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William Henry Scott (1881–1960)

by Matthew Higgins

This article was published:

William Scott, c.1918

William Scott, c.1918

Australian War Memorial, B01131

William Henry Scott (1881-1960), soldier and civil engineer, was born on 11 April 1881 at Oamaru, New Zealand, son of William Henry Scott, civil engineer from Scotland, and his English wife Marion Louisa Balfour, née Wilson. Young William began his education at Greymouth; after the family moved to Victoria in 1890 he went to schools at Casterton and Melbourne and then attended Dookie Agricultural College where he was a gold medallist. Qualifying as a civil engineer, he worked in and around Wangaratta. On 26 June 1912 at Brighton he married Rosamond Maplesden Carter (d.1940); they had seven children.

Beginning an involvement in the militia when he joined the Victorian Mounted Rifles at about 19, Scott was commissioned in 1903, promoted captain in the 11th Light Horse in 1907 and six years later joined the 58th Infantry (Essendon Rifles). He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1914 and was appointed captain in the 9th Light Horse Regiment. The 9th landed under shrapnel fire at Gallipoli on 21 May 1915. In June Scott was promoted major; on 29 August, following the death of the 9th's commanding officer at Hill 60, he took command but on 6 September was evacuated to England with dysentery.

On 1 January 1916 Scott rejoined the unit in Egypt and held temporary command during February and March. He was then ordered to lead a column against a Turkish force that was well-sinking at Jifjafa. Setting out on 11 April, Scott attacked on the 13th. The operation was a complete success, resulting in the death or capture of all but two of the Turks. Scott was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for the action which was the first time the light horse had fought as mounted troops.

Scott was given command of the 9th on 11 June and his rank of lieutenant-colonel was confirmed in September. He played a notable role at Romani in August. The 1st battle of Gaza began on 26 March 1917 and the 9th L.H.R., after helping to oppose Turkish reinforcements sent from Huj, acted as rearguard during the retirement to the Wadi Ghuzze. On 19 April 2nd Gaza was fought, again unsuccessfully. Scott was wounded by shell-fire during the battle and evacuated, but for his work during the Gaza operations was appointed C.M.G.

After a month's convalescence Scott returned to duty. However, on 28 May he was again wounded by machine-gun fire near Shellal. He returned from hospital in early July and from late October to December the 9th participated in the Beersheba-Jerusalem operations.

The allies' great offensive was launched in September 1918 and Damascus was soon captured. On 2 October, at Kubbett I Asafir, Scott's regiment made a dash to cut off a retreating enemy column. About 1500 Turks were captured. This last light horse engagement of the war earned Scott a Bar to his D.S.O. He had also been mentioned in dispatches several times. After briefly commanding the 3rd Light Horse Brigade and helping to quell the Egyptian rebellion in early 1919, he returned to Melbourne in August.

Scott resumed civil engineering and worked for Preston City Council from about 1926 to 1932. He then became engineer to the Shire of Bass for twenty-seven years. In 1919-31 he also commanded various militia light horse formations and rose to brigadier in 1929. In November 1928 he had been appointed aide-de-camp to the governor-general, Lord Stonehaven; he subsequently served Lord Somers and then Sir Isaac Isaacs until October 1932. During World War II Scott again saw army service in a lines-of-communication posting.

Scott contributed items to the Bulletin (under the pseudonym of 'Nugget', an ironic nickname considering his great height), was an honorary life member of Melbourne's Naval and Military Club and devoted much time to his family. On 3 May 1947, at Scots Church, Melbourne, he married a journalist, Susan Eleanor Isobel Langlands.

When he retired from Bass Shire in 1959, Scott was reportedly the oldest practising civil engineer in Victoria. On 21 September 1960 he died at his East Malvern home and was cremated. His wife, and five daughters and a son of his first marriage, survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • H. S. Gullett, The A.I.F. in Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1923)
  • T. H. Darley, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War (Adel, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, Anzac to Amiens (Canb, 1946)
  • Mufti, 1 Oct 1960
  • Bulletin, 5 Oct 1960
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Sept 1960
  • AIF nominal roll, 9th Light Horse Regiment (Australian War Memorial)
  • honours and awards and biographical details of Lieut-Colonel W. H. Scott (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Matthew Higgins, 'Scott, William Henry (1881–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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