b. 13/04/1891 Melbourne, Australia. d. 27/01/1921 Melbourne, Australia.
Maurice Vincent Buckley (1891-1921) was born on 13th 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 18th 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 suffering from shell shock.
Buckley re-enlisted in Sydney on 16th 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 8th August in which he was awarded 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 28th August.
On 18th 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 15th 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, Melbourne with full military honours. Ten Victoria Cross recipients were pallbearers. Buckley was unmarried at the time of his death. A friend described him as a ‘modest, unassuming young man, with a great fondness for horses and an open-air life’. His VC and DCM are now held by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra and displayed in the Hall of Valour.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA.
BURIAL PLACE: BRIGHTON CEMETERY, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA.
ROMAN CATHOLIC SECTION, GRAVE 114
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Medal Group at Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
Richard Yielding – Springvale Crematorium Plaque, Melbourne.