Lieutenant Thomas Currie Derrick

Service number SX7964
Ranks Held Lieutenant, Sergeant
Birth Date 20 March 1914
Birth Place Australia: South Australia, Adelaide
Death Date 24 May 1945
Death Place Borneo: Tarakan
Final Rank Lieutenant
Service Australian Army
Units
Places
Conflict/Operation Second World War, 1939-1945
Gazettes Biographical information They dared mightily. in 1963
Published in London Gazette in 1943-02-18
Published in London Gazette in 1944-03-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1943-04-15
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1944-03-30
Description

Thomas Derrick was born on 20 March 1914 in Adelaide. He was the eldest son of David Derrick, a labourer, and his wife Ada. The Derricks were not well off and Tom often walked barefoot to attend primary school. He left school at 14, by which time he had developed a keen interest in sports. During the depression he subsisted on the proceeds of odd jobs; fixing bicycles, selling newspapers and working in a bakery. In 1931 he travelled to Berri, on the Murray River, looking for work which he eventually found in a vineyard at Winkie. He remained there for the next nine years.

He married Beryl Violet Leslie in 1939 and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 5 July 1940. Derrick embarked for the Middle East with the 2/48th Battalion and soon proved himself to be an excellent soldier, gaining promotion to corporal while his unit was in Tobruk. In July 1942 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery and leadership at Tel el Eisa. At the end of that month Derrick was promoted to sergeant. By October his unit was in action at El Alamein, where he again served with distinction.

Derrick's unit returned to Australia in February 1943, training in north Queensland and Papua before helping to capture Lae in September. In November the 2/48th were in action at Sattleberg, overlooking Finschafen. Fighting amidst rugged terrain and under heavy fire from Japanese machine guns, Derrick performed the feat that earned him the Victoria Cross. Scaling steep cliffs, under fire, hurling grenades and using his rifle he cleared ten machine gun posts, making possible the capture of Sattleberg.

The 2/48th returned to Australia in February 1944 and in August Derrick was posted to an officer training unit. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in November. On 1 May 1945 he took part in the landing at Tarakan, Borneo. Later that month he led his platoon against a heavily defended position code-named Freda, gaining all but the highest knoll. That night a Japanese machine gun fired into the Australian lines. As he sat up to check that his men were all right, Derrick was hit by five bullets from the gun's second burst. He had been lightly wounded before, but recognised that this time his wounds were mortal. He died on 24 May 1945 and was buried in Labuan War Cemetery. A superb soldier, Derrick has also been described as a sensitive and reflective man - widely respected in the AIF he remains one of its better-known figures.

Rolls

  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Sergeant
    London Gazette
    23 March 1944 on page 1361 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    30 March 1944 on page 737 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Roll of Honour:

    Unit
    2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Lieutenant
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    Rank
    Sergeant
    London Gazette
    18 February 1943 on page 864 at position 16
    Commonwealth Gazette
    15 April 1943 on page 837 at position 35
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Conflict
    Second World War, 1939-1945

Timeline

Date of birth 20 March 1914 Australia: South Australia, Adelaide
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 05 July 1940 Appointed to 2/48 Battalion, 9 Division.
Date promoted 11 July 1941 Appointed corporal.
Date promoted 28 July 1942 Appointed sergeant.
Date wounded 1942-10 Wounded and evacuated during the battle of El Alamien.
Date returned to Australia 1943-02 Derrick rejoined his unit for the journey home.
Date of honour or award 18 February 1943 Received Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for action at Tel el Eisa, Egypt, while serving with the 2/48th, 9th Division the previous year.
Other 1943-07 2/48 Battalion helped capture Lae, Papua New Guinea.
Date of honour or award 24 November 1943 Awarded Victoria Cross for action at Sattelberg, Papua New Guinea whilst serving with 2/48 Battalion, 26 Brigade, 9 Division as a sergeant. Derrick's platoon was ordered to take a slope by storm, but the platoon was held back by intense fire from the enemy. The company was ordered to retire, but Derrick obtained permission to make another attempt. He advanced alone and was so successful that the 2/48 battalion was able to capture Sattelberg the following day.
Date returned to Australia 1944-02 Derrick returned home with the 2/48 Battalion.
Date promoted 26 December 1944 Graduated from officer cadet training unit as a lieutenant and rejoined the 2/48 Battalion as a reinforcement officer.
Other 01 May 1945 Derrick and his unit were deployed in Borneo, landing at Tarakan.
Date of death 24 May 1945 Died on Tarakan Island, Borneo, from wounds received during Allied campaign to regain the Borneo oilfields.