Hard Jacka

Albert Jacka

Albert Jacka has been described as ‘Australia’s greatest front-line soldier,’ the ‘Australian Achilles’, and the ‘bravest of the brave’. He was born near Winchelsea in 1893, but grew up in Wedderburn, some 80 kilometres north west of Bendigo. The son of a cartage contractor, he was working as a labourer in the Victorian Forestry Department when war was declared.

Photograph: courtesy Carl Johnson
Albert Jacka at enlistment as a private in 1914

At Gallipoli on May 19, 1915, at the age of 22, acting Lance-Corporal Albert Jacka single-handedly recaptured a trench that was occupied by 12 Turks, shooting 5 and bayoneting 2 more. For this he was awarded Australia’s first Victoria Cross of the war, making him famous throughout the country. After Gallipoli he attended officer training in Egypt, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.

In France during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, he again distinguished himself. On August 7, 1916, he led a charge of 8 men against a numerically far superior force of Germans. Jacka’s action in the ensuing Battle of Pozieres Ridge was described by the Official Australian Historian, Dr. C.E.W. Bean as, ‘the most dramatic and effective act of individual audacity in the history of the AIF.’

Jacka was promoted to Captain, and awarded a Military Cross and bar, but many (including Bean) felt that he should have been awarded three Victoria Crosses.

Photograph: State Library of Victoria from Herald, 20 October, 1919

In October 1919, Captain Albert Jacka, VC MC and Bar, was greeted by high officials at Port Melbourne.

Photograph: State Library of Victoria from Australasian, 25 October, 1919

Photograph: State Library of Victoria from The Argus, 23 April, 1927

During the 1920s Albert Jacka gave many talks to community and business groups on Gallipoli, the Great War and the meaning of Anzac Day, often with the aid of lantern slides (the ‘Powerpoint’ of the day). In this photograph he is shown addressing the Advertising Institute on the meaning of Anzac Day in 1927.

Photograph: State Library of Victoria from The Argus, 26 April, 1928

“Generals at the Shrine site.” Before the march began, Sir John Monash, accompanied by a number of senior and otherwise distinguished officers, laid a wreath on the foundation-stone of the Shrine of Remembrance in the Domain. Left to right – Brigadier-General G.J. Johnston, Brigadier-General C.H. Brand, Mr. E. Turnbull (State President returned Soldiers’ Association), Brigadier-General P. McGlinn, Brigadier-General E.A. Drake-Brockman, Major-General E. Tivey, Captain Albert Jacka VC, Captain R.C. Greive VC, and Sir John Monash.

Photograph: Courtesy of Betty Jacka

Photo of Albert Jacka and his daughter Betty at the seaside, presumably Marine Parade at St Kilda or Elwood around 1929, when Betty was two years old.

Photograph from John Cooper, History of St Kilda, 1931

Photograph: State Library of Victoria from The Argus, 18 January, 1932

Sketch: The State Library of Victoria from The Herald, 18 January, 1932

This caricature of Albert Jacka appeared in The Herald the day after his death.


Copyright © 2010 Michael Lawriwsky