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Maurice Vincent Buckley (1891–1921)

by David Horner

This article was published:

Maurice Buckley, c.1918

Maurice Buckley, c.1918

Australian War Memorial, A05136

Maurice Vincent Buckley (1891-1921), soldier, was born on 13 April 1891 at Hawthorn, Victoria, son of Timothy Buckley, brickmaker, and his wife Honora Mary Agnes, née Sexton. His father was a native of Cork, Ireland; his mother was Victorian-born. Educated at the Christian Brothers' school, Abbotsford, he became a coach-trimmer and was working at Warrnambool when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 December 1914. Next June he embarked for Egypt with reinforcements for the 13th Light Horse Regiment but by late September 1915 he had returned to Australia and was discharged.

Buckley re-enlisted in Sydney on 16 May 1916 under the name of Gerald Sexton; Gerald was the name of a deceased brother. He left for France in October with 13th Battalion reinforcements and joined his unit on the Somme in January 1917. That year he fought at Bullecourt, Polygon Wood, Ypres and Passchendaele and early in 1918 at Hébuterne and Villers-Bretonneux. He was promoted lance corporal in January and by June was a lance sergeant in charge of a Lewis-gun section. After being wounded at Hamel he resumed duty for the battle of 8 August in which he won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. While advancing from Hamel towards Morcourt his company was delayed by sudden machine-gun fire on four separate occasions; he quickly silenced each enemy post by using his Lewis-gun with great promptness and skill. Once, when the battalion was advancing through tall crops, a hidden gun fired into its ranks causing several casualties. Buckley stood up in full view of the enemy, calmly noted the position of the gun from the flashes and, firing from the hip, put it out of action. He was confirmed as sergeant on 28 August.

On 18 September the 13th Battalion took part in the attack on Le Verguier. Setting off behind the creeping barrage it cleared several enemy outposts, two of which fell to Buckley's Lewis-gun. When a field-gun held up one company he rushed towards it, shot the crew and raced under machine-gun fire across open ground to put a trench-mortar out of action. He then fired into an enemy dug-out and captured thirty Germans. By the end of the day he had rushed at least six machine-gun positions, captured a field-gun and taken nearly 100 prisoners: he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The award was gazetted under the name Sexton, and Buckley then decided to reveal his identity; a second gazettal was made in his real name.

Buckley returned to Australia and was discharged in December 1919; next year he began work as a road-contractor in Gippsland. On 15 January 1921 he was injured when he tried to jump his horse over the railway gates at Boolarra. He died twelve days later in hospital at Fitzroy, and after a requiem mass in St Patrick's Cathedral was buried in Brighton cemetery with full military honours. Ten Victoria Cross winners were pallbearers. Buckley was unmarried. A friend described him as a 'modest, unassuming young man, with a great fondness for horses and an open-air life'.

Select Bibliography

  • T. A. White, The Fighting Thirteenth (Syd, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • London Gazette, 5, 14 Dec 1918, 8 Aug 1919
  • Mufti (Melbourne), 1 Nov 1938
  • Reveille (Sydney), June 1968
  • Western Mail (Perth), 17 Dec 1936
  • Age (Melbourne), 17, 18 Dec 1918, 15 Mar 1920, 28, 29 Jan, 11 Feb 1921
  • Herald (Adelaide), 17 Mar 1920
  • War diaries, 4th Light Horse Brigade, 13th Light Horse Regiment, and 13th Infantry Battalion (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

David Horner, 'Buckley, Maurice Vincent (1891–1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 21 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Maurice Buckley, c.1918

Maurice Buckley, c.1918

Australian War Memorial, A05136

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Sexton, Gerald

13 April, 1891
Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


27 January, 1921 (aged 29)
Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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