SCRATCHLEY, Sir Peter Henry (1835-1885)

SCRATCHLEY, Sir Peter Henry (1835-1885)
first special commissioner for New Guinea, son of Dr James Scratchley, was born at Paris on 24 August 1835. He was educated at Paris and under a tutor before entering Woolwich academy in 1850. He passed out at the head of the list in 1854 and obtained a commission as lieutenant in the royal engineers. He served in the Crimea and Indian mutiny, and in October 1859 was made a captain. 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. He had, however, constructed batteries around the coast of Port Phillip by expending a comparatively small sum. He returned to England and in 1864 became chief inspector of works at Woolwich and held the office for 12 years. He reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1874 and in 1876 again went to Australia to act in conjunction with General Sir William Jervois in advising the Australian governments upon defence measures. He visited the various colonies and drew up schemes, but found it difficult to persuade the governments concerned to do anything effective. He was retired from the army with the rank of major-general in 1882, returned to England in 1883, and for nearly two years was adviser on defence to the Australian colonies except Western Australia. In November 1884 he was appointed special commissioner for Great Britain in New Guinea. He went to Australia immediately, made financial arrangements with the various colonies, and in August 1885 went to New Guinea to take possession of the new territory. 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. Everything was shaping well until Scratchley contracted malaria in November 1885. He died at sea on 2 December. He was created K.C.M.G. earlier in the year. He married and left a widow and children.
C. Kinlock Cooke, Australian Defences and New Guinea, compiled from Scratchley's papers with Memoir; The Times, 4 December 1885.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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