Personal info

  • Name: Thomas Currie DERRICK
  • D.O.B: 20th Mar, 1914
  • D.O.A: 23rd Mar, 1943
  • D.O.D: 24th May, 1945
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Sergeant, 2/48th Battalion (South Australia), 26th Brigade, 9th Division, 2nd Australian Imperial Force
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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Sources & Acknowledgements

Battle of Sattelberg

17 Nov 1943 – 25 Nov 1943

After their capture of Lae, New Guinea on 16 September 1943 (see R Kelliher VC above), the Australians moved to clear the Huon Peninsula to the north. Finschhafen at the eastern end of the peninsula fell to them on 2 October. A Japanese attempt to recapture it a fortnight later was fought off. By 22 November the Australians had reached the Japanese mountain stronghold of Satelberg, six miles to the north-west. It was in their hands by the 25th.


 For 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 precipitious 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. 

(Supplement to The London Gazette of 21 March 1944. 23 March 1944, Numb. 36436, p. 1361)

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