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Jacka VC: Australian Hero

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BerichtGeplaatst: 12 Okt 2006 8:08    Onderwerp: Jacka VC: Australian Hero Reageer met quote

Jacka VC: Australian Hero

Roy Williams, reviewer
October 9, 2006

Amid the obscene indifference to life of World War I, a Victoria Cross winner stood out for his courage.
An early photo of the man who went on to win a VC.

Robert Macklin
History, Biography
Allen & Unwin

Albert Jacka was the first Australian soldier in World War I to win the Victoria Cross. On the night of May 19, 1915, at Gallipoli, a dozen Turks captured a vital trench. Jacka recaptured it singlehandedly, killing two of the enemy with his bayonet and five (possibly seven) by rifle fire. The others fled.

Robert Macklin's biography Jacka VC is, on one level, a straightforward account of these and other military exploits. There are vivid descriptions of Jacka's celebrated feats of valour - at Gallipoli, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines and Polygon Wood.

Much of the same ground was covered in Dr Ian Grant's 1989 biography but Jacka's deeds justify a retelling. Despite a resurgence of interest in the Anzacs, few Australians today have even heard of Jacka - let alone contemplated the brutal specifics of what he and other heroes actually did.

Macklin is an accomplished author and he makes skilful use of contemporary sources: diaries; journalists' dispatches; memoirs; official reports and citations. These, and the war histories of Newton Wanliss and C.E.W. Bean, are all woven into an enthralling narrative.
But, as Macklin acknowledges in an author's note, there is also a sense of unreality about the monstrous events being described. "[We] speak," Macklin writes, "not of single deaths, but of armies - millions - in a murderous obscenity. And we do so with a kind of fatalist calm that is in itself horrific."

Macklin details some dreadful failings of leadership. Vainglory and personal cowardice were all too common. Few senior officers, and none of the politicians, led from the front. Jacka did. "These people make me sick," he once railed. "They go running after the heads volunteering for everything - 'My men will do this, my men will do that!' They take fine care that they're not in it themselves!"

An even graver sin is incompetence. Countless lives were sacrificed in World War I because those in high command failed to appraise the enemy's strength realistically, to adapt to new technology, or to change their tactics in the face of obvious failure. There are revisionist historians who dispute this conventional wisdom and on any view there were exceptions, such as Monash. But Macklin endorses Jacka's generally disdainful opinion of the British and Australian top brass. It is hard to disagree.

Another theme of Macklin's is that the diggers' reputation is deserved. It is astonishing that anyone coped with such privations, yet they excelled. The French premier, Georges Clemenceau, boasted in 1918: "I have seen the Australians. I have looked in their eyes."

Jacka was the finest of them. His blessings were an iron constitution, intelligence, unsatisfied ambition, courage and a deep commitment to his mates and his country. All were derived from a robust upbringing in rural Victoria and (Macklin speculates) a powerful sense of protective love that originated in boyhood feelings for his younger siblings. He also enjoyed remarkable luck.

There was a dark side to Jacka's character, however, one which Macklin acknowledges: irascibility, intolerance, ruthlessness. But Jacka had a tender side too, as his letters to the relatives of dead comrades demonstrate.

Jacka's life after the war is dealt with somewhat perfunctorily. It would have merited more detailed attention because the story is both fascinating and sad.

He prospered for a time in business and made worthy contributions to the RSL and local government (becoming mayor of St Kilda during the Depression). But he had a difficult, childless marriage and suffered terribly from nightmares. He died in 1932, aged 39, of lung disease caused by gassings in the trenches. This timely book reminds us that war exacts a fearful cost, not least on its survivors.
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Geregistreerd op: 17-2-2005
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BerichtGeplaatst: 12 Okt 2006 19:02    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Ook aan te raden is 'Jacka's Mob' A narrative of the Great War; by Edgar John Rule

The unofficial history of the 14th Bn. AIF.

even editen; isbn...

ISBN: 0-646-38803-7
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Geregistreerd op: 5-11-2009
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Woonplaats: Uaso Monte

BerichtGeplaatst: 26 Jul 2015 12:06    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Recent artikel over de brave man:
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