As told by his son Jim Rockliff
Vernon Jack Rockliff, or Jack, as he was better known, can only be described as one of the bravest of the brave due to his heroic war efforts. To this day, I am still so proud of him.
My Dad enlisted to the Australian Imperial Force on 14 July 1915. He was only 18. He needed a letter from his parents to be allowed to join. During his war experience, Dad was wounded on three occasions including: a gunshot wound to his left hand, being shot in the jaw and he suffered a severe gunshot wound to his back. Yet somehow he managed to stay alive.
Following his speedy recoveries, Dad proceeded to France where he became a stretcher bearer on the front line. Perhaps it was his natural running ability that made him a good choice to retrieve his fellow injured and wounded soldiers.
It was for this role that my Dad received the Military Medal. I would like to share with you the details in which he was awarded such an honour.
Private Vernon Jack Rockliff received the Military Medal:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty near Albert, (France) on 19th May 1918. During the operations against Ville-Sur-Ancre these men acted as stretcher-bearers, and worked unceasingly during the whole of the action with total disregard for their own personal danger. They attended to and carried in many wounded from the most advanced positions under very heavy shell, machine gun and rifle fire.
“In their anxiety to alleviate the suffering of their less fortunate comrades they many times risked their own lives. These men worked for hours with never-ceasing efforts, and undoubtedly did much towards the successful evacuation of the wounded.”
When the war was over, my Dad went farming for six months while waiting for ships to bring him home. He worked on a cattle stud at Kircudbright at a place called ‘Ardrossan’ in Scotland. When he returned to Australia, and to Berrigan, he purchased a property and called it ‘Ardrossan’.
On 18th March 1924, my Dad married Ethel Callander. Together they had three children – Joan, Ailsa and me (Jim).
When World War II broke out, Dad was a Captain in the Army stationed at Mt Martha and Puckapunyal. In 1942, because of his age, he was transferred to the Air Force as a Flying Officer at Point Cook, Mildura and Rathmines. He later trained recruits from Berrigan before they were sent overseas.
His gallantry is published in the book “The Red and Black Diamond” by Neil Smith.
My Dad was President of the Berrigan RSL for many years in the 1940s and he played in a Berrigan Football Club winning premiership side.
Sadly, Dad passed away on 25th May 1968.