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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Scott, Allan Humphrey (1891–1917)

by J. P. Haldane-Stevenson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Allan Humphrey Scott (1891-1917), soldier and clerk, was born on 3 April 1891 at Tumut, New South Wales, son of English-born Donald Allan Hyde Scott, Tumut manager of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, and his Sydney-born wife Maria Caroline, sister of (Sir) Philip Street. Humphrey Scott, as he was known, was educated at Sydney Grammar School, his father having moved to the bank's head office in 1897. After schooling he joined Dalgety & Co. as a clerk. A member of East Sydney Amateur Athletic Club, he was in 1913 New South Wales high-jump champion. In 1909-13 he served with a volunteer unit, the 1st Battalion, New South Wales Scottish Rifles.

Scott joined the Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant on 28 August 1914 but by October, when he embarked for Egypt with the 4th Battalion, he was already a captain. His unit landed at Anzac Cove soon after dawn on 25 April 1915 and Scott's Point, the farthest spot reached on the day of the landing, was named after him. During the Gallipoli campaign Scott proved that he could make quick and valid decisions and inspire his men to follow in situations of extreme danger. This was shown particularly when the Turks counter-attacked the trenches at Lone Pine on 7-8 August. There he held on to a very exposed and vital position until all the wounded had been removed; then, after a fierce bombing attack had forced him to retire, he led a bayonet charge through machine-gun fire to recapture the position. For these actions he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and in July he was mentioned in divisional orders for gallantry and valuable services. During the evacuation of Anzac in December he was in command of the last thirty men of the battalion to leave the trenches.

In Egypt the A.I.F. was doubled early in 1916, largely with raw recruits. Sixteen new lieutenant-colonels were chosen and Scott, marked out by education, intelligence, character, and now by performance as an outstanding leader, was given the 56th Battalion to train from scratch; he was appointed to his command eighteen months after leaving his desk at Dalgety's and a month before he was 25. Six weeks later his division, the 5th, was in France. Here Scott, with former colleagues of the 1st Brigade, evolved a tactic of attack that was later used with outstanding success at Pozières and Bullecourt.

In July Scott was with his unit in the ill-starred attack at Fromelles (a diversion of the 1st battle of the Somme), which for a time crippled the 5th Division, and in October the 56th Battalion was on the Somme at Flers. Early in 1917 the Germans were pushed back to the Hindenburg line; the 1st and 2nd Bullecourt battles to seize part of that line cost the Australians 10,000 casualties and badly shook their confidence in the British high command, but there were tactical highlights. One was Scott's attack on 2 April on Louverval village, a salient of the German rearguard. Charles Bean's detailed account of the way Scott used his platoons offers a text-book model of a night attack timed to end at first light.

Scott's unit was in the 14th Brigade, of which in 1917 he was three times acting or temporary commander. When the 56th Battalion was relieved at Broodseinde, Belgium, a fortnight before the attack on nearby Passchendaele, he characteristically opted to remain behind to help the incoming unit. On 1 October he and a British officer, to whom he was explaining the defence of Polygon Wood, were shot dead by a sniper whose location, though known to Intelligence, had not been passed on to Scott. In 1917 he was mentioned in dispatches three times.

Major General Sir Nevill Smyth, V.C. , who was Scott's brigade commander on Gallipoli, later wrote of him: 'He was of athletic build, tall, with long straight limbs. His usual manner was quiet and modest and his calm, reassuring power and presence of mind never forsook him in the stress of battle. Gentle, honest and unpretentious, he was respected and loved by all who served with him'. Scott was unmarried. His brothers, Major William John Rendell Scott and Lieutenant Lee Scott, also served with the A.I.F.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 2 (Syd, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-17 (Syd, 1929, 1933)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Nov 1931
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Nov 1915, 9 Oct 1917
  • records (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

J. P. Haldane-Stevenson, 'Scott, Allan Humphrey (1891–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 23 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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