St Kilda remembers Albert Jacka

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By Daniel Wilson

Last month was the 83rd Anniversary of the death of WWI hero Albert Jacka VC. He was commemorated at the St Kilda General Cemetery. The 2015 memorial service marks the 100 year anniversary of Jacka’s courageous actions at Anzac Cove that earned him the Victoria Cross, the first awarded to an Australian in WWI.

The 2nd/10th Light Battery led a march to Jacka’s grave, followed by descendants of ‘Jacka’s Mob’, the 14th Battalion who had served with Jacka.

The day’s speakers included Mayor Amanda Stevens and Returned Services League of Australia’s Victorian Branch State Honorary Treasurer John Cullen OAM.

Jacka (10 January 1883 – 17 January 1932) was the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI for his actions on 19 May, 1915, three weeks after arriving at Gallipoli.

A massive Turkish offensive to drive the Australian and New Zealand forces off their positions was launched. During this fight a selection of Australian trenches was occupied by the enemy. Jacka organised a party of men to fire on the Turks while he outflanked them.

His Victoria Cross citation states that “Jacka at once most gallantly attackedthem single-handed and killed the whole party, five by rifle fire and two by the bayonet”.

Jacka continued to fight with gallantry and distinction and was awarded the Military Cross for his actions at Pozieres on 7 August, 1916 and received a bar to his MC for bravery at Bullecourt on 8 April, 1917.

Cr Stevens said after cementing his place in our nation’s history on the battlefields of WWI, Jacka returned home, where he took his place in the history of St Kilda.

“After being elected as a St Kilda City Councillor in 1929, Jacka fought for his constituents, especially the unemployed, with the same determination he’d shown as a soldier. During his term as Mayor in 1930, Jacka continued to show unwavering support of the needy, who were so deeply affected by the Depression,” Cr Stevens said.

“After collapsing at a Council meeting, on 17 January 1932, Jacka died as a result of his war injuries. On 20 January, Jacka was buried with full military honours at St Kilda Cemetery. The ceremony was broadcast on radio and up to 50,000 residents lined the streets to pay their respects.”

Jacka Boulevard in St Kilda and the suburb of Jacka in Canberra are both named in his honour.

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