WHEN it comes to writing essays about World War I, Mater Dei Catholic College students Olivia Dill and Billy Nicholson have a distinct advantage – their ancestors are decorated war heroes.
Olivia’s great uncle was Albert Jacka, who was awarded Australia’s first Victoria Cross of the war and is arguably one of the country’s best-known Great War soldiers.
He was awarded a VC for his actions at Gallipoli in May, 1915. Nine Turkish soldiers jumped into an Australian trench, wounding a number of Diggers. While the Turks were distracted by other Australians, Private Jacka lept into the trench, killed six of the enemy, wounded another and captured one.
Jacka won the Military Cross in France in 1916 and was further decorated in 1917.
Billy’s great-grandfather, Charles Rudolph (Jack) Nicholson, was awarded the Military Cross for his actions on August 9, 1918, when he mopped up a village held by the Germans, killing eight of the enemy and capturing one with a machine gun.
Both students delivered speeches about their ancestors’ actions at Mater Dei’s Anzac Day service last week.
Olivia, 17, said on Thursday her family felt proud to be descendants of Albert Jacka.
“There is a sense of honour being related to someone who was so brave in the war,” the Year 12 student said.
Olivia said the centenary of Anzac this year had caused her to reflect more deeply on the war.
Billy, 15, said the feats of Lieutenant Nicholson were inspiring. “I could not imagine going to war and not knowing what was ahead of me,” the Year 10 student said, noting some soldiers signed up for service in World War I when they were his age.
While her great uncle is recognised as one of the bravest Australians to pull on a uniform, Olivia in her school speech spoke about the many unsung heroes of World War I.
“We remember the tragedies, hardships and horror that unfolded, as well as the acts of valor and immense bravery like Jacka’s and the many, many others that will not be told,” she said in her speech.
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