Described as one of those soldiers “who
didn't know fear”, Buckley was the first Australian recipient of the
Victoria Cross to pass away upon returning to Australia after the Great War.
Born at Upper Hawthorn, Melbourne on 13 April 1891 the son of Timothy Buckley and Honora
he was educated at Christian Brothers’ School
in Abbotsford. Enlisting at Warrnambool, Victoria on 18 December 1914 with the 13th
Light Horse Regiment he soon found himself discharged in September the
following year; in May 1916 he again enlisted as ‘Gerald Sexton’ using his
brother’s first name and his mother’s maiden name. Attached to the
13th Battalion, by early 1917 Buckley was with the unit in France and fought
at Bullecourt, Polygon Wood and Passchendaele during the Third Battle of
Ypres, and in the darkest hours of the Allied cause in 1918, at
Villers-Brettoneux and Hebuterne. Promoted to lance-sergeant, Buckley
later fought in the Battle of Hamel, one of Australia’s finest hours and the
brain child of Lieutenant-General
Sir John Monash (q.v.). He was
later wounded on 6 July but returned to take place in the Battle of August
the 8th when the 4th Brigade was involved in the difficult second stage on
the left flank. It was during this operation while advancing on Morcourt that Buckley was awarded the D.C.M; on four separate occasions his
company was suddenly confronted by enemy machine-gun fire and Buckley
personally dealt with each incident. Promoted to sergeant in late August
1918, he was again involved in the thick of battle during the advance on the
formidable Hindenburg Line. On 18 September, at Le Verguier north-west
of St. Quentin, attacking behind a creeping barrage, his unit came across a
number of stubborn machine-gun posts. With his Lewis gun, Buckley
cleared two posts firing from his trademark hip position. With total
disregard to his personal safety, Buckley was as his citation said, “to the
fore dealing with enemy machine-guns, rushing enemy posts, and performing
great feats of bravery and endurance without faltering or for a moment
taking cover”. In all he captured over thirty prisoners. “A modest,
unassuming young man, with a great fondness for horses”, Buckley died as a
result of his fearless nature in a horse riding accident at Boolarra in
Gippsland where he was working as a road contractor. Ten Victoria
Cross winners were pallbearers at his funeral, including Albert Jacka
V.C (St. Kilda Cemetery), Robert Grieve V.C (Springvale
Necropolis), George Ingram V.C (Frankston Cemetery) and
Peeler V.C (q.v.).
(above) Maurice Buckley
(Image courtesy of the
Australian War Memorial,
ADB Volume 7 1891-1939 (A-Ch).
AWM “Biographical Cards for the Official
History 1914-18”, AWM140.
Bean, C., “The Official History of Australia
in the War 1914-18” .
Wigmore, L. (ed), “They Dared Mightily”
The Herald 27 January 1921.
The Age 18 December 1918.
The Argus 28 January 1921.
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