Almanac Poetry: Captain Albert Jacka, VC, MC and Bar

 

Jacka with adopted daughter, Betty, late 1920s, St Kilda, Melbourne. (Image: http://www.gallipolilegend.com/albertjacka.html)

 

Late-in-Life Photo of Captain Albert Jacka (1893-1932), VC, MC and Bar

 

“He [Jacka] deserved the Victoria Cross as thoroughly at Pozieres, Bullecourt and at Ypres as at Gallipoli … The whole AIF came to look on him as a rock of strength that never failed.” – Captain Ted Rule, Jacka’s Mob.

 

Monochrome day,
’28 or ’9.
What season? Winter?
Hard to say.
Jacka sits on a bench
overlooking blustery grey
St Kilda Beach,
his little daughter beside him.
He has aged beyond his years
— wartime illnesses,
gunshot and shrapnel wounds,
mustard gas …

 

Offshore, the waves,
bleak and black.

 

 

Acknowledgement: first published in Orpheus in the Undershirt, Ginninderra Press, 2018.

 

To read more from Kevin Densley CLICK HERE.

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, was published in late 2020 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.

Comments

  1. Nice touch Kevin. I have read many books, stories and accounts of Jacka’s exploits and while the likes of Monash have been acknowledged, men such as Jacka and “Mad Harry” Murray are all but forgotten. It took 100 years for a statue of Mad Harry to be erected in Evandale, Tas.and it still amazes me that there is not a statue of Jacka on the boulevard that carries his name or outside the St Kilda town hall.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, KND. Yes, it is a bit surprising that there’s not a Jacka statue.

    Over the years, though, a number of memorial things connected to Jacka have accumulated, such as: Jacka’s Boulevard in St Kilda, which you’ve mentioned (where he was mayor, as you’d know); the suburb of Jacka in Canberra; a prominent plaque in the RSL in Acland Street where I think there may be “an Albert Jacka Room”, and an annual memorial service at his grave in St Kilda Cemetery organised by the council.

    Interesting that you bring up (Lieutenant-Colonel) “Mad Harry” Murray too, the most decorated infantry soldier of the British Empire during WW1; of course, he was nicknamed, “Mad Harry” – in a typically understated Australian way – because of his absolute coolness under the enormous pressure of battle.

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Correction to above, third last line: ” … of course, he was nicknamed, “Mad Harry” – in a typically Australian way – because of his absolute coolness under the enormous pressure of battle.” (The word “understated” should have been omitted in my response.)

  4. Intriguing character Jacka. Hard to believe that in this photo he was still a young man. Extraordinary life.

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your comments, Dips. Yes, such an extraordinary life. Interestingly, as the first VC of WW1, he received five hundred pounds and a gold watch from John Wren, who had promised these things to Australia’s first VC winner of the war – Jacka collected used these funds after he returned home in 1919 and used them to set up a business which imported electrical goods – it did well until the depression hit.

  6. Nicole Kelly says

    Aged beyond his years says it all. I hope there was more happiness in his heart that day than on his face. He looks so weary.

  7. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your response, Nicole – it’s true to say that Jacka survived the war, but didn’t really survive the peace, though he did live to help many depression unemployed during his time as Mayor of St Kilda.

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