New Zealand Law Society - Percy Valentine Storkey VC, 1893 - 1969

Percy Valentine Storkey VC, 1893 - 1969

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Born in Napier, Storkey attended Napier Boys’ High School where he excelled academically and in rifle shooting, cricket and swimming. He was Dux in 1910 and won the national Navy League essay prize with “Why Britain must command the Sea”, but moved to Sydney in January 1912 after studying English extramurally at Victoria University College for a year.

He worked as a clerk for a while before joining the administrative staff of the University of Sydney and then beginning to study law in 1913. The war intervened and he volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force on 10 May 1915, being commissioned as a second lieutenant in September. He embarked overseas a few months later and served on the Western Front, being wounded in November 1916 and October 1917. He was promoted to lieutenant in January 1917.

On 7 April 1918, Storkey’s company was sent to clear Hangard Wood, mistakenly thought to be “lightly held”. Storkey fell asleep and missed the attack, waking up when his company had advanced about 70 metres. He caught up, but heavy machine gun fire had wiped out a quarter of the company, including the commander who was shot in both knees. Storkey took over and led a small group of less than a dozen to get behind the German trenches and machine gun. The Germans were alerted when one of the Australians yelled and Storkey led a bayonet charge, killing or wounding 30 and accepting the surrender of over 50 survivors who believed they had been attacked by a much larger force.

Storkey was awarded the Victoria Cross for his action. It was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 25 July. Before the war ended he was wounded again and promoted to captain in May 1918.

Back in the colonies, he made a triumphant return to Hawke’s Bay, where Mayoral speeches and other receptions celebrating his achievement flowed. Then he returned to Australia and went back to university.

He graduated LLB in 1921, being admitted to the Bar on 8 June. He was an associate to Justice Sir Charles Wade while studying and then practised in common law, becoming Crown Prosecutor for the New South Wales south-western circuit. After 18 years in this role he was appointed a District Court Judge and Chairman of Quarter Sessions in the NSW northern district. He retired in 1955, shifting to Teddington, Middlesex in England with his wife. He died there on 3 October 1969.

Storkey’s Victoria Cross was bequeathed to his old Napier school. The medal is on long-term loan to the National Army Museum, although the school hall has a replica. The school awards the Storkey VC Prize for Excellence in Mathematics and Science each year.

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