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The Honourable
 Sir Henry Gurney 

In office
1 October 1948 – 6 October 1951
Preceded by Sir Edward Gent
Succeeded by Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer

Born 27 June 1898(1898-06-27)
Poughill, Bude, United Kingdom
Died 6 October 1951 (aged 53)
Fraser's Hill, British Malaya
Spouse(s) Lady Isabel Lowther Weir
Religion Christian

Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney KCMG K.St.J. (27 June 1898–6 October 1951) was a British official who was assassinated by communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency.



Gurney was born on 27 June 1898, in Poughill, near Bude in Cornwall.[1] He was the son of G.G.H. Gurney and Florence Gurney. He was educated at Winchester College and University College, Oxford. He married Lady Isabel Lowther Weir in 1924 and they had two sons, Michael and Peter.


He served in the King's Royal Rifle Corps from 1917 to 1920.[2] He joined the Colonial Service and was posted as the Colonial Servant in Kenya, (1921). He also posted as the Assistant Colonial Secretary in Jamaica, (1935), Chief Secretary to the Conference of East Africa Governors, (1938–1944), Colonial Secretary in Gold Coast (1944–1946), Chief Secretary to the Palestine Mandate Government (1946–1948). Gurney became British High Commissioner in Malaya on 13 September 1948.

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 — when he represented the British Government as the Chief Secretary to the Palestine Mandate. He had previously been a Companion (CMG) in the same order.[3] In 1949 he was made a Knight of the Venerable Order of Saint John.[4]


On 6 October 1951, he was shot to death on his way back to Fraser's Hill for a meeting; the guerrillas of the Malayan Communist Party ambushed his Rolls Royce during the Malayan Emergency period. According to Lady Gurney who was with him at the time, he sacrificed himself to the attackers in order to protect the lives of his wife and the driver.

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.[5]


Gurney's grave at Cheras Christian Cemetery

Although Gurney was knighted by King George VI, 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". 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 Christian Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In his tombstone (shown on the right) inscribed with:

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
Sir Gerard Edward James Gent
British High Commissioner in Malaya
Succeeded by
Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer


  1. ^ A. J. Stockwell, ‘Gurney, Sir Henry Lovell Goldsworthy (1898–1951)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, October 2006 accessed 21 November 2007
  2. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 32343, p. 4388, 2 June 1921. Retrieved on 2008-01-02.
  3. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37835, pp. 1–3, 31 December 1946. Retrieved on 2007-11-30.
  4. ^ London Gazette: no. 38804, p. 60, 3 January 1950. Retrieved on 2007-11-30.
  5. ^ Chin Peng, My Side of History, Media Masters, Singapore, 2003, pp 287-289.

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