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Henry Gurney

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Sir Henry Gurney
British High Commissioner in Malaya
In office
1 October 1948 – 6 October 1951
Preceded bySir Edward Gent
Succeeded byField Marshal Sir Gerald Templer
Personal details
Born(1898-06-27)27 June 1898
Poughill, Bude, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Died6 October 1951(1951-10-06) (aged 53)
Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Federation of Malaya
Manner of deathAssassination
SpouseLady Isabel Lowther Weir
EducationWinchester College

Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney KCMG KStJ (27 June 1898 – 6 October 1951) was a British colonial administrator who served in various posts throughout the British Empire. Gurney was killed by communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency, while serving as high commissioner in the Federation of Malaya.



As a boy, Gurney was educated at Winchester College.[1] During World War I, he joined the British Army, and served with the King's Royal Rifle Corps from 1917 to 1920.[2]

After a brief spell at University College, Oxford, he joined the British Colonial Service in 1921, and was posted to Kenya as an assistant district commissioner. In 1935, after fourteen years in Kenya, he was appointed Assistant Colonial Secretary to Jamaica. After a brief stint working at the Colonial Office in London, Gurney served as Chief Secretary to the Conference of East Africa Governors from 1938 to 1944, and Colonial Secretary in the Gold Coast from 1944 to 1946. In 1946, he was appointed Chief Secretary to Palestine, serving until the end of British rule there in 1948. While serving in Palestine, Gurney was instrumental in crafting British policy during the Jewish insurgency in Palestine.[3]

In the 1947 New Year Honours, he was promoted to Knight Commander (KCMG) of the Order of St Michael and St George, which is the second highest rank in this order – for his service in Palestine. He had previously been a Companion (CMG) in the same order.[4] In 1949 he was made a Knight of the Venerable Order of Saint John.[5]

On 1 October 1948, Gurney was appointed High Commissioner to Malaya. Gurney assumed his post as the Malayan Emergency was beginning, and over the next three years he became the chief architect of British policy in Malaya.



On 6 October 1951, Gurney was killed in an ambush by communist insurgents from the Malayan Communist Party while on his way to a resort at Mile 56 ½, Kuala Kubu Road near Fraser's Hill.[6] According to Communist leader Chin Peng, the ambush was routine, the killing by chance, and the guerrillas only learned the High Commissioner was among the dead from news reports.[7]

Gurney's funeral took place on 8 October. He was buried in Cheras War Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur, in a ceremony that drew thousands of people.[6][8]


Gurney's grave at Cheras Christian Cemetery

Malayans from all classes and nationalities, having already given him their esteem and affection, kept his memory green, and when he died on 6 October 1951 they would mourn him as a friend who "has gone home to the mercy of God".[citation needed] At that moment, his funeral was not only attended by his family members and British Officers in Malaya but also attended by the Malayans from all classes and races. Today, Gurney Road in Malacca, Seremban, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are named after him. The town named Pekan Gurney in Perak is also named after him. The popular beachfront Gurney Drive, in Penang, is also named after him, as well as the Henry Gurney Prisoners School in Teluk Mas, Melaka. Gurney was buried at Cheras War Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[9]

His tombstone is inscribed:

In proud and loving memory of Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney K.C.M.G. High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya 1948–1951 Born 27 June 1898 Died 6 October 1951 Greater Love Hath No Man Than This That A Man Lay Down His Life for His Friends R.I.P.

Government offices
Preceded by British High Commissioner in Malaya
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Secretary of Mandatory Palestine
Succeeded by
Office abolished


  1. ^ "Sir Henry Gurney Collection". JISC. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  2. ^ "No. 32343". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 June 1921. p. 4388.
  3. ^ Grob-Fitzgibbon, Benjamin: Imperial Endgame: Britain's Dirty Wars and the End of Empire.
  4. ^ "No. 37835". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1946. pp. 1–3.
  5. ^ "No. 38804". The London Gazette. 3 January 1950. p. 60.
  6. ^ a b "Pembunuhan Sir Henry Gurney". Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah (in Malay). National Archives of Malaysia. 7 October 1951. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  7. ^ Chin Peng, My Side of History, Media Masters, Singapore, 2003, pp 287–289.
  8. ^ Slain British Officer Buried
  9. ^ "War History Sites". Archived from the original on 24 January 2021. Retrieved 20 December 2020.