Military History

The Highest Honour #23 | Roy Inwood | Albert Jacka | William Jackson

By The Cove June 21, 2021


Corporal Reginald Roy Inwood VC (1890 - 1971, 81yo)

Roy Inwood was born on 14 July 1890 in Adelaide, South Australia. At the completion of his education he was a miner at Broken Hill, Queensland. In August 1914 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 10th Battalion.

Inwood served at Gallipoli until November 1915. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in August of that year but then reduced to Private in October due to being Absent Without Leave. By April 1916 the 10th Battalion was in France, and in September 1917 it attacked at Polygon Wood in the battle of Menin Road:

‘During the advance to the second objective, he [Inwood] passed through our barrage, and alone captured a strong post, killing several and capturing nine. He volunteered for a special night-long patrol. He went out 549 m and sent back the most valuable information. Early on the morning of 21 September Inwood went out alone and located and bombed a machine-gun. He killed the crew and brought in the one survivor with the gun.’

Inwood was awarded the Victoria Cross for 'most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty'. Although the citation states that Inwood went out alone on this attack, the official history, the unit history and Inwood's own statement confirm that he was assisted, briefly, by another man. Promoted to Corporal in October 1917 and later Sergeant, Inwood served with the 10th Battalion until May 1918. He embarked for Australia on 24 August 1918 and was demobilized in Adelaide in December.

Inwood died on 23 October 1971 and was buried in West Terrace cemetery with full military honours. His Victoria Cross hangs in the council chambers of the Adelaide City Council, and the Other Ranks Mess at the 10th Battalion in Adelaide is called the Roy Inwood Club.

Captain Albert Jack VC, MC and Bar (1893 - 1932, 39yo)

Albert Jacka was born on 10 January 1893 at Layard, Victoria. At the completion of elementary schooling he first worked as a labourer with his father and then later for the Victorian State Forests Department. Jacka enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on 18 September 1914 and joined the 14th Battalion.

His unit embarked on 22 December 1914 and spent two months training in Egypt before landing at Anzac Cove on 26 April 1915. Early on 19 May 1915, the Turks launched a massive counter-attack along practically the entire Anzac line. At about 4 am they rushed Courtney's Post and captured a twelve-yard section of trench amid the frenzied fighting; one end of which was guarded by Jacka. For several minutes he fired warning shots into the trench wall until reinforcements arrived and, after shouting his instructions, he and three others sprang out into the trench. All but Jacka were immediately hit so he leapt back into the communication trench. A new plan was devised: Two bombs were lobbed at the Turks while Jacka skirted around to attack from the flank. Amid the smoke and noise, he clambered over the parapet, shot five Turks and bayoneted two as the rest hastily retreated. 'I managed to get the beggars, Sir', he reputedly told the first officer to appear. For this action he received the Victoria Cross, the first to be awarded to the AIF in World War 1.

Being the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War 1, he became an overnight hero. He received £500 and a gold watch that had been promised to the first VC winner by John Wren. On 28 August 1915 he was promoted to Corporal and quickly promoted to Company Sergeant Major in November 1915, a few weeks short of the ANZAC evacuation. He returned to Egypt and completed officer training on 29 April 1916 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.

The 14th Battalion was then shipped to France early in June. Jacka's platoon moved into the line near Pozières on the night of 6 August 1916 and as the day broke German troops overran part of the line. Jacka had just completed a reconnaissance and gone to his dug-out when two Germans appeared at its entrance and rolled a bomb down the doorway, killing two men. Jacka charged up the dug-out steps, fired and moved, and came upon a large number of the enemy rounding up some forty Australians as prisoners. He rallied his platoon and charged at the enemy, some of whom immediately threw down their rifles. Furious hand-to-hand fighting erupted as the prisoners turned on their captors. Fifty Germans were captured, and the line retaken. Jacka was awarded a Military Cross for his gallantry. Charles Bean described the counter-attack as 'the most dramatic and effective act of individual audacity in the history of the AIF'. The entire platoon was wounded, including Jacka who was sent to a London hospital seriously wounded in the neck and shoulder. On 8 September 1916 London newspapers carried reports of his death, but Jacka was far from done for. He had been promoted Lieutenant on 18 August 1916, rejoined his unit in November, and was promoted Captain on 15 March 1917 and appointed the 14th Battalion's intelligence officer.

Early in 1917 the Germans had retired to the Hindenburg line and on 08 April 1917 Jacka led a night reconnaissance party into no man's land near Bullecourt to inspect enemy defences before an allied attack against the new German line. He penetrated the wire at two places, reported back, then went out again to supervise the laying of tapes to guide the infantry. The work was virtually finished when two Germans loomed up. Realising that they would see the tapes, Jacka knew that they must be captured. He pulled his pistol, but it misfired, so he rushed on and captured them by hand. Jacka's quick thinking had saved the Anzac units from discovery and probable disastrous bombardment. For this action he was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross. Later, Jacka was wounded by a sniper's bullet near Ploegsteert Wood on 8 July 1917 and spent nearly two months away from the front. On 26 September 1917 he led the 14th Battalion against German pillboxes at Polygon Wood and displayed 'a grasp of tactics, and a military intuition that many had not given him credit for'. In May 1918 he was badly gassed at Villers-Bretonneux and saw no more action.

Jacka died on 18 December 1931 at Caulfield Military Hospital of chronic nephritis. Nearly 6000 people filed past his coffin when he lay in state at ANZAC House. The funeral procession – led by over 1000 returned soldiers and flanked by thousands of onlookers – made its way to St Kilda cemetery where he was buried with full military honours. It was stated that he might have risen higher in the AIF but his blunt, straightforward manner frequently annoyed his superiors. 'He said what he meant, and meant what he said', recalls one friend. As an officer he invariably won respect by his example. It was claimed that he preferred to punch an offender than to place them on a charge.

Corporal John William Alexander Jackson VC (1897 - 1959, 62yo)

William Jackson was born on 13 September 1897 in Ganbar, NSW. At the completion of his schooling he worked at Calowrie before joining the 17th Battalion on 20 February 1915.

He departed Australia in May and after training in Egypt landed at Gallipoli on 20 August 1915 and immediately fought in the battle of Hill 60. On 03 October 1915 he was evacuated with dysentery and rejoined his unit on 08 March 1916. They then departed for the Western Front and relieved the Northumberland Fusiliers at Bois Grenier.

The unit was preparing for a raid on enemy trenches and 18-year-old Jackson volunteered for the operation. On the night of 25 June 1916 the raiding party of 9 officers and 73 other ranks – under cover of artillery fire – assaulted the forward trenches of the 231st Prussian Reserve Infantry Regiment. The raiding party moved out in the face of withering machine-gun fire. Jackson was a member of the scout group which reconnoitred the approaches to the enemy positions. After the scout group had neutralised the enemy listening posts the raiders – supported by a box barrage – entered the enemy trenches, encountering only token resistance. Five minutes later the Australians withdrew under heavy shelling. Jackson brought a prisoner back and returned to bring in a wounded man. He then again went out and along with a Sergeant was carrying in another man when his right arm was shattered by a bursting shell and the Sergeant was rendered unconscious. He returned for help, disregarding his own condition, and went out again to help bring back the Sergeant and the wounded man; one was recovered. He was immediately awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal For this act of courage. This was cancelled; however, and he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his 'splendid example of pluck and determination'. The citation stated: 'his work has always been marked by the greatest coolness and bravery'.

Jackson was evacuated and his arm was amputated. He embarked for Australia on 04 May 1917 and was discharged on 15 September 1917. In 1956 Jackson visited England to attend Victoria Cross centenary celebrations. Survived by his daughter, he died of arteriosclerotic heart disease on 04 August 1959 at the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, Melbourne, and was cremated. Jackson was the youngest Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I and his was the first VC to be awarded to a member of the AIF in France.


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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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