 1942, viewed 19 August 2020, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/35698/supplement/3953/data.pdf

Last updated: 10 December 2021

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2021), Arthur Stanley Gurney, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 1 October 2022, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/biographies/arthur-stanley-gurney
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