Thomas Derrick VC
SX 7964 Sergeant Thomas Currie DERRICK DCM
2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion. A.I.F.
24th November 1943, at Sattleburg, New Guinea
Thomas Currie DERRICK was born in Medindie, Adelaide on 20 March 1914. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant on the 26th November 1944. He was killed in action on Tarakan Island on 24 May 1945 and is buried in the Tarakan War Cemetery.
On 24th November 1943 a company of an Australian infantry battalion was ordered to outflank a strong enemy position sited on a precipitous cliff-face and then to attack a feature 150 yards from the township of Sattelberg. Sergeant Derrick was a platoon commander in this company. 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 machine gun fire and grenades. It appeared it would be impossible to reach the objective and the company was ordered to retire. On receipt of this order, Sergeant Derrick 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 his section. He then ordered his second section around on the right flank. This section came under heavy fire from 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 company was 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 three of the 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 posts were finally silenced. In all, Sergeant Derrick had reduced ten enemy posts. From vital ground he had captured, the remainder of the Battalion moved on to capture Sattelberg the following morning.
London Gazette: 23rd March 1944:"Undoubtedly Sergeant Derrick's fine leadership and refusal to admit defeat in the face of a seemingly impossible situation resulted in the capture of Sattelberg. His outstanding gallantry, thoroughness and devotion to duty were an inspiration not only to his platoon and company but to the whole battalion".
[Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial]