Military Cross : Captain P H Cherry, 26 Battalion, AIF

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Warlencourt
Accession Number RELAWM16241
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: Somme to Hindenburg Line
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Military Cross. Engraved reverse with recipient's details.

History / Summary

Percy Herbert Cherry was born to John Gawley and Elizabeth (nee Russel) Cherry in Drysdale Victoria on 4 June 1895. The family moved to Tasmania and settled on an orchard, 'Cherry Vale', in Cradoc when he was seven. He attended the local school until he was aged 13 when he was privately tutored. At around this time he joined the cadets, eventually becoming a second lieutenant, and later served in the 93rd Infantry Militia as a lieutenant.

Cherry enlisted on 5 March 1915 in Franklin, Tasmania and was posted to D Company, 26 Battalion as quartermaster-sergeant. He embarked for overseas service on 29 June, arriving on Gallipoli in early September. There he was appointed D Company's sergeant major on 13 September.

On 1 December Cherry was wounded in the face and head by a bomb blast and was evacuated to Egypt. He was appointed second lieutenant on 8 December while convalescing in hospital. Recovering, Cherry was posted to Tel-el-Kebir for machine gun training, which he passed at the beginning of March 1916, and was seconded to the 7th Machine Gun Company (7MGC). He arrived in France with the unit on 21 March and took part in the failed attack against heavily defended German lines at Pozieres on 28/29 July.

Attacking the same objective on August 5 while in command of no. 2 Battery 7MGC, Cherry was severely wounded and evacuated to London. Later that month he was promoted to lieutenant. In December, after returning to France, Cherry was posted back to 26 Battalion. He was appointed the rank of temporary captain, which was confirmed in mid February 1917.

In March 1917, the battalion was involved in the fighting around Warlencourt and the attack on the German lines at Malt Trench. On 2 March, after the allied bombardment failed to clear the wire in front of Cherry's company's objective, he led them to a gap in the wire and entered the German trenches. While leading his men through the wire Cherry was wounded but continued on and personally captured one machine gun and his men another. Cherry then turned the machine guns on the Germans, who fled when they realised they were being pressed from two sides. For this action Percy was awarded the Military Cross. The recommendation for the award reads:

'For conspicuous bravery and gallantry in action. In the attack on MALT TRENCH north of WARLENCOURT on the night 1st/2nd March, 1917 he led his Company with great dash and bravery. The wire was not well out, but he ran along the edge of the entanglements for a distance of about 50 yards until he found an opening, through which he led his men in single file. On entering the trench he met fierce opposition, but he rallied his men and cleared the trench, connecting up with the Companies on his Right and Left. His efforts throughout were most gallant and inspiring, and although he was wounded remained on duty. He captured two enemy machine guns, one of which he personally turned on the enemy.'

On 26 March 1917, Cherry was involved in an operation to capture the village of Lagnicourt by the 7th Brigade. While units successfully surrounded the perimeter, Cherry's company was detailed with clearing the village itself. Overcoming stiff resistance Cherry pushed forward only to find a heavily defended crater in the centre of the town. Not waiting for mortar reinforcements, Cherry captured the position under cover of Lewis Gun and grenade fire.

Reaching the far edge of the village, Cherry dug in his troops in anticipation of enemy counter-attacks. With only about a 100 men, he defended the village against a battalion sized attack throughout the day. Later that afternoon he was killed by a single German shell. For his actions during the taking of Lagnicourt Cherry was awarded the Victoria Cross.

His Victoria Cross and Military Cross were presented to his parents by the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Francis Newdegate in October 1917.