Thomas Currie Derrick was born in Adelaide, South Australia on March 20, 1914. He
left school at 14 and in 1931 found work on a vineyard at Winkie.
Currie Derrick enlisted with the Australian
Imperial Force (AIF) on July 5, 1940 and soon departed for the Middle East as part of the 2/48th Infantry Battalion. While
at Tobruk, Derrick was promoted to Corporal, and then awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for
"Outstanding leadership and courage at Tel el Eisa" before being promoted to Sergeant in July 1942.
Derrick again served with distinction in the Battle of El Alamein.
In February 1943, the 2/48th returned to Australia and received jungle training in both
Queensland and Papua before moving to New Guinea where the unit participated in the assault and
capture of Lae.
On November 24, 1943, Derrick's platoon was tasked with taking a slope and then
attack a point approximately 150 yards from Sattelberg. After two hours of fruitless attempts under
intense enemy fire, the unit was forced to retire. Sgt Derrick, obtaining permission to make one
last attempt, advanced alone and using grenades forced the enemy to flee, leaving their weapons.
Derrick then went on and dealt with remaining posts in the area. This action was so successful that
it allowed the battalion to capture Sattelberg the following day.
|Victoria Cross Citation
"Sergeant Thomas Currie Derrick, DCM, Australian Military Forces. For the most conspicuous courage, outstanding leadership and devotion to duty during the final assault on Satelberg in November, 1943.
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 Satelberg. 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 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, Sergeant Derrick had reduced ten enemy posts. From the vital ground he had captured the remainder of the Battalion moved on to capture Satelberg 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 Satelberg. His outstanding gallantry, thoroughness and devotion to duty were an inspiration not only to his platoon and company but to the whole Battalion."
In February 1944, the 2/48th returned to Australia and Derrick was posted to an officer training
unit at Seymour, Victoria in August. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant that November. Against
Army regulations, Derrick was posted back with the 2/48th and took part in the May 1, 1945 amphibious landing at Tarakan.
Later in May, Derrick led his platoon against a heavily defended Japanese position before
being wounded by five bullets from a machine gun. He died of his wounds on May 24, 1945 and was buried at Labuan War Cemetery.
Derrick's Victoria Cross and Distinguished Conduct Medal were presented to his wife, Mrs
Beryl Violet Derrick, by the Governor of South Australia in 1947. His medals are now displayed in
the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial (AWM).
Derrick is buried at Labuan War Cemetery at grave 24. A. 9. On Australia Day 2004 the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove
stated that "Diver" Derrick was the finest soldier of the finest army Australia has ever sent to war.
CWGC - Thomas Currie Derrick
WW2 Nominal Roll -
Thomas Currie Derrick
The London Gazette 21 March 1944
The London Gazette – Award of the DCM 16 February 1943