AUSTRALIA’S first Victoria Cross winner deserves two more, according to the family of Albert Jacka.
But the Winchelsea hero was a victim of “injustice” for standing up to his World War I superiors, his family told the Independent this wweek.
They have the support of contemporary Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, who agreed that Jacka’s World War I bravery deserved three crosses.
Political efforts are under way to have his record reviewed to determine whether the extra VCs can be added to his medal count.
Albert Jacka received his VC – the Commonwealth’s highest military honour – for bravery at Gallipoli.
Military figures including Australia’s official World War I historian, C.E.W. Bean, have long backed claims Captain Jacka deserved three VCs.
But his 14th Battalion comrades argued that his straightforward nature annoyed superiors.
Capt Jacka’s family said this week that the Anzac centenary year was the right time to review his case.
“He certainly should have got more, that’s quite true. It’s an injustice that should be remedied,” said Maree Krohn, nee Jacka, whose father was Jacka’s cousin.
“He was astonishingly brave and very, very much protective of the men he led. He was revered by the men under him and he thumbed his nose at officers and that wouldn’t have gone down particularly well.”
Mrs Krohn said the Jacka family would be “absolutely delighted” if his case was reviewed and further VCs awarded.
“As you can imagine, everyone in the family is terribly proud of him. There are still a lot of cousins around and quite a few relatives and I’d say heaps of support.”
Geelong mayor Darryn Lyons threw his support behind a review.
“Albert Jacka epitomises the spirit of Anzac and deserves Victoria Crosses for his actions at Pozières and Bullecourt,” Cr Lyons said.
“Albert Jacka was our first Victoria Cross recipient. He was 22 years of age when he landed in Gallipoli and his actions at Courtney’s Post saw him awarded the Victoria Cross.”
Capt Jacka went on from Gallipoli to fight on the Western Front, leading his men through the Battle for Messines Ridge.
Badly injured twice, he was regarded as showing outstanding bravery throughout his time at war.
Capt Jacka was twice recommended for Distinguished Service Medals and awarded two Military Crosses.
The call to review his worthiness for extra VCs has won bipartisan support from the region’s two federal MPs.
Liberal Member for Corangamite Sarah henderson said she was “very keen to take up the case on behalf of the Jacka family”.
“I would be very happy to support the extended Jacka family’s aspirations for greater recognition of Albert Jacka,” she said.
Federal Member for Corio Richard Marles said he would seek a review of Mr Jacka’s war exploits and their worthiness for VC status.
“From a Geelong point of view, he’s one of Geelong greats,” Mr Marles said.
“He’s absolutely one of Geelong’s heroes and there’s no more appropriate time to look at a review. Ben Roberts-Smith’s voice, as a contemporary Victoria Cross winner, is pretty significant, too.”
Corporal Roberts-Smith, who won his VC for action in Afghanistan, said Jacka’s bravery under fire had influenced his decision to become a soldier.
“Anyone who knows anything about World War I knows that this is the man that probably should have received the VC three times,” he told Seven Network’s Anzac special The Power of Ten.
“The thinking is he probably didn’t get his other Victoria Crosses because he had made them (superiors) so disgruntled about the way he led.”