Peter Scratchley

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Sir Peter Scratchley
Picturesque New Guinea Plate XLIX (a) - Sir Peter Scratchley KCMG.jpg
Born(1835-08-24)24 August 1835
Paris, France
Died2 December 1885(1885-12-02) (aged 50)
Near Papua New Guinea
Old Charlton cemetery, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1854–1882[1][2]
RankMajor General
Battles/warsCrimean War
Indian Rebellion of 1857
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Other workSpecial Commissioner for Great Britain in New Guinea

Major General Sir Peter Henry Scratchley KCMG (24 August 1835 – 2 December 1885) was special commissioner for Great Britain in New Guinea 1884–1885 and defence adviser for Australia.[1]


Governor Blackall, c. 1870.

Scratchley was born in Paris, thirteenth child of Dr James Scratchley, Royal Artillery, and his wife Maria, née Roberts.[1] He was educated in Paris and at the Woolwich academy and then began a career as an Officer of Engineers in the British Army. Scratchley served in the Crimea and Indian Mutiny and in October 1859 was made a captain. He then had several tours of duty in the Australian colonies advising on defence. In 1860 he was sent to Victoria to plan a system of defence for that colony, but after working on this for over three years his plan was not adopted as a whole. Scratchley had, however, constructed batteries around the coast of Port Phillip by expending a comparatively small sum.[1][2]

Following the withdrawal in 1870 of British garrison troops from Australia, Major General Sir William Jervois and then Lieutenant Colonel Scratchley were commissioned by a group of colonies to advise on defence matters. They inspected each colony's defences and produced the Jervois-Scratchley reports of 1877. Not surprisingly given their engineering backgrounds and the fear in the colonies of potential enemy fleets, the reports emphasised fortifications against naval attack. The Jervois-Scratchley reports formed the basis of defence planning in Australia and New Zealand for the next 30 years.[2]

Among his achievements in Australia were:

Scratchley retired with the honorary rank of Major-General on 1 October 1882, but was still employed as defence adviser for Australia by the Colonial Office. He was appointed special commissioner for Great Britain in New Guinea in 1884, and arrived there in August 1885. Port Moresby was made the seat of government, questions of land tenure and the cultivation of the land were examined, and good relations were established with many of the natives and with the missionaries. Scratchley soon contracted malaria and died at sea on aboard the Governor Blackall on 2 December 1885. He was buried in Melbourne and then reinterred to the Old Charlton cemetery in England. He left a widow, two daughters and a son.[2]


Scratchley was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in June 1885.[1]

Scratchley Road in Port Moresby, Mount Scratchley in the Owen Stanley Range near Kokoda, and Fort Scratchley in Newcastle are named in his honour.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Joyce, R. B. (1976). "Scratchley, Sir Peter Henry (1835–1885)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  2. ^ a b c d Serle, Percival (1949). "Scratchley, Peter". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  3. ^ "Bare Island Fort". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 8 October 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kinloch Cooke, C. Peter Scratchley. Australian Defences and New Guinea. Elibron Classics. Compiled from the papers of the late Major-General Sir Peter Scratchley

Government offices
New creation Special Commissioner of British New Guinea
Succeeded by
Hugh Hastings Romilly