Military History

The Highest Honour #43 | Leslie Starcevich | Percy Statton | Percy Storkey

By The Cove November 7, 2021


Private Leslie Thomas Starcevich VC (1918 - 1989, 71yo)

Leslie Starcevich was born on 05 September 1918 in Subiaco, Western Australia. At the completion of schooling he worked in a gold mine before joining the Australian Imperial Force on 09 April 1941 where he joined the 2/43rd Infantry Battalion.

Starcevich was deployed to the Middle East on 09 September 1941 and in July, during the battle for Ruin Ridge at El Alamein, was wounded and returned to Australia. In August 1942 he was posted to New Guinea. He was promoted to Acting Corporal in December but later voluntarily relinquished his rank. On 27-28 June 1945 while the 2/43rd Battalion participated in the invasion of Japanese occupied Labuan and British North Borneo, Starcevich's company encountered the enemy at a position where movement off the single track was difficult and hazardous. The leading platoon found the enemy well dug in and, as the Japanese in the first post opened fire, Starcevich moved through the forward scouts firing his Bren-gun from the hip and silencing the post. Fired upon immediately by a second light machine-gun emplacement, he coolly changed his magazine, advanced upon this post and, standing in full view of the gunners, destroyed it. Encountering a third post, he and a fellow soldier moved forward and kept the post quiet with a hail of fire. For this outstanding display of gallantry he was awarded the Victoria Cross in November. 

Starcevich returned to Australia in January 1946 and was discharged on 12 February 1946. Post his service he married twice and at the age of 71 he died on 17 November 1989 and was buried with full military honours at Esperance.

Sergeant Percy Clyde Statton VC, MC (1890 - 1959, 69yo)

Percy Statton was born on 19 October 1890 at Beaconsfield, Tasmania. At the completion of schooling he was a labourer and in March 1916 enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force.

Statton was posted to the 40th Battalion and was deployed to France in November 1916. He was temporarily promoted to Sergeant in January 1917 and was confirmed in rank that following April. On 07-09 June 1917 while in the battle of Messines, Belgium he was awarded the Military Cross for conducting carrying parties in the front line while under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire. During the third battle of Ypres he was injured and was gassed at Villers-Bretonneux.

On 12 August 1917 the 40th Battalion was assigned an objective south of the Proyart-Chuignes road, requiring an advance over 1.2km. After covering about 800m, the battalion was halted by an intense artillery barrage. 'A' Company managed to reach Proyart village and with the aid of Statton's Lewis-gun achieved its objective; the rest of the battalion was then able to follow. At dusk the advance of the supporting 37th Battalion was held up by fierce machine-gun fire. Assisting the 37th's progress with two Lewis-guns, Statton saw the attack fail. He took three men with him and got to within 70m of the first enemy strong-point. Revolver in hand, he then led his men across open ground into the German trench. They destroyed two machine-guns and Statton killed the crews. His party dashed towards the next two gun-posts whose crews fled, only to be killed by the two Lewis-guns which Statton had earlier sited. With one member of his party dead and another wounded, Statton and the third man crawled back to their lines and the 37th Batallion moved forward. That night Statton went out and brought in the wounded man and the body of the other. For his actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Statton returned to Hobart on 26 November 1919 where he received a hero's reception. Unfortunately, prior to departing for the war, his wife told him that if he went off to war she would leave him. True to her word she left him on his return. He remarried a further two times and died on 05 December 1959 of stomach cancer. He was cremated with full military honours.

Captain Percy Valentine Storkey  VC (1891 - 1969, 78yo)

Storkey was born on 09 September 1891 at Napier, New Zealand. At the completion of schooling he worked as a Clerk until 1912 where he worked as administrative staff at the University of Sydney and the next year enrolled as a law student. Prior to departing New Zealand he had spent five years with the Wellington Infantry but on 10 May 1915 enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force as a Private. That September, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. 

Storkey departed for England with the reinforcements for the 19th Battalion and on 14 November 1916 joined his unit in France. He was promoted to Lieutenant in January 1917 and was then wounded for a second time at the 3rd battle of Ypres. On 07 April 1918, the 19th Battalion as a part of the 5th Brigade was assigned to clear an area near Villers-Bretonneux. The attacking company, whose men were tired, lay down at the starting line at dawn. Storkey, who was second-in-command, fell asleep and his company left without him; it had advanced about 70m when he woke. He caught up with his men only to go through heavy machine-gun fire which had hit 25% of them even before the company's leading groups reached the edge of the wood. Captain Wallach, the Company Commander, was shot in both knees and Storkey took over, leading six men through head-high saplings to get behind the German machine-gun force. Together, with another officer and four men, they broke into a clearing behind several trenches from where the Germans were firing at the rest of Storkey's company. One of the Australians yelled when he saw the enemy, some of whom looked around. For both sides it was attack or perish. Storkey instantly headed the charge, engaging the nearest Germans before they had fully reacted. His party killed or wounded thirty of them and the survivors—comprising over fifty men—surrendered. Storkey's confident and determined leadership had given the impression that he led a larger force than the handful visible to the Germans. For his leadership and actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Storkey returned to Australia in November and was discharged from the AIF in January 1919. He resumed his legal studies and on 08 June 1921 was admitted to the bar. He practised in common law before being appointed to the New South Wales Department of Justice as crown prosecutor for the south-western circuit in which he held his post for 18 years. He retired in 1955 and died on 03 October 1969.


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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