Henry Gurney was appointed the British High Commissioner for the Malay Federation in 1948 having recently been responsible as State Secretary for overseeing the end of British rule in Palestine.
For three years from 1948 until his assassination in 1951 he was responsible for British foreign policy in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency when Communist Chinese insurgents fought a war against the Government which lasted from 1948 to 1960 in which up to 10,000 people were killed from both sides.
According to the Communist leader Chin Peng, the assassination was unplanned and there was no knowledge of the occupiers of the convoy on 6th October, 1951.
On that day Henry Gurney was traveling to a meeting in Pahang in his Rolls Royce accompanied by his wife and private secretary together with a guard of a dozen policemen in an armoured van.
As they turned a corner they were ambushed by 38 heavily armed insurgents who fired into vehicles killing the driver at which point the police vehicle carried on to get help. As they continued to fire Gurney got out of the car to attract their attention whilst his wife hid inside.
Gurney was shot and killed and his wife wounded when the attackers made off as the police returned. His actions in drawing their fire was seen as an act of heroism which saved his wife.
Gurney was later buried with full honours at Cheras War Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur and in recognition of his brave actions the following epitaph was written on his grave stone:-
“Greater love hath no man that this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”