Victoria Cross : Sergeant Thomas Currie Derrick, 2/48 Battalion, AIF

Place Oceania: New Guinea1, Huon Peninsula, Finschhafen, Sattelberg Area
Accession Number REL/11417.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Bronze
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: New Guinea 1943
Maker Hancocks
Place made United Kingdom: England, Greater London
Date made c 1943
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Victoria Cross. Engraved reverse suspender with recipient's details; reverse cross with date of action.

History / Summary

Thomas Currie 'Diver' Derrick was born in Adelaide on 20 March 1914. Leaving school at 14, he tried various jobs and was a farm labourer when he enlisted in July 1940 as private SX7964 with 2/48 Battalion. He served in Tobruk before being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Tel el Eisa in July 1942. During fighting at El Alamein in October he was evacuated wounded but later rejoined his unit. Shifting to New Guinea in 1943, he saw more fighting and in one outstanding action firmly established himself as a national hero.

Late in the afternoon of 24 November, while leading a platoon at Sattelberg, Derrick, despite being ordered to retire, attacked up an almost vertical slope of thick jungle hiding Japanese machine-guns. Scrambling on hands and feet, hurling grenades, and using his rifle, Derrick cleared ten machine-gun posts in one of the most astonishing feats of the war. The recommendation for the action reads:

'For most conspicuous gallantry, outstanding leadership, and devotion to duty during the final assault on SATELBERG [sic], Nov 43.

On 23 Nov 43, Sjt DERRICK assumed command of 11 PL B Coy 2/48 Aust Inf Bn during the intensive operations preceding the fall of the strong Japanese stronghold of SATELBERG. The following day B Coy 2/48 Aust Inf Bn was ordered to outflank strong enemy positions sited on a most precipitous cliff-face and, when successful to attack a feature only 150 yards from the township of SATELBERG. Due to the nature of the country, the only possible approach to the town lay through an open kunai [grass] patch situated directly beneath the top of the cliffs. Over a period of two hours many attempts were made by our troops to clamber up the slopes to their objective, but on each occasion the enemy prevented success with intense MG [Machine Gun] fire and grenades.

Shortly before last light the Coy Cmd [company commander] reported that both the chances of reaching the vital ground above him and holding the ground he already occupied seemed hopeless and the Coy was ordered, and actually commenced, to withdraw. On receipt of this order, Sjt DERRICK, displaying dogged tenacity, requested one last attempt to reach the objective. His request was granted.

Moving ahead of his forward section he personally destroyed, with grenades, an enemy post which had been holding up this section. He then ordered his second section around on the right flank. This section came under heavy fire from LMGs [Light Machine Guns] and grenades from six enemy posts. Without regard for personal safety he clambered forward well ahead of the leading men of the section and hurled grenade after grenade, so completely demoralising the enemy that they fled leaving weapons and grenades.

By this action alone the Coy were [sic] able to gain its first foothold on the precipitous ground.

Not content with the work already done, he returned to the first section, and together with the third section of his platoon advanced to deal with the three remaining posts in the area. On four separate occasions he dashed forward and threw grenades at a range of six to eight yards until these positions were finally silenced.

In all, Sjt DERRICK had reduced ten enemy posts. From the vital ground he had captured the remainder of the Bn moved on to capture SATELBERG the following morning.

Undoubtedly Sjt DERRICK’s outstanding gallantry, fine leadership and refusal to admit defeat, in the face of a seemingly impossible situation, resulted in the capture of SATELBERG. His outstanding gallantry and thoroughness were an inspiration to his platoon and to the remainder of his Coy, and has served as a conspicuous example of fearless devotion to duty throughout the whole Bn.’

Derrick later attended an officer cadet training unit, graduating in late 1944. Insisting on returning to his famous 2/48th Battalion, he was fatally wounded during fighting on Tarakan Island, Borneo, on 22 May. He died the next day.

Derrick's Victoria Cross is accompanied by the Distinguished Conduct Medal and service medals for the Second World War.