Royal Reels: Gambling


This slightly battered and indistinct postcard from Egypt was sent ‘On Active Service’ to Mrs Jacka (his mother) in North Fitzroy, Melbourne on 2/2/16 with a message: “A very pretty Landscape of the Pyramids of Giza Lovely in the evenings how is George & Mary and your Mother Hope all well Bert The vendor stated that the card was sent after Albert’s evacuation to Egypt (Figure 1).

The front of the card was not seen, but shows the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis, bordering what is now Cairo. It is believed to have been constructed over a 20 year period concluding around 2560 BC. The Great Pyramid was built as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh, Khufu (Figure 2).

Albert Jacka (1893-1932) was born near Winchelsea, Victoria, joined the AIF in September 1914 as 21-year old private and landed on Gallipoli on 26 April 1915. A few weeks later, on 19 May, he helped repel a Turkish assault at Courtney’s Post. During the action, (now a lance corporal) he attacked a group of the enemy with his rifle and bayonet and recaptured the position, a scene that has intrigued the imagination of several artists (Figure 3).

For his valour he became the first Australian to win the Victoria Cross in the First World War. The next year in France, as an officer at the battle for Pozi res, he performed an equally bold action for which he was awarded the Military Cross. Although seriously wounded, his attack on the enemy was described by the official war historian as “the most dramatic and effective act of individual audacity in the history of the AIF”. At Bullecourt in April 1917 he won a bar to his MC for further brave individual work. From left to right: Victoria Cross; Military Cross with bar; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; and, the Victory Medal (Figure 4).

Instantly Jacka became a national hero. He received the £500 and gold watch that the prominent Melbourne business and sporting identity John Wren had promised the first V.C. winner. He was promoted to corporal, then rose quickly, to sargeant major a few weeks before the Anzacs were evacuated. Back in Egypt he passed through officer training school and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

He was wounded again near Messines in July 1917 and badly gassed in May 1918. In September 1918 he embarked for Australia, received a hero’s welcome, and was demobilized in January 1920. He established an electrical goods importing and exporting goods and in January 1921 he married his secretary Frances Veronica Carey. His health deteriorated by December 1931 and he died on 17 January 1932 of chronic nephritis and he was buried with full military honours in the St. Kilda Cemetery. At his funeral he was described as ‘Australia’s greatest front-line soldier. A picture of Albert Jacka is seen in Figure 5.

Part of this paper is based on the on-line edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum (April 2008): This paper has been published at the Philatelic Database website:, a website I can highly recommend to postal history lovers.

Categories: Armed Forces