Maxwell DERBYSHIRE MC and Bar


Service Numbers: 424615, NX12177, 240013
Enlisted: 15 September 1933, Interwar Permanent Force enlistment
Last Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Last Unit: Army Training Units
Born: Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, 27 June 1915
Home Town: Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Permanent Force Soldier
Died: Coronary vascular disease, Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia, 24 December 1980, aged 65 years
Cemetery: Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery & Crematorium, NSW
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Non Warlike Service

15 Sep 1933: Enlisted SN 424615, Interwar Permanent Force enlistment

World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Involvement Lieutenant, SN NX12177, 2nd/2nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW2
23 Mar 1941: Honoured Military Cross, "Operation Lustre" Greece 1941, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 17 November 1943 @ page 2435 London Gazette 22 July 1943 @ page 3317
23 Mar 1941: Involvement Lieutenant, SN NX12177, 2nd/2nd Infantry Battalion, "Operation Lustre" Greece 1941
10 Dec 1944: Involvement Captain, 2nd/2nd Infantry Battalion, Aitape - Wewak, New Guinea
1 Mar 1945: Honoured Military Cross and bar, Aitape - Wewak, New Guinea, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 21 February 1946 @ page 408 London Gazette 14 February 1946 2 page 942

Non Warlike Service

27 Jun 1962: Discharged Australian Army (Post WW2), Lieutenant Colonel, SN 240013, Army Training Units, Infantry Centre Ingleburn NSW

Help us honour Maxwell Derbyshire's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by John Derbyshire

Maxwell Derbyshire was born in Launceston, Tasmania on 27th June 1915 the son of Adye Russell Derbyshire, and his wife Louisa Sarah, née Pinnington, both Tasmanian born. The family moved to Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, when he was still a boy. When he finished his schooling he worked as a coach and motorcar trimmer.

From 1933 to 1939 he served in the 56th Battalion of the Militia and rose through the ranks to lieutenant.

Transferring to the Australian Imperial Force on 9 April 1940, Max joined the 2nd/2nd Battalion in Egypt in October of that year. During the offensive in the Western Desert, in January 1941 he saw action in Libya in the battle of Bardia and the capture of Tobruk.

His unit was then sent to Greece where it disembarked on 22nd March and took up defensive positions in the north. On 16 April the battalion withdrew to the Piniós Gorge and engaged the Germans in fierce fighting. Driven from their positions, the Australians made their way south in small groups but some, including  Derbyshire were taken prisoner. After two attempts, he escaped on 30th June 1941.

Befriended by Greeks in the Athens-Piraeus region, Derbyshire joined their underground movement. The genial Australian—dark haired, slim and 5 ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall—became an almost legendary figure. He took part in daring acts of sabotage and set 'a striking example of tenacity and cool courage' for which he was awarded the Military Cross. His exploits became known to the Gestapo and he was forced to change locations frequently.

In December 1942 he joined nine others who planned to leave Greece. For three days and two nights he marched on bleeding feet, through mud and snow, to a rendezvous north of Athens. Having been rowed (by two drunken boatmen) across the strait to Euboea, he embarked in a small caique. Although the enemy saw him twice, his party reached Turkey and then Egypt.

He returned to Australia in January 1943.

Rejoining the 2nd/2nd in North Queensland in June, Max was promoted Captain on 21 June 1944. His Battalion arrived in New Guinea in December. He led 'A' Company throughout the Aitape-Wewak campaign (February to August 1945). For his bravery and resourcefulness he won a Bar to his Military Cross.

From October to December his company was detached to Merauke, Dutch New Guinea, to counter anticipated trouble from Indonesian nationalists.

After the war, Max decided to remain in the army.

On 19 January 1946 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Wagga Wagga, he married Belle Amy Edney who was to predecease him. Employed mainly in training duties in Australia. His post-war service included postings as an observer with the Far East Land Forces in Malaya (1950-52) and with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in Japan and Korea (1955-56). He was promoted Major in 1955 and ended his service at the Infantry Centre, Ingleburn, New South Wales, where he was briefly officer commanding.

On 28 June 1962 he was placed on the Retired List as lieutenant colonel.

 Max died of coronary vascular disease on 24 December 1980 at Liverpool and was cremated. He was survived by two sons.


Information sourced from the Australian Dictionary of Biography (