The Man Who Got Them Safely Off Gallipoli
By A J McAleer
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On December 8th, 1915 there were 38,500 Australian troops occupying trenches on Gallipoli, facing a larger Turkish force of some 80,000. Twelve days later they had all been evacuated from the Peninsula without the loss of a man and without the enemy knowing. In hindsight their cunning escape had become the only success of the whole Gallipoli campaign.
How they did this was helped in no small way by an ingenious invention created by twenty year old Lance-Corporal Bill Scurry, a self-firing rifle with a primitive timer that would convince the Turkish soldiers that the Anzacs were still in their trenches shooting at them when in fact they had long gone. It would earn for him the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the gratitude of those who had got off Gallipoli safely.
But this was only a small part of the Bill Scurry story. Descended from a long line of adventurers and creative geniuses, he inherited both these qualities and put them to good use during his time in the army in two World Wars.
From Egypt to the evacuation of Gallipoli, from Fromelles commanding his own trench mortar unit and on to Sailly where he lost a finger and the sight in his right eye after a bomb exploded in his hand. After months in hospital in France and England he was ordered to be sent home but convinced the authorities to let him stay on as an instructor at the ANZAC Corps School of Instruction. Here he stayed until the war’s end, apart from the last few months of the war when he used his leave to go forward and serve on the front line with his old unit. A young man of great courage and fortitude he finished the war with the rank of Captain and was mentioned in despatches as well as being awarded the Military Cross.
On the ship home he met a brave young Army Nurse from South Australia, Sr Doris Barry, who herself had served in France, Belgium, Italy and Salonika during the war. They later married and raised a family of four daughters, becoming soldier settlers at Silvan where they did much for the welfare of fellow veterans. During the Second World War he went into uniform again, serving as Commandant of an internment camp for enemy aliens, firstly German then Japanese civilians. His last years were spent at Croydon, playing golf and coping with the health issues of both he and his wife that were a legacy of their war service.
With a foreword by Dr Ross McMullin, author of ‘Pompey Elliott’
Introduction by the Hon Tony Smith MP, Speaker of the House