Gallipoli Legend


Reviewed by Dr. Anthony Staunton in ‘Sabretache, the journal of the Military Historical Society of Australia, December 2010’

Return of the Gallipoli Legend is the sequel to the bestseller Hard Jacka which described the war years of Albert Jacka who rose from private to captain and who was awarded the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli and two Military Crosses on the Western Front. Jacka returned to Australia in 1919 as Australia’s greatest hero of the First World War. This new work covers Jacka’s post-war life in Melbourne, his dealings with entrepreneur John Wren, his business which was a victim of the Great Depression, his marriage and his untimely death from his war wounds in 1932.

Like Hard Jacka Michael Lawriwsky has meticulously researched the Return of the Gallipoli Legend using a variety of sources including contemporary newspapers, letters written by members of the 14th Battalion in the 1920s, emails with Jacka’s adopted daughter Betty that spread over two years as well as notes, books and other valuable sources. The material is presented in well constructed conversations that allow the reader to experience the 1920s and to empathize with former diggers coming to grips with the post war society while coping with their war experiences which changed them forever. Lawriwsky has captured the spirit of the times, covered issues that concerned returned servicemen and nurses, and makes you feel you are in the picture.

In the immediate post war years Melbourne was still the temporary capital of Australia and many political figures appear in this work including former Brigadier General and from 1920 until his death in March 1931, Senator Harold “Pompey” Elliott. Interspaced are flashbacks to Gallipoli including Jacka’s appearance before the Dardanelles Commission in London in 1917. Jacka’s electrical goods import business was a victim of the Great Depression of 1929 and as Mayor of St Kilda in 1930-1931 he set a feverish pace in assisting those out of work. In late 1931 he was confined to bed in Caulfield Military Repatriation Hospital and was on the critical list for ten days before his death on 17 January 1932. His coffin lay in state in Anzac House where many paid their respects. Hugh Buggy, a reporter from the Melbourne Herald asked one digger why he was there and he replied that Jacka was ‘a man’s man, who made himself’.

Return of the Gallipoli Legend is the story of Jacka’s life after he returned to Australia and is just as important as Hard Jacka that told the story of his war years. Lawriwsky captures the period of the 1920s with a wealth of characters from the famous political, military and church leaders to the lesser known.

The story gripped me but it was an unexpected delight to meet again the Herald reporter Hugh Buggy who my father introduced to me many years ago at the Celtic Club in Melbourne on a St Patrick’s Day. Michael Lawriwsky is a passionate historian of the life and times of Albert Jacka VC MC, and is to be commended for this fine story of Australia’s greatest hero of the First World War.

Michael Lawriwsky. Return of the Gallipoli Legend: Jacka VC,
Mira Books, Chatswood NSW, 2010, ISBN 978 1 921685 64 4, ill., maps, ports, 455 p.

Review by Victorian Police Association Secretary Greg Davies, in Journal of the Police Association – Victoria, Vol. 76, Issue 12, December 2010, p.27

In an age where people throw around the term ‘hero’ like confetti at a wedding, it is almost impossible for us to truly understand the heroism of Albert Jacka VC MC and Bar.

In Hard Jacka, the first of his novels about the exploits of of Captain Jacka, Michael Lawriwsky engaged us with the deeds that made Bert Jacka known around the world as the finest front-line soldier of the Commonwealth.

In the companion novel Return of the Gallipoli Legend, Lawriwsky concentrates more on Bert Jacka the man; the man so scarred by the horrors he experienced in Gallipoli and France that he succumbed to his injuries at just 39 years of age, as surely as if he had been mortally wounded at Courtney’s Post or Polygon Wood.

Much of the book shows Bert Jacka’s care for others, including the fight to have his comrades in arms accorded their due recognition and to see justice done on their behalf.

This book, like its forerunner, is easily read and difficult to put down. It is not full of military maps of troop manoeuvres, with obscure references, unfamiliar to the general reader.

What it is full of is the human story of a brave but transformed life in the Victoria of the 1920’s and 30’s, and includes an interesting perspective of the dramatic events of the 1923 police strike and references to Victoria with which we will all be familiar.

Read Hard Jacka first, but do not miss the wonderfully constructed finale, in Return of the Gallipoli Legend.

News Weekly, November 27, 2010, p.22
Reviewed by Bill James

In my review of Michael Lawriwsky’s account of Albert Jacka’s World War I military career, Hard Jacka (News Weekly, December 20, 2008), I concluded with the words of General Peter Cosgrove: ‘Meticulously researched, the rich dialogue of Hard Jacka rests on the firm foundation of a wealth of histories and accounts. It rings true.’

Exactly the same can be said of his second volume, which tells the story of Jacka’s life from his 1919 return to Australia after the war, until his death in 1932.

The imaginatively created scenes and conversations emerge from Lawriwsky’s mastery of material from archives, books, letters, photographs and interviews.

Jacka had won the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli, followed by the Military Cross and bar at the Western Front, and a recommendation for the DSO.

However, like many another successful soldier, he found that military decorations were no assurance of an ability to cope with the post-war world.

There was his failed electrical goods import business, which eventually collapsed despite a huge injection of funds from John Wren.

There was his marriage which didn’t produce ant children (they adopted a daughter instead), and which broke down in separation.

There were the family tensions with his left wing father and one left-wing brother.

Then there were the unrelenting pressures from the media and her-worshippers; the tormenting memories; and finally, his broken health, legacy of four years of wounds and privations, which eventually killed him.

Jacka did achieve the distinction of serving as mayor of St Kilda, but his greatest claim to fame in his peace-time career was his devotion to the welfare of returned servicemen, particularly the unemployed.

Lawriwsky punctuates the chronological progression of his narrative with flashback chapters to Jacka’s experiences in Gallipoli, but not, oddly enough, to those in France.

The Melbourne which he evokes of the 1920s and early 1930s is another world, despite its familiar names of streets and suburbs.

The Shrine of Remembrance is in the stages of conception and early construction.

Visiting American and Japanese fleets arrive to popular acclamation.

Sectarian tensions between Roman Catholics and Protestants loom large in business and politics.

Horse cabs vie with the new motor taxis in the CBD.

The Soviet dictatorship is revered by many as a beacon of hope, and communists blow up the home of a detective where his family are sleeping.

It is dominated by names such as politicians Billy Hughes, Stanley Bruce and James Scullin; notorious figures John Wren and ‘Squizzy Taylor’; and generals John Monash, Harry Chauvel and ‘Pompey’ Elliott.

These three officers play a role in maintaining order during the 1923 Melbourne police strike, when trams are overturned, windows smashed, shops looted, and three lives lost.

In other words, Lawriwsky’s account – not hagiography! – skilfully embeds Jacka’s personal tragedy in its historical context of the Great War, post-bellum attempts to come to terms with it and (as we say now ‘move on’), and the looming shadows of threats far worse than Prussian militarism, in the form of communist and fascist totalitarianism.


Copyright © 2010 Michael Lawriwsky