Duncan Maxwell

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Duncan Maxwell
Born (1892-01-08)8 January 1892
Hobart, Tasmania
Died 21 December 1969(1969-12-21) (aged 77)
Allegiance  Australia
Service/branch Australian Army Emblem.JPG Australian Army
Rank Brigadier
Service number NX12610

World War I
World War II

Awards Military Cross

Brigadier Duncan Stuart Maxwell, also known as Duncan Struan Maxwell, MC (8 January 1892 – 21 December 1969) was a Medical Practitioner and an Australian army officer who served in the First and the Second World Wars. He was commander of the 27th Brigade during the Japanese invasion of Malaya and the Battle of Singapore in the Second World War.[1]


Maxwell was born on 8 January 1892 in Hobart, Tasmania,[2] the son of a bank manager. He and his brother both served in the First World War, volunteering for the Australian Light Horse and participating in the Gallipoli Campaign.[3] He was six feet, three inches, tall and nicknamed "Big" Maxwell, with his brother being two inches taller and known as "Shorty" Maxwell.[4] He later transferred to the infantry and fought on the Western Front[3] with the 52nd Battalion.[4] He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions in 1916 at the Battle of Mouquet Farm.[3]

Returning to civilian life after the war, Maxwell studied medicine at the University of Sydney. He became a doctor and established his own practice in the town of Cootamundra, in New South Wales. He joined the militia in 1939, serving as the second-in-command of the 56th Battalion. When the 22nd Brigade was being formed in 1940 as part of the 8th Division, he was selected by its commander, Brigadier Harold Taylor, to lead the 2/19th Battalion.[3] However, when the original commander of the 27th Brigade became ill before it travelled to British Malaya to reinforce the British presence there, Maxwell was selected to replace him. This caused tension between Maxwell,[5] who had been promoted to temporary rank of brigadier,[2] and Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Galleghan, the senior battalion commander within the 8th Division.[5]

Following the Japanese invasion of Malaya in December 1941, during which the 27th Brigade undertook a withdrawal down the country into Singapore, Maxwell was a source of frustration to the commander of 8th Division, Major General Gordon Bennett, for repeatedly requesting permission to retreat.[6] In February 1942, with what was left of the Allied forces in Malaya now on Singapore Island, Maxwell's brigade was tasked with defending a 3.5 km stretch of the island's northern coastline.[7]

Made a prisoner of war after the fall of Singapore, Maxwell was held by the Japanese in a camp on Taiwan. At the end of the war, he was returned to Australia and placed on the retired list with the honorary rank of brigadier. He died on 21 December 1969.[2]


  1. ^ Morgan 2013, pp. 4–14.
  2. ^ a b c "NX12610 Duncan Stuart Maxwell, Duncan Struan, MC". War history/Units/People, Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 9 September 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d Brune 2014, p. 297.
  4. ^ a b Bean 1941, p. 847.
  5. ^ a b Brune 2014, p. 299.
  6. ^ Brune 2014, p. 386.
  7. ^ Brune 2014, p. 437.