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    AIF Deserter wins VC at Le Verguier

    Military Shop
    Posted by Military Shop on Sep 18, 2018 9:36:01 PM

    Among the distinguished recipients of the Victoria Cross, Maurice Buckley’s award could be described as somewhat unconventional.  Hailing from Abbotsford in Victoria, Buckley was eager to enlist at the outbreak of the First World War. He joined the 13th Light Horse Regiment in December 1914. Six months later, he was bound for Egypt.

    However, Maurice would not join the regiment on their subsequent deployment to Gallipoli, where they defended the trenches at Lone Pine. The decadent and delightful temptations of old Cairo proved too great for Maurice to resist and by September 1915 he was back in Australia; being treated for venereal disease at a medical isolation barracks in Langwarrin.

    No doubt spurred on by the embarrassment of being returned home under such ignominious circumstances without ever reaching the front line, Maurice liberated himself from the medical barracks in January 1916. He was promptly declared a deserter and dishonourably discharged from the AIF.

    Under the assumed name of ‘Gerald Sexton’, Maurice travelled to New South Wales where he again enlisted – this time with the 13th Battalion. He was soon on his way to the Western Front and first saw action at the Somme in January 1917. Still going by the name of Gerald Sexton, he fought at the important battles of Bullecourt, Polygon Wood, Ypres, Passchendaele and Villers-Bretonneux. During this time his ability to lead was recognised and he rose to the rank of lance sergeant in charge of a Lewis gun section. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his part in the Battle of Le Hamel, where he defeated a German machine gun position by standing and firing his Lewis gun from the hip.

    Just over a month later, on 18 September at Le Verguier, ‘Gerald Sext

    on’ would earn the Victoria Cross. Through consecutive frontal assaults at the head of his company, he destroyed six machine guns, captured a 77mm field gun and took 100 German prisoners. When quizzed about his disregard for life and limb, he replied that “You’ve only got to die once”.

    When his Victoria Cross was gazetted under the name Gerald Sexton, Maurice decided the time had come to reveal his true identity. After his exploits at Le Hamel, his earlier desertion was quietly ignored. Sergeant Maurice Buckley was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace.

    Topics: Medal, WW1, Great War, Military History

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