b. 20/04/1949 Elliston, South Australia.
DATE OF CV ACTION: 14/08/1988 Talia, South Australia.
Darrell James Tree (1949-) was born on 20th April 1949 in Elliston, South Australia, to Oscar and Ivy Tree, who ran a sheep and wheat farm. Due to the rural location of his parents farm, he was educated by correspondence before being able to attend Port Kenny Special Rural School. At the age of 15, he left school in order to help out on his parents’ farm.
On 14th July 1979, Darrell married Josie Hill at Colton Church, and the couple went on to have two daughters and two sons. Darrell and Josie took over his family’s property before purchasing a 1,000 hectare section named “Damperdale”. Following the events of 14th August 1988, Darrell’s injuries saw him struggle to keep up with the day-to-day work on the farm. He was haunted by the death of Joe Honner and suffered from the debilitating effects of electrocution. He was also struggling with financial problems. He was advised to sell the farm but refused. Darrell has been quoted as saying that keeping the farm was a form of rehabilitation though he had to rely on others.
Eventually things got gradually better. He continued to captain the volunteer Mount Damper Country Fire Service. He also purchased a second hand grader and did small road-building work around the district. In late 1999, he and a partner were contracted to grade the sides of the Stuart Highway from Port Augusta to the Northern Territory border, a distance of over 900 km.
In 2011, Darrell and Josie chose to retire to the small South Australian seaside town of Cowell on the Eyre Peninsula, leaving the running of “Damperdale” to their two sons. Originally reluctant to take part in events relating to the award of the Cross of Valour, he and Josie now regularly attend Australian Bravery Association functions and Cross of Valour events. Darrell was an Australia Day Ambassador in 2018 and 2019.
On 14 August 1988 Mr Darrell Tree, accompanied by his nephew, went to assist a crane-operator in removing wooden telephone poles along the edge of the road running beside his property near Talia. The driver had his 3 year old son on the crane with him. When Mr Tree went to put a chain around a pole he saw sparks jumping from the crane’s tyres and that the jib of the crane was in contact with the powerline. The driver jumped clear and went to remove his son, who at that time was in a boxed section and not coming into contact with electricity. Sparks were arcing beneath the crane to the ground and twice Mr Tree stopped the driver from going to the truck. He warned him not to touch the boy as he knew that the crane was alive with electricity and that he would be electrocuted. He went to get a rope and turning round he realised that the driver must have attempted to rescue his son, as he had electricity arcing through his body and was being electrocuted. Mr Tree pushed him clear and fell to the ground unconscious having himself been electrocuted. Regaining consciousness Mr Tree saw the boy standing between the tyre and the mudguard with electricity entering his head near his right ear, passing through his body and also entering near his left elbow. Knowing that the boy was about to be fatally electrocuted he pulled him clear and again lost consciousness having been electrocuted once more. When he regained consciousness on the second occasion he found that neither the driver nor his son was breathing. On his own, as he had sent his nephew for the ambulance, he gave mouth the mouth resuscitation to them both. The boy responded, but in spite of Mr Tree’s further attempts to give the father cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, he died before medical assistance arrived. Mr Tree comforted the boy and drove him to meet the ambulance. He then followed the ambulance to the hospital at Elleston and was later flown to Adelaide for treatment. In saving the boy’s life Mr Tree had 19 stiches inserted in his left arm, 37 stitches to his back, 5 stitches on his right foot and 5 stitches on his left foot. One toe on his left foot was amputated and he received burns to his back.
By his actions Mr Tree displayed most conspicuous courage.
LOCATION OF MEDAL – HELD BY RECIPIENT.