War Office, 24th July, 1915
His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officers and Non-commissioned Officers:-
No. 465 Lance-Corporal Albert Jacka, 14th Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces.
For most conspicuous bravery on the night of the 19th–20th May, 1915 at "Courtney's Post", Gallipoli Peninsula.
Lance-Corporal Jacka, while holding a portion of our trench with four other men, was heavily attacked. When all except himself were killed or wounded, the trench was rushed and occupied by seven Turks. Lance-Corporal Jacka at once most gallantly attacked them single-handed, and killed the whole party, five by rifle fire and two with the bayonet.
Albert Jacka was born on a dairy farm near Winchelsea, Victoria on 10 January 1893, the fourth of seven children to Nathaniel Jacka and his English-born wife Elizabeth (ńee Kettle). His family moved to Wedderburn, Victoria when he was five years old, where he attended the local school before working with his father as a haulage contractor. He was working for the Victorian State Forests Department when the First World War broke out.
Jacka was awarded the Military Cross for his actions at Pozières, although he was originally recommended for the Distinguished Service Order. Many present at the time, as well as many historians since, have voiced the opinion that Jacka deserved a second Victoria Cross for the Pozières action. One of only two bars (second award) to the Victoria Cross awarded during the war was earned the following day by Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Chavasse subsequently died of wounds sustained during this second VC action. The other bar to the VC was earnt by Arthur Martin-Leake during the period 29 October to 8 November 1914 near Zonnebeke, Belgium, when, according to his award citation, Martin-Leake showed most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in rescuing, while exposed to constant fire, a large number of the wounded who were lying close to the enemy's trenches. Martin-Leake was the first of only three men to be awarded a bar to his VC.
Following his VC action, Jacka instantly became a national hero; he received the £500 and gold watch that the prominent Melbourne Business and sporting identity, John Wren, had promised to the first Australian of the war to receive the VC, his image was used on recruiting posters and magazine covers, and he received rapid promotions; first to corporal on 28 August, to sergeant two weeks later on 12 September, and then to company sergeant major on 14 November. He became company sergeant major of C Company, and saw much fighting at Gallipoli where, during August at Chunuk Bair, Hill 971, and Hill 60, his battalion took part in an Allied offensive aimed at trying to break the deadlock around the beachhead. After nine months of fighting and 26,111 Australian casualties, the Allied forces began to evacuate the peninsula in December 1915, after which Jacka's battalion was withdrawn to Egypt.
After the incident, Jacka was evacuated to England, where he was promoted to lieutenant on 18 August 1916, but was falsely reported dead on 8 September. He attended an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on 29 September; receiving his Victoria Cross from King George V, before rejoining his unit in November. Promoted to captain on 15 March 1917, he was appointed the 14th Battalion's intelligence officer.
By early 1917, the Germans had retired to the Hindenburg Line, and on 8 April Jacka led a night reconnaissance party into "no man's land", near Bullecourt to inspect enemy defences before an Allied attack against the new German line. He penetrated the wire at two places, reported back, then went out again to supervise the laying of tapes to guide the assault parties; in the process he single-handedly captured a two-man German patrol. He was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross for this action.
Later, Jacka was given command of D Company, 14th Battalion, and in June led his men through the Battle for Messines Ridge. During their advance, the company overran several machine-gun posts and captured a German field gun; Jacka's actions went unrecognised. On 8 July, he was wounded by a sniper near Ploegsteert Wood, resulting in nearly two months hospitalisation. Returning to the front, he led the 14th Battalion on 26 September in an attack against German pill-boxes during the Battle of Polygon Wood. Jacka was recommended for the Distinguished Service Order a second time for this feat, but again it was not granted. In May 1918, Jacka was finally removed from the conflict when, outside the village of Villers-Bretonneux, he was badly gassed and a missile passed through his trachea. He was evacuated to No. 20 Casualty Clearing Station at Vignacourt, where it was thought that he would not recover. When he did, he was sent to Britain for two operations and a long recuperative period.
He returned to Australia on 6 September 1919 and his AIF appointment ended on 10 January 1920, when he returned to Melbourne to a hero's welcome.
On 17 January 1921, at St Mary's Catholic Church, St Kilda, Jacka married Frances Veronica Carey, a typist from his office. The pair settled in St. Kilda, and later adopted a daughter, Betty. In September, 1929, he was elected to the Council of the City of St Kilda, becoming mayor the following year. Much of his civic work was characterised by his strong interest in assisting the unemployed, defending evictees and proposing public works for the ‘sussos’: 'sustenance workers', employed on public works by the Government as a relief measure.
On 14 December 1931, Jacka collapsed after a council meeting and was admitted to Caulfield Military Hospital. On 17 January 1932, one week after his 39th birthday, he died from chronic nephritis; he was buried at St Kilda Cemetery, with eight other Victoria Cross recipients acting as pallbearers and an estimated 6,000 witnesses to the burial as his body passed en route to the cemetery.
Albert Jacka's Victoria Cross is displayed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and a commemorative Service is held every 17 January in St. Kilda to honour Jacka; originally organised by former members of the 14th Battalion, it is now held by Port Phillip City Council. The regimental colour of the 14th Battalion is laid up in St Kilda Town Hall.