Victoria Cross : Sergeant P C Statton, 40 Battalion, AIF

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Bray Proyart Area, Proyart
Accession Number REL23654.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Bronze
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: Somme Advance 1918
Maker Hancocks
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Victoria Cross. Engraved reverse suspender with recipient's details and reverse cross with date of action.

History / Summary

506 Percy Clyde Statton was born in Beaconsfield Tasmania on 19 October 1890. The son of Edward and Maggie Lavinia (nee Hoskins) Statton, he was educated at Zeehan State School before becoming a farmer at Tyenna before the outbreak of the First World War. On 12 September 1907 he married Elsie May Pearce, giving his age as 21.

Statton enlisted in the AIF on 1 March 1916 and was posted to A Company 40 Battalion. He was promoted to lance corporal on 22 May. The battalion embarked on HMAT A35 Berrima at Hobart on 1 July 1916, arriving at Devonport, England on 22 August. Statton was promoted to corporal on 19 November. The battalion moved to France four days later, arriving at the Armentieres sector on 2 December. The following month, Statton was promoted to acting sergeant, the rank being confirmed on 23 April 1917. For his actions while supervising a support party during the Battle of Messines in June he was awarded the Military Medal.

On 12 October, during the First Battle of Passchendaele (one of eight major assaults making up the Third Battle of Ypres), Statton suffered a gunshot wound to the right shoulder. He was evacuated to England for treatment and did not rejoin his unit until May 1918. On 10 June he was gassed in fighting near Villers-Bretonneux and taken to a casualty clearing station, returning to his unit on the 24th. During July he was detached for duty with 10 Brigade Headquarters as part of a demonstration platoon. He rejoined 40 Battalion on the 27th.

During the Battle of Amiens on 8 August, the battalion, together with the rest of 10 Brigade, was held in reserve. On the 10th, the brigade received orders to 'capture the spur on the west of CHUIGNOLLES between the main AMIENS - ST. QUENTIN Road and River Somme'. That evening the brigade moved out, with tank support, toward their objective. The terrain proved difficult for the tanks who were unable to move off road so the four battalions of the brigade, 37, 38, 39 and 40, were forced to keep to the road with them. East of the village of La Flaque the advancing brigade was spotted by the Germans and enemy planes began bombing and machine gunning the column. The troops sought shelter on the side of the road but quickly resumed their march.

Enemy ground fire and airborne bombing intensified as the brigade neared Proyart, causing heavy casualties and halting the advance. Soon after midnight on the 11th, 37 and 39 battalions were withdrawn to reserve positions. Meanwhile 38 and 40 battalions were ordered to dig in and occupy a line starting east of La Flaque as far as the Proyart-Harbonnieres railway. For the remainder of the day the two battalions were subject to sustained enemy bombardment.

The following morning it was determined that the enemy were 'holding their lines very weakly', and were heavily reliant on their machine guns for defence. Orders were received for the whole line to advance. The objectives of 40 Battalion in the advance were the southern portion of Proyart and the valley south of the Proyart – Chuignes road. 37 Battalion on 40 Battalion’s left flank, was to sweep through the village of Proyart and dig in on a spur on the east side of the town. The attack began at around 7.15 am on 12 August.

Later that evening, while working their way through the north of Proyart village, 37 Battalion were met by heavy fire from four German machine guns, forcing them to ground. Meanwhile, Statton was organising two Lewis guns to provide covering fire for members of his company when he witnessed the battalion’s situation. He tried to cover the advance of a unit from 37 Battalion only to see them fall before they could reach the first gun. Taking three men, Corporal Wilfrid Upchurch, and privates Leslie Styles and Nathaniel Beard, and armed only with his service revolver, Statton moved across open ground toward the enemy machine gun position while the crew's attention was drawn to the 37 Battalion troops.

Statton's party quickly accounted for the first gun before proceeding to the second where Statton accounted for the enemy crew single handed. The actions of Statton's party convinced the remaining two enemy crews to abandon their guns, only to be cut down by the two Lewis guns that Statton had organised earlier. At some time during the action, Styles was killed and Upchurch wounded. Statton later returned, under fire, and retrieved the wounded men. The battalion was relieved at 1.30 am on the 13th.

For his actions during the fighting at Proyart, Statton was awarded the Victoria Cross. Both Beard and Upchurch were mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's dispatch of those deserving of special mention in July 1919. Statton's recommendation for the VC reads:

For most conspicuous gallantry and initiative in action near PROYART on 12 August, 1918.
The platoon commanded by Sergeant STATTON reached its objective, but the remainder of the Battalion was held up by heavy machine gun fire. He skilfully engaged two machine gun posts with Lewis gun fire, enabling the remainder of his own Battalion to advance.
The advance of the Battalion on his left had been brought to a standstill by the heavy enemy machine gun fire and the first of our assaulting detachments to reach the Machine Gun posts were put out of action on taking the first gun.
Armed only with a revolver, in broad daylight, Sergeant STATTON at once rushed 4 enemy machine gun posts in succession, disposing of two of them, killing 5 of the enemy. The remaining two posts retired and were wiped out by Lewis gun fire.
His act had a very inspiring effect on the troops who had been held up; they cheered him as he returned. By this daring exploit he enabled the attacking troops to gain their objective.
Later in the evening, under heavy machine gun fire, he went out again and brought in two badly wounded men.
Sergeant STATTON set a magnificent example of quick decision and determined gallantry.

Statton was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 7 June 1919. On 6 October he embarked for Australia on board HT Pakeha, arriving in Hobart on 26 November. He was discharged from the AIF on 18 January 1920. His marriage to Elsie ended in October the same year. After his discharge he worked as a labourer before resuming farming at Fitzgerald. During the disastrous bushfires that swept the Derwent Valley in 1934, Statton again made news when he rescued families trapped by the blaze.

On 21 December 1925 he married Eliza Grace Hudson who died in 1945. He married again in 1947 to Monica Enid Effie Kingston and the couple lived at Ouse. Statton’s medals were lost in the 1930s though the details are unclear. One report suggests that they were lost in the same accidental house fire that claimed the life of his step daughter on 8 September 1938 in Fitzgerald. The medals were replaced in 1950 with the assistance of the 40th Battalion Association.

Between 1942 and 1946 Statton acted as a lieutenant in the Volunteer Defence Force. During the 1950s he worked for Australian Newsprint Mills. At one time he was also president of the Lawrenny sub-branch of the RSL at Ouse. The family then moved to Brighton where Statton was elected to the council. In 1956 he and his wife attended the VC Centenary celebrations in London.

According to his son, Percy Jr., in an article for the Sunday Tasmanian in 1985, Statton would rarely talk about the actions for which he was awarded his medals. His father firmly believed that everyone who went to war deserved a VC. He was also a religious man who had an abiding respect for others, including his enemies. His father told him of a time when he shot a German soldier in the buttocks as he was retreating up a hill. For the rest of his life Statton regretted taking that shot, telling his son that, 'the man was only doing what [I] would have liked to have done.'

Statton died on 5 December 1959 at the Repatriation General Hospital in Hobart. He was cremated with full military honours and his ashes interred at Cornelian Bay Cemetery. He was survived by his third wife and the son from his first marriage. His medal group came into the National Collection in 1995.