It’s a long way to the top – scale a cliff face under fire and take out seven machine guns on your own and another three with your platoon and then fight in Tobruk. After you make corporal, knock out three machine gun posts, two tanks and take 100 people prisoner and – after a few more battles they make you a lieutenant. Then get killed in battle.

A head and shoulders portrait of a man in military uniform.

Tom Derrick - a good man to have on your side

I happened upon this on the front page of today’s Wikipedia.

Tom Derrick (1914–1945) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC) during the Second World War. He was awarded the VC for his assault on a heavily defended Japanese position at Sattelberg, New Guinea, in November 1943. During the engagement, he scaled a cliff face while under heavy fire and silenced seven machine-gun posts, before leading his platoon in a charge that destroyed a further three. Derrick enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force in July 1941, joining the 2/48th Battalion. He was posted to the Middle East, where he took part in the Siege of Tobruk, was recommended for the Military Medal and promoted to corporal. Later, at El Alamein, Derrick was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for knocking out three German machine-gun posts, destroying two tanks, and capturing a hundred prisoners. He returned to Australia with his battalion in February 1943, and subsequently served in theSouth West Pacific Theatre where he fought in the battle to capture Lae. A year later, he returned to Australia for officer cadet training and was commissioned lieutenant in November 1944. During the Battle of Tarakan on 23 May 1945, he was hit by five bullets from a Japanese machine gun. Derrick died from his wounds the next day.

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Sancho
Sancho
9 years ago

Badass.

He was kind of headed for that sort of end, though, and five machine gun bullets is a far sight better than “died of dysentery in a trench”.

Pedro
Pedro
9 years ago

My office is next to ANZAC square and there is a statute of a fuzzy wuzzy leading a wounded digger back down the track while another digger heads the other way with his 303 at the ready. Just looking at that is often a humbling and affecting experience. But when you read about guys like Derrick it is positively overwhelming.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
9 years ago

wow. That’s seriously courageous. Glad he was on our side.

paul walter
paul walter
9 years ago

What on earth can you say in response to a story like that?

Tel
Tel
9 years ago

Hey that Cracked list is missing someone.

Lauri Törni fought against the Russian commies for his native Finland, also fought against Russians under the Nazi flag as an SS “storm trooper”, then surrendered to the British at the end of WWII. Escaped from a POW camp, went back to Finland, got arrested as a traitor, escaped again, eventually got a pardon but left his homeland (travelling in disguise as a Swedish sailor) moved to the USA (after swimming ashore in the Gulf of Mexico). Took the Western name “Larry Alan Thorne”, became a US Army Special Forces “Green Beret” and went to Nam, so he could kill some more commies. Many years later his remains were recovered from Laos and brought back to Arlington Cemetery (blended with some bits of local Vietnamese boys and a few defunct helicopter parts).

In his career he was a Knight of Mannerheim, awarded a Nazi Iron Cross, and a US Bronze Star, as well as a handful of Purple Hearts.

Hollywood portrayed him under the fictional name “Sven Kornie”, played by none other than John Wayne.

We don’t know how to do that kind of thing anymore. We rise to the occasion once in a while, but mostly not.

I think it takes a genuinely hard life to produce people like Larry Thorne, and I’m not really bothered by living a better life than he did. It is possible that we can convince the Communists of their mistakes without needing to shoot them, China seems to have made notable progress in this regard.

Patrick
Patrick
9 years ago

Ben Roberts-Smith had a fair crack at emulating these guys.

But overall I’m with Tel. A few more vegetarians is a small price to pay for a vastly more comfortable society.