Sunday, October 22, 2023



The stories behind the names on the signs at the rest stops on the Remembrance Driveway, which goes from Sydney to Canberra.

The highway commemorates persons awarded the Victoria Cross by naming rest stops after him.


The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. The metal used to make every Victoria Cross medal has been made from cannons captured by the British at the siege of Sevastopol.

Australia instituted its own Victoria Cross award in 1991.


Percy Gratwick VC


Location of rest stop:

Collector NSW

The Gratwick VC Rest Area is on an asphalt surface running adjacent to the Federal Highway. There are a few trees for shade, undercover picnic tables and entrance to the Gratwick VC Rest Area

(By the way:

The village of Collector is reportedly named after the Aboriginal name for the region, colegdar.)

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.

World War 2:

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.

After training he sailed from Perth on 5 July 1941, leaving instructions that his horses not be sold or destroyed. In September he joined the 2nd/48th Battalion under siege at Tobruk, Libya. 'I'm home and pleased and proud to be able to piss in the same pot with such a fine crowd', he told his brother. A month later the 2nd/48th was sent to Palestine. In June 1942 it arrived in Egypt, and in July fought at Tel el Eisa. Gratwick was held in reserve, rejoining his battalion on 10 August. Its next battle, his first, was El Alamein.

The Victoria Cross Citation for Percy Gratwick reads:

During the attack on Trig 29 at Miteiriya. Ridge on the night of 25th-26th October, 1942, the Company to which Private Gratwick belonged, met with severe opposition from strong enemy positions which delayed capture of the Company's objective and caused a considerable number of casualties. Private Gratwick's Platoon was directed at these strong positions but its advance was stopped by intense enemy fire at short range. Withering fire of all kinds killed the platoon commander, the platoon sergeant and many other ranks and reduced the total strength of the Platoon to seven. Private Gratwick grasped the seriousness of the situation and acting on his own initiative, with utter disregard for his own safety at a time when the remainder of the Platoon were pinned down, charged the nearest post and completely destroyed the enemy with hand grenades, killing amongst others a complete mortar crew. As soon as this task was completed, and again under heavy machine-gun fire, he charged the second post with rifle and bayonet. It was from this post that the heaviest fire had been directed. He inflicted further casualties, and was within striking distance of his objective, when he was killed by a burst of machine-gun fire. By his brave and determined action, which completely unnerved the enemy, and by his successful reduction of the enemy's strength, Private Gratwick's Company was able to move forward and mop up its objective. Private Gratwick's unselfish courage, his gallant and determined efforts against the heaviest opposition, changed a doubtful situation into the successful capture of his Company's final objective."

Gratwick was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.


From The Australian Dictionary of Biography:

Percy Gratwick was 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall and of medium build, quiet and resourceful, a practical joker, a bachelor who loved children, a bushman who thought city people had profit-and-loss minds. He measured people by their actions. He lived and died by that belief. In Perth, and in the desert country he came from, people honoured his memory.

About 1948 a hill on White Springs was named Mount Gratwick, in 1956 the Gratwick Soldiers' Club was opened at Campbell Barracks, Perth, and in the 1960s Port Hedland named its hall, its swimming pool and a street after him. 

Gratwick, too, lies in the desert, in El Alamein war cemetery, plot 22, row A, grave 6.


Original grave of Percy Gratwick VC

Gratwick VC's headstone with Cross of Sacrifice in background at El Alamein CWGC Cemetery, Egypt.

Gratwick VC's headstone at the CWGC Cemetery, El Alamein

Percy Gratwick VC medal group

El Alamein battlefield in 2009

Men of the 2/3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion behind the railway embankment near the Blockhouse. In such flat, open terrain, taking cover usually meant scraping shallow holes out of the sometimes hard and rocky ground.

Gunners of 2/8th Australian Field Regiment firing a 25-pounder during the July battle. Artillery was used at El Alamein on a massive scale, supporting the infantry when they went forward, and protecting them when they were counterattacked.

Lt Gen Montgomery (wearing slouch hat) shortly after taking command of the Eighth Army in August 1942. Lt Gen Morshead, 9th Division Commander, is standing to his right, facing the camera.

An Australian machine gun post near El Alamein in July 1942. The forward troops had to endure cramped conditions in slit trenches during the heat of the day, as movement above ground was impossible due to enemy fire.

British photograph of an Australian sign on the El Alamein road

Swimming pool commemorating Gratwick

Plaque at swimming pool

Rest in peace.

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