AUSTRALIA'S FIRST V.C.
 EVERY one is familiar with the little bronze Maltese cross, to gain which the brave soldiers and sailors of the
British Empire will readily risk life or limb.
The famous Victoria Cross was instituted by Queen Victoria on January 29, 1856, after the termination of the
Crimean War. The medal is of little intrinsic value, but it stands for so much. In the centre is the Royal
crown, surmounted by the figure of a lion, and below, on a scroll, are inscribed the simple words, "For
Valour." For the Navy the ribbon is blue, for the Army red. On the clasp are two branches of laurel, and from
the clasp the cross depends, supported by the initial 'V.'
It would be an interesting task to describe the wonderful deeds that have been done in bygone years by the
brave men who have been awarded this cross, but the object of the author is to tell the fascinating stories of
 have won the V.C. in the greatest conflict of the nations in all history. Concerning each of the many brave
soldiers and sailors whose deeds in the Great War have won them the coveted distinction a thrilling story
might be told, but to do this would be to fill a volume larger than is desirable for popular reading. The
author has therefore confined his attention to outstanding typical instances of valour, and from his narrative
it will be seen that men of all ranks, of every service, and from all parts of our great dominions have won
the right to be included in such a list.
When the Kaiser launched his legions against neutral Belgium, with the object of overwhelming France ere
turning to smash Russia, he little expected that his act of infamy would bring him so little gain. The British
people, always peace-loving, always ready to cultivate friendly relationships with all men and all races,
could not remain pacific when they saw treaties torn up as mere "scraps of paper," and small nations trampled
under foot. Britain reluctantly but unflinchingly drew the sword to uphold the right, and in so doing stood as
 a lion in the Kaiser's path. Not only did the people of Great Britain and Ireland spring to arms to uphold the
nation's honour, but immediately war was declared our Colonies loyally and generously came to our aid. It was
the War Lord's foolish dream that the scattered British Empire, of which he was so jealous, would never stand
together in a great world-crisis. He imagined that the ties that bound the Colonies to the Motherland were
frail and would be sundered by the blast of such a storm as was now to test them. Herein he was mistaken, as
we all know. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and our Indian Empire rose, one and all, to the
Nowhere was patriotism more intense than in Australia. This Colony raised thousands upon thousands of
soldiers, paid for them, and sent them to fight the Empire's battles wherever they were needed. Early in the
war an Australian contingent captured German New Guinea, and the Australian Navy destroyed the Emden.
Meantime a great host sailed in many transports to help to guard Egypt against an expected attack of the
Turks. Among them
 was Lance-Corporal Jacka, whose great deed in winning the V.C.—the first ever awarded to an
Australian—is now to be described.
Whole chapters could be written about the exploits in general of these famous Colonial troops. They are
splendid fighters. They are men who have been used to a hard life. Many of these 'six-footers' come from the
back-blocks, and you can see from their contempt of danger, their swinging walk, their healthy appearance,
that they have been accustomed to an outdoor life, where dangers and hardships have been ever present.
Lance-Corporal Jacka is of this type, of whom it has been said: "They are not the sort to stick at anything,
and have not been accustomed to red-tape and orders. If an officer is not handy, they will act without one.
And with all their strength and daring and dash, they are tender and gentle to women and children."
After a spell of useful work and training in Egypt the Australian and New Zealand contingents were shipped to
the Dardanelles. The history of this campaign cannot be attempted here, but a few particulars may help readers
 to understand the thrilling story we are to relate.
When war broke out between the Allies and Turkey the passage of the Dardanelles became closed to our ships.
Constantinople and the Black Sea can only be reached by sea through this narrow waterway, and Turkey found it
an easy task to close this, for the straits are narrow and the land forts on both shores very powerfully
armed. To have an open line of communication with our brave Ally Russia became of paramount importance.
Accordingly an expedition was undertaken by sea, in which some of our best and most powerful warships were
dispatched to batter the land forts. It did not prove possible for the war-ships to force the Dardanelles, and
it became obvious that, in support of the naval operations, there would have to be a landing of troops. If we
could land on Gallipoli, the peninsula on the European side of the Dardanelles, and attack the forts from the
land, then our ships might be enabled to penetrate the narrow waterway and reach Constantinople. Unfortunately
some time elapsed before the troops were landed,
 and in the interval the Turks, aided by their German masters, made the narrow Gallipoli peninsula well-nigh
impregnable. Nature has been kind to the Turks, for the whole peninsula bristles with hills which make defence
easy and attack difficult. It will therefore easily be seen that the Gallipoli campaign was an arduous and
But nothing daunts the British. When once we have made up our minds to do a thing we push through with it. The
greater the difficulties the greater our determination. And it was a very determined army that attempted the
landing on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula in the April of 1915. We have not attempted to tell the full
story of this historic event—one of the most glorious in our military history. What we are concerned
with here is the work of the Australians, and Lance-Corporal Jacka in particular.
It was arranged that the Australians should land at a point between Gaba Tepe and a place known as the
Fisherman's Hut. While the Turks had made serious preparations to resist at the former place, they were not so
 at the latter. But when they became aware of the landing—they were desperately engaged elsewhere in
trying to repulse the magnificent British troops at Sedd ul Bahr—they dispatched a force to meet the
dashing Australians at the Fisherman's Hut. It was all in vain: the hardy, determined men of the Southern
Cross were not to be baulked. With a heroism and dare-devilry that has made them for ever famous, they scaled
rocks almost perpendicular, clinging with might and main to what supports they could, which were very few.
Foot by foot they gained a firm hold, reached the more level ground, and rushed the trenches of the Turks.
Many heroic deeds were done on that day, and all ranks fought with superb courage. Fighting continued for
days, as the Australians strove to consolidate the positions they had wrested from the Turks with such
Then the fighting settled down in places to trench warfare, such as our troops in Flanders had already
experienced for so long. Each side dug itself in, and bombs were used as well as rifles and machine-guns, for
in some places
 the trenches were very near. Sometimes we rushed the enemy's positions, at others the Turks attacked ours,
only to be driven off with terrible slaughter.
Lance-Corporal Jacka's life-story is not much different from that of thousands of his brave comrades from
Australia. He is a townsman of Wedderburn, in the county of Bendigo, and previous to the outbreak of war was
employed in fencing work for the Victorian Forestry Department. He is the second son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacka of
Wedderburn, and celebrated his twenty-second birthday a few days before reaching Egypt. He comes of a
patriotic family, for both his brothers are with the Colours.
Lance-Corporal Jacka belongs to the 14th Battalion Australian Imperial Forces, and his V.C. was won during the
night between may 19 and 20, 1915, by a deed which has been described as "the most valorous in the whole
Gallipoli campaign," and which has resounded not only throughout Australia, but the entire Empire. He was
stationed at this time with the Australian troops at a place known as
 Courtenay's Post, some distance inland from where the landing near Gaba Tepe took place. The spot was a
strategic one; it had the advantage of commanding a good stretch of the enemy's positions. The brave Colonials
fought hard to retain it, as the Turks came again and again in superior numbers to wrest it from our men. Then
the enemy attempted to do with bombs what they were unable to effect with the bayonet, and in this partially
succeeded. The men of the 14th Battalion were in the thick of the struggle, and were compelled to retire, all
but a few, who continued nobly to hold a short section of a trench. Even these were soon afterward driven out
by the bombs, and only a wounded officer remained; he was in sore straits and called for help.
"They have got me!" he cried above the noise and fumes of the bombs. "The Turks are in the trench!"
Leading into the fire trenches are what are known as communication trenches. Lance-Corporal Jacka happened to
be in one of these, and, hearing the officer's cry, instead of rushing
 immediately to his help, he decided to render aid in a more daring and thorough fashion, which is just what
all who know him would have expected. Long days of solitary toil in the Victorian forests, where everything
has to be improvised and a man develops qualities of resource and courage, had made Jacka ready in brain and
hand. He argued that if he could get behind the Turks, who had gained an entrance into the trench, he might
not only save the officer, but achieve a little victory all by himself. The plan was as daring as it was full
of risks. But the hardy Australians are made for 'forlorn adventures, and that he was doing anything out of
the ordinary never occurred to Jacka, as with swift feet he rushed from the communication trench into a part
of the fire trench as yet unreached by the Turks. Even this was a dare-devil exploit, for the gallant fellow
was in great peril for a few minutes from the Turks' rifle fire at close range. He was not out of danger until
he had landed safe behind the traverse which provided the necessary shelter. Here he was safe, provided the
Turks remained where they were.
 Had they swarmed at that moment over the top of the parapet, as they would have done had they known that the
trench was almost empty, it would have gone badly with the intrepid lance-corporal. The truth was, the Turks
were afraid to come round the traverse, not knowing exactly how many of their foes might be waiting to give
them a warm reception. They knew Jacka was there, but did not believe he was alone. One can picture the
scene—the tall young Colonial, his face bronzed with the suns of three continents, his eye flashing, his
strong arm ready with rifle either to shoot or to thrust, and the enemy waiting round the corner, as it were.
For quite a time the situation underwent no change, and the young soldier held up the Turks.
It is now necessary to note what had happened to the rest of the men while all this was taking place. The word
had gone back: "Officer wanted."
A gallant officer, Lieutenant Hamilton, started to run up the communication trench through which Jacka had
also passed. He could see the Turks jumping into the main
 trench, and whipping out his revolver he fired rapidly at them, until, seeing the flash of his revolver from
the parapet, they shot him in the head.
Another officer was sent from the rear to take charge. He too bravely advanced up the communication trench,
and was about to enter the fire trench when Jacka shouted:
"Look out, sir, the Turks are in here!"
The officer looked, but could see none, although he knew it was one of his gallant men who had hailed him.
Something must be done if the trench was to be saved, so he called out to Jacka:
"Will you charge them if I get some men to back you up?"
Back came the ready and ringing reply: "Yes, sir."
Meanwhile the officer's platoon had been quickly following him up the communication trench, and almost as soon
as Jacka's "Yes" was heard they were at the officer's heels. Turning to his men the officer called for
volunteers, adding: "It's a tough job. Will you back Jacka up?
 The men would all have volunteered, but the three leading Australians immediately signified their willingness,
one of them answering the officer: "It's sink or swim: we will come, sir," and they at once went forward. It
is interesting to note that these three and Jacka were all Bendigo men, and it must have been very gratifying
to the hero that in the
supreme moment of his life he was backed up by comrades from his native county.
The soldier who was leading had no sooner put his head round the corner of the trench than he was hit in three
places, and fell back, blocking the trench.
Jacka, as we have seen, had aimed at high prey. He wanted nothing less than the capture of the unwelcome
Turks. When he saw that his comrade had fallen, and his body filled up the exit to the narrow trench, he knew
that if he could get round to the other side of the main trench opposite the spot where his comrade lay he
would have the Turks caught in a trap.
This plan he put into instant operation. He leaped out of the fire trench into the
communi-  cation trench, swiftly made his way round, and reached a portion of the trench just behind the Turks a moment
after some bombs had been thrown. Jacka's plan had worked well. Caught like rats in a trap, the Turks were
speedily placed out of harm's way by the stalwart hero, who was as ready with his rifle as with his brain.
They put up a sort of half-hearted fight, but were no match for the man in front of them. It was one against
seven, but in rapid succession Jacka shot five, and bayoneted two.
When his comrades found him Jacka was sitting in the trench surveying his handiwork, a cigarette in his mouth,
his face flushed with the exertions he had just put forth. To the officer who was with the men he laughingly
said: "Well, I managed to get the beggars, sir."
He was cordially greeted and congratulated by his comrades, who had no words sufficient to express their
wonder at his deed. It is a big thing to take one Turk prisoner, or kill one at close quarters. But Jacka had
accounted for seven stalwart foes, although one of
 the bayoneted Turks was only wounded, and was taken prisoner. This amazing feat showed as cool daring, as
ready resource, and as skilful handling as any individual feat in the war. If one looks for a parallel case it
would be the amazing deed of the famous Sergeant O'Leary, V.C., at Cuinchy, in France.
Lance-Corporal Jacka's single-handed deed in Gallipoli made him the hero of the day when it became known, and
it is not too much to say that in winning the V.C. he has done more than anything to bring home to the Empire
the solidarity of our cause. The granting of the coveted reward to a member of one of our Colonial contingents
is another link in the already strong chain which binds the Colonies to the Motherland.
In Australia Lance-Corporal Jacka's deed was hailed with unbounded delight, and every one was proud of the
Commonwealth's gallant son. In addition to the good wishes and well-deserved praise showered upon him, Jacka
has received the £500 and a gold medal promised by Mr. John Wren to the first Australian
 to win the Victoria Cross. These gifts will naturally be welcome to the hero, but they will not mean so much
to him as the little bronze cross inscribed with the magic words, "For Valour."
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