As the 20th Brigade advanced on Finschhafen, which was taken on 2
October, the Japanese withdrew their forces from the area south of the
Mape River via an inland track to Sattelberg. In early October, the
Japanese at Sattelberg, estimated at 4700 men, posed a threat to the
Australian supply lines between Scarlet Beach and Finschhafen.
Substantial reinforcements on the coast indicated that the Japanese was
preparing to attempt to recapture Finschhafen. Australian patrols
designed to contain the Japanese around Sattelberg resulted in fierce
clashes. On 16 October the Japanese launched a major counter-attack. The
2/17th Battalion at Jivevaneng were hit hard, and there was hand-to-hand
combat at Scarlet Beach when the Japanese landed troops from barges. The
Japanese attempted to establish a wedge between the 20th and 24th
Brigades at a point near the mouth of Siki Creek. Heavy fighting
continued for some days until the Japanese were forced to withdraw in
the face of greater Australian fire-power and reinforcements from the
26th Brigade.

The defeat of the Japanese counter-attack paved the way for an assault
on Sattelberg. The attack commenced on 17 November supported by strong
air and artillery fire. The Australians pushed steadily forward,
dislodging the Japanese from bamboo thickets and deep, concealed
dug-outs. High above the climbing Australians was a strong force of
Japanese and it was tough, uphill slogging on rain-drenched tracks. The
Australians resisted two counter-attacks and by dark on 24 November were
within 150 yards of the crest. Attacking from the east, south and
south-east, three Australian battalions routed the Japanese garrison on
Sattelberg peak at 9 am on 25 November. The capture of Sattelberg ended
a sustained eight days attack through a well developed Japanese
defensive scheme. For his gallantry in the final assault, Sergeant Tom
Derrick was awarded the Victoria Cross. The citation for the award
stated that:

On 24 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 in command of his platoon of the
company. Due to the nature of the country, the only possible approach to
the town lay through an open kunai 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 machine-gun fire and
grenades. Shortly before last light it appeared that it would be
impossible to reach the objective or even to hold the ground already
occupied and the company was ordered to retire. On receipt of this
order, Sergeant 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 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 positions were finally silenced. In all, Sergeant Derrick had
reduced ten enemy posts. From the vital ground he had captured the
remainder of the Battalion moved on to capture Sattelberg the following
morning. 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. (London Gazette: 23 March 1944.)