Sir Peter Henry Scratchley

(1835—1885) military engineer and colonial administrator

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(24 August 1835–2 December 1885). Born in Paris, the son of a medical officer in the Royal Artillery, Scratchley graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1854 and was commissioned in the Royal Engineers. He served in the Crimean War from 1854 to 1856, and in the Indian Mutiny between 1857 and 1859, before being sent to Melbourne in 1860 in command of a detachment of engineers to construct defence works of his own design. Financial restrictions hampered his work and very little was built, but Scratchley remained in Melbourne, becoming involved in local defence matters and supporting the establishment in Victoria of a volunteer engineers corps. He returned to the United Kingdom in 1863 but retained his interest in Australian defence questions, not only in Melbourne but in South Australia, on whose defence problems he wrote a report in 1865. While in England he supervised the construction of coastal defence gun batteries at Portsmouth Harbour, and shortly afterwards was appointed Assistant Inspector and then Inspector of Works for the Manufacturing Department at the War Office, a position he held for 12 years. In 1874, newly promoted lieutenant-colonel, he was appointed to assist Sir William Jervois in reviewing the defences of the Australian colonies. Jervois became Governor of South Australia in 1878, and the following year Scratchley was appointed Commissioner of Defences of all the Australian colonies and New Zealand. Scratchley believed in the protection that British seapower could afford the colonies, and he rejected costly schemes to raise large local forces, preferring instead to trust in strong, well-placed fortifications near ports and vital coastal installations, supported by submarine mines to obstruct shipping channels and approaches, and the offensive use of torpedoes against enemy ships. After he retired from active service in 1882 with the rank of honorary major-general, Scratchley was retained by the Colonial Office as defence adviser for the Australian colonies.


From The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Military History.

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