Starcevich VC

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This diorama is dedicated to a man named Private Leslie Thomas Starcevich, known as Tom to the family, and ‘Starcey’ to his mates. He is my cousin’s great uncle, or my uncle’s uncle, who won the Victoria Cross in WW2. Born in Subiaco, Western Australia on 5th November 1918, he enlisted in the 2nd/43rd Battalion on 9th April 1941. He arrived in Palestine shortly after. He was wounded in the leg at Ruin Ridge, Tel El Eisa on 17th July 1942 but still managed to carry a shell-shocked mate to an aid post before passing out himself. He returned in time to see the Battle of El Alamein begin on 23rd October. The 2nd/43rd returned to Australia in February 1943 and left for New Guinea in September the same year. Starcey took part in the battles of Lae and Finschafen, fighting a very different enemy with very different ethics. Again, he rose to the occasion when the Japanese were over-running allied positions. Starcevich, operating a Bren gun, was mentioned in despatches for refusing to leave his post because he had the enemy spotted. At this point in his career, Starcevich, a small, sincere and quietly spoken man already had a reputation as a fierce, brave fighter. But his biggest challenge was yet to come.

In June 1945, Starcey went with his battalion to fight the Japanese in British North Borneo. In a report written by the men in Starcey’s company, the terrain of Borneo was described as “…easily the heaviest jungle we had fought in.” Although the Australians were send to Borneo almost as an afterthought, for ‘mopping-up’ operations, the Japanese still had deadly strong-points, traps and ambushes which needed dealing with. ‘B’ company, hacking their way down a narrow path towards a small but heavily defended town called Beaufort, suddenly came to a section of widened track, leading into a T junction. The company, led by Captain John Pollock, moved down the track but came under fire from two enemy machine-gun posts. ‘Snowy’ Porter, the forward scout and best mate of Starcey’s was wounded when the machine-guns opened up. Starcevich, the section’s Bren gunner, coolly advanced through the hail of fire and assaulted each position in turn killing five enemy gunners. The advance continued until fire from another two machine-guns again held them up. After providing covering fire to the rest of the company, Starcevich, without regard for his own personal safety, rushed forward, captured the guns and killed another seven enemy. For these brave actions, he was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest order of bravery in the Commonwealth military forces.


Before starting this diorama, it was obvious that I would have to do a significant amount of research to make it historically accurate. The information available on the internet, in libraries and museums was very limited, so I had to do some more in-depth historian work myself.

The first thing I did was to contact some long lost relatives, one of which had taken the time to collect every newspaper article published on Tom Starcevich over the years. Some of it proved helpful, but often the media had over-dramatised the events. One eager journalist even claimed Starcevich accounted for 110 Japanese casualties on that day. That number was in fact ‘B’ company’s ‘kill’ count for the entire campaign! However, I had managed to discover an award winning piece of writing adapted from eye witness accounts from Starcevich’s comrades fighting with him near Beaufort. This document included a map which helped me determine both scale and positioning for the diorama.

In addition, I had a fantastic opportunity to travel to Borneo and visit the actual location in which the battle took place. Taking a taxi from Kota Kinabalu (I have a great story to tell about that journey), I finally arrived in the tiny town of Beaufort. Over the years, the town has remained more or less the same, it’s still just the small jungle village penetrated by the Padas River it was 63 years ago. After retracing Starcevich’s steps down the humid, sweltering, mosquito infested jungle track, I managed to gather a pretty good picture of the exact positions of the machine-guns and the Australian advance.

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About the Author

About Chas Young (youngc)

I bought my first model kit when I was 12 years old. I began making 1:35 figures and dioramas when I stumbled across the Kitmaker Network and never looked back. My main area of interest is the Pacific war especially Australian, Japanese and British/Commonwealth subjects. I am currently hosting the H...


Hey Chas,nice Dio. do you know,by any chance where was your relative originally from? Croatia,maybe?
OCT 07, 2008 - 11:20 AM
Chas mate, Loved the article! So glad those writing lessons way back in February are paying off, mate Guys, what you may not know is that this vignette earned young Charlie a gong at the Western Australian Model Expo held a few weeks ago. Congrats on the gong again, buddy boy! Rudi p.s. I won't tease you about the Sheila's... did that last week chat soon again
OCT 07, 2008 - 05:29 PM
Indeed e great true story well brought on you're dio!! Superb! Grt Nico
OCT 07, 2008 - 08:54 PM
Hi Chas, As Scott has mentioned, a lot of people will be using your feature as a reference to how a jungle diorama can be portrayed. I like the different techniques that you have used in this diorama they have proved very effective! It isn't easy to build a jungle themed diorama, just trying to bring all the of the natural elements to life and make them as realistic as possible isn't an easy task. This is certainly a diorama to be proud of mate and no doubt you will look back at it from time to time with great fondness. Cheers, Shay
OCT 09, 2008 - 04:29 AM
Thanks all for the replies and sorry I haven't got back sooner, I have been away. I will try to answer all the replies below: Firstly I would like to thank Darren for his work editing and sorting almost 100 photos. I am very thankful and happy with the results. Thanks Scott, Michael, Pat, Tomek, Seb, Martyn, Andrew, Shane, Nico and lastly, Shay my dear friend! I am glad that the diorama techniques are helpful. Personally, there are a lot of elements I am un-happy with but hopefully my next diorama involving jungle vegetation (yes I have one planned!) will be an improvement. Bob, I'm glad you also like the vegetation. Anything you need I could send to you, providing that you check it's ok with your customs laws. Claude, no, regrettably I am not producing girls like an assembly line. I will work on this! Nowww, JB and Rudi, I am very blessed to be a musician, this counter-acts modelling in terms of girl getting ability. I also believe and trust that God will bring into my life the perfect girl at the perfect time...that is, anytime apart from when I am modelling Matija, sorry I don't know much about the origins of the name. Unfortunately, strong ties with the Starcevich family have been cut since a divorce occurred. My cousin still bears the name so that next time I see him, I'll try find out. One of the people I forgot to mention in the article was the one and only Rudi Richardson, former ME of HF, former South African He has got to be one of my biggest critics but has really enhanced just about all aspects of my experience here on the Kitmaker network, from practical modelling help, to online conduct, to spelling and grammar!! Now that he is here in Aussie, I am only 3 steps behind, actually only 2 when daylight saving kicks in. So look out mate, we just might meet in person someday! Thanks everyone, it has been really fun writing this feature! (Darren I just noticed you have named me Charles as author of the article. That name is strictly reserved for when I turn 100 years old!) Chas
OCT 09, 2008 - 09:48 PM
thanks for sharing Chas!! great reference as shay pointed out!! greetings koen
OCT 09, 2008 - 09:52 PM
Only to pleased to help name has been edited.
OCT 10, 2008 - 01:26 AM
Hi Chas, A well researched project showing the nature of some ordinary men in times of conflict. I enjoyed reading the article and your smal dio protrays the event well. Excellent work and a well deserved prize. You obviously out a lot of effort into this project and it shows through both in the article and the dio. Great stuff. Al
OCT 12, 2008 - 06:06 AM
Thanks Koen it is a pleasure. Darren, the name was no big deal but thanks anyway! Alan, thanks for your very kind words. Chas
OCT 12, 2008 - 12:33 PM
Hi Chas, very inspiring this dio. Great work, loads of detail and above all, the crowning ingredient in a catching dio, a personal story! Big thumbs up!!
OCT 20, 2008 - 02:17 AM