As Kerri delved into the incredible life of Sergeant Statton, she was amazed to read about his gallant actions during WWI which earned him the VC.
On August 12, 1918, near Proyart in France’s Somme Valley, armed only with a revolver, Sgt Statton rushed four German machine gun posts and forced them to retreat. He then ran out into heavy fire and dragged two of his badly hurt comrades to safety.
“Sgt. Statton set a magnificent example of quick decision, and the success of the attacking troops was largely due to his determined gallantry,” the announcement from Buckingham Palace read.
Kerri couldn’t believe she was so oblivious to her great-grandfather’s heroism.
“It’s over 100 years later and it is getting forgotten. It’s like he was slowly fading from history. I’m putting my arm in there and I’m pushing it back into the history books,” Kerri says proudly. “This is why I am trying to be his voice, so the younger generation can remember him, and other war heroes.”
Sgt Statton received the prestigious military accolade at Buckingham Palace, then also went on to serve in World War II. Kerri’s great-grandfather died in Hobart in 1959, eight years before she was born.
But it hasn’t lessened her passion for making sure her war hero ancestor’s memory burns bright.
The last two decades of research led her to meeting war veteran Frank McDonald MM – before his death in 2003 – a former soldier who was actually witness to Sgt Statton’s bravery.
Kerri also travelled to France and retraced Sgt Statton and his battalion’s movements during the war. And in an incredible twist of fate, Kerri even met the descendent of a penpal her great-grandfather wrote letters to while serving in WWI.
With the help of social media, Kerri connected with Jason Howell, the grandson of Tasmanian schoolboy Reginald Barker, who exchanged letters with Sgt Statton in 1917.
“We call it the ‘letter from the grave’. It was absolutely amazing to read the 102-year-old [words] that my great-grandfather wrote, while in the trenches in snow and fighting a war,” Kerri says.
“The fact he took the time to write back to this 11-year-old boy … it just brought tears to my eyes. It was just an honour to be able to see it and read it.”
Not only is Kerri working hard to follow in her ancestor’s footsteps, she is also a passionate advocate for all Victoria Cross recipients in Australia.
On Anzac Day, Kerri marches in honour of all past and present VC heroes and lays a wreath on Remembrance Day to pay tribute to them too.
“I’m their voice – for not just Percy, but all our VC recipients. Some had no family members or any children at all,” Kerri adds.
“I was getting a little sick of them getting forgotten. I find that heart-wrenching. It’s history.”
It’s been 20 years, but Kerri is still learning about the fascinating life of the heroic Sgt Percy Statton.
It’s a chapter of Australia’s history books which Kerri will continue writing for a long time to come.
“His story is like a tree with many branches – they just keep growing. Each time I think I’ve come to the end of the journey, something else comes up,” she says.
“I knew there was something about him that was special. He wasn’t just a war hero, he was a hero in every sense.”