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From meters to machine guns: Recognising our VC hero

A chance discovery at one of our sites has bridged the gap between our war heroes of yesteryear and today.

Russ Sharp from our Property and Fleet team, a former enlisted Sergeant in the Royal Australian Air Force, found a historic World War II employee honour board with over 200 names from the City of Perth Electricity and Gas Department (now Western Power).

In consultation with the Returned and Services League (RSL), we unearthed some fascinating stories, including that we had a Victoria Cross (VC) recipient – Stan Gurney – who, along with five others, died in action.

Named as one of the famous Rats of Tobruk, Stan was employed in 1927 as a clerk and meter-fixer with the City of Perth Electricity and Gas Department. An enthusiastic cyclist, he won a number of road-races and officiated at fixtures conducted by the League of Western Australian Wheelmen.

Stan was just 33 years old, and a Private in the 2/48th Battalion Australian Imperial Force during the Second World War, when he was awarded the VC (posthumously) for ‘a heroic deed’.

His VC citation appeared in the London Gazette of Tuesday, 8 September 1942:

No.WX.9858 Private Arthur Stanley Gurney, Australian Military Forces. For gallant and unselfish bravery in silencing enemy machine-gun posts by bayonet assault at Tell El Eisa on 22 July 1942, thus allowing his Company to continue the advance.

During an attack on strong German positions in the early morning of 22 July 1942, the Company to which Private Gurney belonged was held up by intense machine-gun fire from posts less than 100 yards ahead, heavy casualties being inflicted on our troops, all the officers being killed or wounded.

Grasping the seriousness of the situation and without hesitation, Private Gurney charged the nearest enemy machine-gun post, bayoneted three men and silenced the post. He then continued on to a second post, bayoneted 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.

Later his comrades, whose advance he had made possible, found his body. There is a grave at El Alamein, Egypt in the desert at the battle site.

The Stan Gurney ward at the former Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, and the Stan Gurney VC Memorial Bike Race held annually in Midland, are named in his honour.

There are many powerful stories including of others who died in battle, as there are so many others who paid the ultimate sacrifice. For us at Western Power, restoring the Honour Board is a sign of respect to those who bravely served their country.

The honour board was unveiled today at our head office with former and current armed service members who work at Western Power, as well as members of the RSL, in attendance.

Russ Sharp shares Stan Gurney's story with attendees

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