The Badass Story of a Gallipoli Legend, Albert 'Hard' Jacka
By | September 12, 2017
The Gallipoli Campaign went down in history as an unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Forces to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during the First World War. The campaign lasted 8 long months and by the time it was over at least half a million lives (on both sides) were lost, meaning that if you were present in the battle you had 60% chance of being killed or wounded. These guys were slugging at each other, brute force against brute force, and Australian Private Albert "Hard" Jacka was on the front lines of it all.
Jacka's heroic moment in Gallipoli came in the wee hours of 19 May 1915, when the Turks launched a massive attack on the ANZAC trench line. At roughly 2AM, the trench in front of Jacka was overrun by the Turkish troops, who either killed or drove off all the Australian troops stationed there.
Jacka's lieutenant was killed in an attempt to retake the line, shot in the head the second he stepped out of his own trench. With the enemy so close that they could lob a bunch hand grenades right at Jacka's dugout, the Australian Private knew that he needed to act fast or there would be nothing left of his troops but dead Australian bodies.
First, he attempted a direct assault, but it didn't worked well – Jacka popped up, but when the two men with him followed suit, they were both hit by bullets. Jacka grabbed both of them, dragged them back to safety, and quickly realized that he needed to devise another plan.
The one he came up with was pretty awesome...
Jacka had his team go to one side of the trench and instructed them to start hurling grenades and covering fires. While the Turks got busy with this sudden onslaught of explosive fires, Jacka pulled himself up, sprinted across into the open space of no-man's land, and then made a flying leap into the enemy trench.
Jacka was already flipping enemies out before the Turks even knew what hit them. With only a bolt-action rifle and a bayonet, Albert Hard Jacka cleared out the entire trench of defenders. He shot five guys, bayoneted two more, and chased the rest off with the insanity of his attack. For the next 15 minutes, the Turks returned with a massive counter-attack to re-take the position, but Jacka fought like crazy and held the trench by himself.
Reinforcements didn't arrive until dawn, because it wasn't until the light came up that Jacka's buddies realized he had single-handedly fought off enemies and re-taken the position. When his commanding officer reached the trench, he found Jacka sitting amid a pile of enemy corpses with a cigarette in his mouth. All he said was, "Well, I got the beggars, sir."
Private Albert Jacka became the first Australian to ever receive the Victoria Cross personally pinned on him by the King at Windsor Castle.
But Hard Bert Jacka still wasn't done with his badassery. In 1916 he was sent to Somme to participate in yet another of the WWI's bloodiest campaigns – this time, the Australian force would lose 23,000 men in the span of 45 days assaulting the heavily fortified German Hindenburg Line.
One morning in mid-July 1916, after a long evening, Albert Jacka awoke just in time to see some German stormtrooper rolling a live grenade down the steps into his dugout. Jacka quickly dropped to the dirt, covered his head, and after his ringing ears recovered from the concussive blast, he pulled his revolver and went out to see what was going on. What he saw didn't thrill him. The Germans had obviously overrun the Australian positions during the night, and they were now a good 250 yards behind enemy lines. And he also saw a company of 60+ German soldiers leading 42 unarmed Australian infantrymen off as prisoners of war.
He went down into his dugout and saw his 6 battle-weary comrades sitting there. Now, a rational man would've realized that the only way they were walking out of there alive was if they came out of the dugout with their hands in the air.
But Albert Hard Jacka wasn't a rational person. He was a badass.
Albert Jacka, 250 yards behind enemy lines, outnumbered, and exhausted, led a seven-man troop screaming out of the dugout, charging straight-on, with their gun blazing, into a group of 60 well-armed German soldiers. Within seconds, every man in his small squad was shot and wounded, but they kept on charging. Jacka himself was shot seven times (including twice in head!) but when the soon-to-be POWs witnessed the crazy onslaught to save them, they turned on their guards, overpowering some of them with a barrage of bare-knuckled punches.
After Jacka burned through his revolver rounds, he took up a rifle and a bayonet, and kept fighting. When the smoke finally cleared, the table was turned, 12 Germans were dead and the rest had been taken prisoner. Rather than head back to safety, however, the Aussies kept fighting, re-taking the line.
Jacka received the Military Cross for his actions at the Somme (many historians believed he would have been nominated for a much higher medal if he wasn't also so insubordinate to his superior officers). He also later received a second Military Cross for his solo recon mission deep behind enemy lines. He captured two German officers who had spotted him laying tape to guide the Australian infantry. He tried to shoot them with his revolver but the pistol misfired, so he just charged and took them down with his bare hands, and dragged them back to Allied lines.
In the span of 18 months of constant combat, Albert Jacka was promoted from Private to Captain. He was constantly insubordinate for his officers, and when his own subordinates were being disrespectful to him, he got them into line by cracking them in the jaw with a right hook... his men, being insane Australians, of course loved him for that shit. The men of the 14th Battalion even referred to themselves as "Jacka's Mob".
Jacka would later receive glory again, this time for taking half a mile of land and capturing a German field gun in the process,
But in 1918, he was knocked out of action for good when a sniper shot him through the throat. This didn't kill him, though, but by the time he got out of the hospital in 1919 the war was already over, so he returned home to a hero's welcome.
Jacka got married, became the Mayor of a town called St. Kilda, and died in 1932. He was buried with full military honors, and all 8 of his pallbearers were Victoria Cross recipients.