Derrick VC in his own words
The wartime writings of Australia’s most famous fighting soldier of
World War II
Edited by Mark Johnston
Published by New South Publishing | RRP $39.99 in paperback
Historian Mark Johnston has done a great job of annotating the writings of Tom ‘Diver’ Derrick VC DCM, who was Australia’s most famous fighting soldier of World War II.
It’s hard to comprehend that Derrick, when he enlisted in 1940, was a 26-year-old labourer with limited education and few civilian prospects.
He went on to fight in five campaigns, won the highest medals for bravery, and died of wounds (in 1945) which he sustained while leading his men in the war’s last stages.
His career reached its climax on the jungle-clad heights of Sattelberg in New Guinea, where he won the Victoria Cross by spearheading the capture of seemingly impregnable Japanese defences.
Undoubtedly, the diaries Derrick kept throughout his campaigns, from Tobruk to Tarakan, are among the most important writings by any Australian soldier.
Those diaries and all his other known wartime correspondence and interviews are published here for the first time in their entirety.
VERDICT: What emerges is a compelling insight into life on the front line of war. A must read for military history enthusiasts.