The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (QX4682) Sergeant Vincent Daniel McQuillan DCM, 6th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment, Second World War

Place Africa: North Africa, Libya, Cyrenaica, Tobruk Area, Tobruk
Accession Number PAFU2015/010.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 10 January 2015
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (QX4682) Sergeant Vincent Daniel McQuillan DCM, 6th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

QX4682 Sergeant Vincent Daniel McQuillan DCM, 6th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment
DOW 29 January 1941
Photograph: P03636.001

Story delivered 10 January 2015

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the first contingent from the Second Australian Imperial Force leaving Australia for the Middle East. The departure, which took place on 10 January 1940, marked the beginning of Australia’s commitment to an active role in the Second World War, fighting alongside Britain and the Commonwealth to defeat Nazi Germany.

These soldiers from the 6th Division steamed out of Sydney Harbour amid the cheers of thousands of Sydneysiders. With a protective screen of Australian and British warships, the convoy headed south, and was joined later that afternoon by the first ships carrying troops from New Zealand. The convoy continued on to Port Philip Bay in Victoria and Fremantle in Western Australia before setting sail for its final destination – the training camps of Egypt and Palestine.

Many of those on board would not see Australia again for two years; some, such as Sergeant Vincent Daniel McQuillan, never returned.

Vincent “Mac” McQuillan was born in Brisbane on 20 September 1916, the third son of William and Mary McQuillan. He was educated at St Agatha’s School in Clayfield, and later attended St Columban’s College. After school he went on to become a public servant, working with the Land and Income Tax Department. He also served in the Militia, serving for five years with the 11th Field Artillery Brigade.

McQuillan enlisted in the AIF two months after the Second World War broke out, aged 23. He was posted to the 6th Division Reconnaissance Regiment and promoted to sergeant by the month’s end.

In January 1940 the regiment sailed for Egypt with most of the 6th Division, arriving in mid-February. The Australians went on to Palestine, where McQuillan’s regiment, now the 6th Division Cavalry Regiment, trained using universal machine-gun carriers and, later,

Vickers light tanks. In August McQuillan attended the Royal Armoured Corps’ Signals School for a fortnight.

At the end of the year the regiment moved into the Western Desert, joining British and Commonwealth forces ready for a major offensive against the Italians, who had invaded Egypt from Libya. Two days after the opening of the offensive the 6th Division Cavalry Regiment became the first AIF unit to go into action when one of its squadrons attacked the Italians holding Garn el Grein and Fort Maddalina. Within two weeks the British forces had captured Sidi Barrrani and the desert was now open for the advance into Libya. The Australian 6th Division led the way.

On 3 January 1941 the division engaged the Italian fortress of Bardia. During the ensuing battle McQuillan attacked an Italian outpost and captured some 60 Italian prisoners at the point of his pistol. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Tobruk was captured a fortnight later. The 6th then led the advance towards Derna, but on 27 January was ambushed by the Italians. McQuillan’s carrier hit a mine, breaking his arm and mortally wounding his driver, and more were killed and wounded in the fighting that followed. The Italians took four men prisoner, including McQuillan; he was transported to a hospital but died from his wounds two days later. He was 24 years old.

His commander later wrote: “Mac was at all times in the forefront of battle, and led his troop with the greatest skill, determination, resolution and courage. He was without doubt an outstanding leader of men.”

Vincent McQuillan is buried in Bengahazi War Cemetery in Libya. His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour to my left, along with the names of some 40,000 other Australians who died fighting in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sergeant Vincent Daniel McQuillan DCM, and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Dr Karl James
Historian, Military History Section

McQuillan, Vincent Daniel service record, National Archive of Australia (NAA), Canberra: B883, QX4682.

“Amongst our Catholic people”, Catholic Freeman’s Journal (Sydney), 10 April 1941.

Gavin Long, To Benghazi, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1952.

Shawn Hamilton O’Leary, To the green fields beyond: the story of the 6th Australian Division Cavalry Commandos, Sixth Division Cavalry Unit, History Committee, Sydney, 1975.

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