Percy Gratwick

Percival Eric "Percy" Gratwick, VC (19 October 1902 – 26 October 1942) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Percival Eric Gratwick
Percy Gratwick
Nickname(s)Percy
Born(1902-10-19)19 October 1902
Katanning, Western Australia
Died26 October 1942(1942-10-26) (aged 40)
Miteiriya Ridge, El Alamein, Egypt
Buried
El Alamein Commonwealth cemetery
AllegianceAustralia
Service/branchSecond Australian Imperial Force
Years of service1940–42
RankPrivate
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsVictoria Cross

Early life

Gratwick was born in Katanning, Western Australia on 19 October 1902, the fifth son of the local postmaster. Leaving school at the age of 16, he took up various jobs which included a period as a messenger at Parliament House. Later he worked as a blacksmith, a drover and a prospector.[1]

Second World War

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Gratwick attempted to join the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF). However, issues with his nose, which had been broken years earlier, led to the rejection of his application. In late 1940, after expensive medical treatment on his nose, he attempted to enlist again, this time successfully.[1]

Following completion of his training in July 1941, Gratwick embarked for Libya, where he was assigned to the 2/48th Battalion (a South Australian unit) with the rank of private. The battalion was among the defenders of Tobruk but was transferred to Palestine in October 1941. By June 1942, the battalion was in Egypt.[1]

On the night of 25/26 October 1942 during the attack at Miteiriya Ridge, Egypt, the platoon to which Gratwick belonged suffered considerable casualties, including the platoon commander and sergeant. Gratwick, realising the seriousness of the situation, charged a German machine-gun position by himself, and killed the crew with hand grenades. He also killed a mortar crew. Under heavy machine-gun fire Gratwick then charged a second post, using his rifle and bayonet. In inflicting further casualties he was killed by machine-gun fire, but his brave and determined action, for which he would be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, enabled his company to capture the final objective.[1][2]

Gratwick is buried in El Alamein Commonwealth cemetery, and his Victoria Cross is displayed at the Army Museum of Western Australia in Fremantle, Western Australia. In Port Hedland, Western Australia, Gratwick Street, the Gratwick Aquatic Centre and the town theatre and community hall are all named in his honour.[1]

References

  1. Bill, Gammage (1996). "Gratwick, Percival Eric (1902–1942)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Volume 14. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  2. "No. 35879". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 January 1943. p. 523.
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