Brigadier Duncan Stuart MAXWELL MC Commanding Officer, 27th Brigade AIF, 8th Division Singapore

Also known as Duncan Struan Maxwell

He was a medical officer who served in both WW1 and WW2, in Malaya and Singapore.
Born 1892 Hobart, Tasmania.  He and his brother both served in WW1 in Australian Light Horse, Gallipoli.    He was 6′ 3″  tall and nicknamed ‘Big Maxwell’.  His brother was 2″ tall and known as ‘Shorty’ Maxwell.
Maxwell transferred to infantry and fought on the Western Front with 52nd Battalion.  Awarded the Military Cross for his actions in 1916 at Battle of Mouquet Farm.


Returning to civilian life after the war, Maxwell studied medicine at University of Sydney. He became a doctor, established his own practice in the town of Cootamundra, in New South Wales. 
He joined the militia in 1939, serving as  second-in-command of  56th Battalion.  He had difficulty reconciling his duties as a soldier with his professional obligation to save lives.
When the 22nd Brigade was being formed in 1940 as part of the 8th Division, Maxwell was selected by its commander, Brigadier Harold Taylor, to lead the 2/19th.   
The original commander of 27th Brigade became ill before it travelled to Malaya and  Maxwell was selected to replace him by commander of 8th Division, Major General Gordon Bennett. This caused tension between Maxwell, who had been promoted to temporary rank of brigadier, and Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Galleghan, not only the senior battalion commander within 27th Brigade but also the 8th Division. Maxwell also did not engender the respect of the other battalion commander in his brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Boyes.
Following the Japanese invasion of Malaya in December 1941, the  27th Brigade undertook a withdrawal down the country into Singapore.   Maxwell was a source of frustration to Bennett for repeatedly requesting permission to retreat.
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. Placing his two battalions near the causeway to the mainland, he located his own headquarters 11 km away, a decision for which he was later criticised due to the ensuing communication difficulties.
In the morning of 9 February, after the Japanese landed and broke through the lines of the adjacent 22nd Brigade, Maxwell sought to withdraw a portion of his forces, but Bennett denied him permission. Later in the day, with the Japanese now landing in his sector, Maxwell ordered them to withdraw from the causeway anyway, having already replaced his two battalion commanders, Galleghan and Boyes, with more compliant officers. This was despite the Japanese advance being hindered more than expected because of the robust defence mounted to this point. After the brigade’s withdrawal the next day, it was temporarily attached to the 11th Indian Division by orders of the GOC Malaya, Lieutenant General Arthur Percival.
However Maxwell, on receiving orders from his now divisional commander to attack towards his abandoned sector, claimed that he had received differing orders from Percival. To divisional staff, he stated the orders came from Bennett. He was to move the brigade to recapture Bukit Panjang. Percival and Bennett both later denied any knowledge of these orders. In any event, the move failed and Maxwell’s brigade began to break down into companies and platoons and retreated back into Singapore.
Made a prisoner of war after fall of Singapore, Maxwell was held by the Japanese in a camp on Taiwan.  He conceded to another prisoner, Brigadier Arthur Blackburn who had been captured on Java, that he deliberately directed his men to retreat from the causeway to let the Japanese land unopposed as he considered his position to be hopeless. He was conscious of the lives of his men and did not wish to see them wasted defending British Malaya
He returned to Australia at the end of the war and placed on the retired list with the honorary rank of brigadier. He was later to give evidence in the Military Court of Inquiry raised to investigate allegations that Bennett had abandoned his command after the fall of Singapore. Maxwell died on 21 December 1969.