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Hero of Jacka's mob

Captain Albert Jacka VC holding a map of the Messines area over which his company was to advance the following day, 7 June 1917 (AWM E00631).

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Posted on March 17 2018

At the 1916 Battle of Pozieres, Albert Jacka won the Military Cross for recapturing a section of trench, freeing a group of recently-captured Australians and forcing 50 Germans to surrender.

Australia’s official historian Charles Bean called it: “the most dramatic and effective act of individual audacity in the history of the AIF.”

Ian Gray’s biography of the inspirational timber cutter from Winchelsea in Victoria said: “his unparalleled courage and quick thinking in battle became legendary.”

Albert Jacka was the first Australian Victoria Cross winner at Gallipoli in May 1915 when he attacked seven Turks single-handed and killed them all.

After the disaster at Bullecourt in 1917, where he was further decorated, Jacka wrote a report critical of the tank operation.

The report, along with frequent disputes with senior officers, were seen to curtail his promotion to higher ranks and later recognition for his bravery at Polygon Wood.

Captain Jacka’s active career in the 14th Battalion – known as Jacka’s Mob – ended when he was wounded and gassed in May 1918.

Returning home late in 1919, he ran an electrical goods company and worked tirelessly for the unemployed as Mayor of St Kilda.

Eight VC winners carried his coffin when he died aged 39 in 1932.

Australia’s Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove has said of Jacka: “He was larger than life, the bravest of the brave.”

This story was published as part of the Road to Remembrance series developed in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Fairfax Media.

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