b. 04/06/1895 Drysdale, Australia. d. 27/03/1917 Lagnicourt, France.
Percy Herbert Cherry (1895-1917) was born on 4th June 1895 at Murradoc, Drysdale, Victoria, Australia. His father, John “Jack” Gawley Cherry, was a horse breaker and rough rider, and in 1880 was involved as a witness to the activities of the gang of Ned Kelly. Jack went on to manage large horse and cattle stations for 12 years at Cape Otway and Merrydock, Drysdale, before running a station in South Africa for 18 months. He also ran a hotel in Melbourne and an apple orchard in later life. Percy’s mother was Elizabeth nee Russell and his parents married in 1883 in Guildford, near Campbell’s Creek, Castlemaine, Victoria. Percy had four siblings, two brothers and two sisters.
Percy was educated at Cradoc State School, Huon, Tasmania until 1908 and received private tuition thereafter. He rowed with Franklin Rowing Club, played the cornet and sang in the Church of England choir. He worked for his father in the apple orchard and became an expert picker. He joined the Army Cadet Force in 1908 and became an excellent shot. He was later appointed Lieutenant with 93rd Infantry Regiment (Militia). On 5th March 1915, Percy enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in Franklin and was immediately appointed Quartermaster Sergeant. He qualified for a commission, but was seen as too young. He was posted to 26th Battalion and embarked for the Middle East with D Company at Brisbane aboard HMAT A60 Aeneas on 29th June.
He took part in operations at Gallipoli in September 1915, and was wounded in the head by shrapnel on 1st December. He was evacuated to Alexandria and treated at No 2 Australian General Hospital. He was commissioned on 8th December, and didn’t return to duty until 26th January 1916 at Tel-el-Kebir. Having attended a machine gun course, he was posted to 7th Machine Gun Company at Moascar Garrison, Egypt oon 3rd March. He arrived at Marseilles, France on 21st March.
During the fighting at Pozieres, The Somme on 5th August, he was wounded in the neck by a sniper, and was treated at Rouen on 6th August, before being evacuated to London for further treatment. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 25th August and appointed adjutant at Wareham, Dorset on 16th September. He returned to France in November and became Temporary Captain of C Company, 26th Battalion. He was promoted to Captain formally on 14th February 1917.
On 2nd March 1917 in an attack on Malt Trench at Warlencourt, he was wounded, but refused to leave his post and managed to find a gap in the wire and charged two enemy machine gun positions. He captured both and turned one of the guns on the enemy. He cleared the enemy from the positions, and for this was awarded the Military Cross.
On 26th March 1917, at Lagnicourt, France, he was in command of a company detailed to storm and clear the village. After all the officers of his company had become casualties he carried on with care and determination, in the face of fierce opposition, and cleared the village of the enemy. He sent frequent reports of progress made, and when held up for some time by an enemy strong point he organised machine gun and bomb parties and captured the position. His leadership, coolness and bravery set a wonderful example to his men.
Having cleared the village, he took charge of the situation and beat off the most resolute and heavy counter-attacks made by the enemy. Wounded about 6.30 a.m., he refused to leave his post, and there remained, encouraging all to hold out at all costs, until, about 4.30 p.m., this very gallant officer was killed by an enemy shell.
He was buried in Queant Road Cemetery, Buissy, near Arras, France, and as he never married, the VC was presented to his father by Sir Francis Newdegate KCMG, Governor of Tasmania, at Hobart City Hall on 6th October 1917. In addition to his VC and MC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medals are held by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA
BURIAL PLACE: QUEANT ROAD CEMETERY, BUISSY, FRANCE.
PLOT VII ROW C, GRAVE 10
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of Cherry’s VC Group at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.