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He rushed into the enemy like a mad Viking

Updated: Apr 13

He was country bred from humble beginnings, but became a hero through the Great War. So much so that he earned the first Australian Victorian Cross in the Great War, due to his amazingly heroic actions.




Albert Jacka was born in Victoria in 1893 and worked for the Victorian Forests Comission. At 21 he left Australia with the 14th Battalion to fight in Gallipoli as a private, where he saw his first fighting. From the very beginning Albert displayed an uncommon bravery, earning himself the respect and trust of his comrades.


Picture 1: Portrait of Captain Albert Jacka Contributed: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=282238


This was especially true on May 19, 1915 at Courtney's Post. This was the centre post of three - Quinn's, Courtney's and Steele's - that occupied precarious, but critical, positions along the lip of Monash Valley, in the heights above ANZAC Cove. It was named after Jacka's commander of the 14th, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Courtney.


On this day Jacka, as lance-corporal was holding a section of his trench with four others, when they were heavily attacked by seven Turks. All of Jacka's comrades were killed or badly wounded. He alone fought off the enemy, killing them all. Five died by his rifle and two by his bayonet. He continued to beat off further attacks until he was relieved.


For this he was awarded a Victoria Cross. His acts of heroism didn't stop there and neither did his promotions. When the Australians went to France to fight Jacka was a lieutenant and in that capacity led a counter attack after a strong offensive at Pozieres on August 7, 1916. For these actions he was awarded the Military Cross for what was described by war historian C.E.W Bean as "the most dramatic and effective act of individual audacity in the history of the Australian Imperial Forces".


The story goes that Jacka and his seven men hid themselves until a column of Germans were only 30 yards away. Described as being like a mad Viking, Jacka rushed in among the enemy. Despite being knocked down by bullets fired at close range, he managed to get back on his feet and defeated at least a dozen Germans. One of those bullets passed right through his body through the right breast.


At Bullecourt on April 11, 1917 as a captain, Jacka won a bar on his Military Cross because of a daring nocturnal investigation of the enemy position inside the German's line. He managed to capture a German officer and his orderly.


Out of army life Jacka was not so successful. He lost his importing business through the Great Depression. In 1929 he was elected to the St Kilda Council, displaying a keen interest in all things local government. He then was voted mayor, but left the position a year later.




In 1932, at only 39 years of age, Captain Albert Jacka passed away due to complications from the war injuries he received. Newspapers of the day reported around 5,000 people attended his funeral at St Kilda cemetery. It was there the memorial stone over the grave was unveiled by Brigadier General C.H. Brand.


Picture 2: The gravesite and memorial of Albert Jacka in St Kilda cemetery. Photo: Monument Australia


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References

* 'Hero's death - Captain Jacka', Nambucca and Bellinger News, Friday 22 January 1932, Page 6

* 'Courtney's Post', The Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PL66, accessed 11th April, 2020.

* ' Captain Albert Jacka VC', Monument Australia, http://monumentaustralia.org.au/search/display/33518-albert-jacka, accessed on 12th April, 2020

* 'Albert Jack birth', Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages, bdm.vic.gov.au, accessed 12th April, 2020



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