After capturing four Germans the Australians were returning with them across No Man’s Land when the enemy began shelling the area in retaliation, wounding nine of the forty soldiers.
Private Jackson, with a prisoner in tow, made it back to his lines unscathed and then immediately set off to search for wounded, finding and assisting one back to the trenches. Braving enemy fire once again he found another wounded man but while returning with him this time a shell exploded nearby and cleanly blew off Jackson’s right arm and knocked the wounded man unconscious.
After regaining his own trench an officer bound Jackson’s wound with a tourniquet and then Jackson climbed out again into the barrage to search for his mate, finally escorting him to safety.
Because it is our highest award for military gallantry there is an aura attached to the Victoria Cross and its winners. During World War I the recipients were lionised as celebrities by the public and used by the military to drum up support for enlistment or to raise money for causes associated with the war effort. And so some VC winners like William Jackson undertook fundraising whilst others, like the famous Albert Jacka, featured in recruitment posters.
It was natural for people to look to the exploits of these soldiers for inspiration during the horrors of this terrible war. E.M Ward watched Jackson growing up in Gunbar and expressed his feelings by penning a brief poem for him which closed with;
He lost his arm in battle,
Fighting for you and me,
He did a brave and glorious deed,
And won the coveted V.C.
Another way these men were celebrated was by ceremonies and dinners held in their honour. On 11 November 1919, around fourteen recipients of the Victoria Cross attended a dinner in the company of the prominent surgeon Sir Charles Kinnaird Mackellar (father of the poet Dorothea Mackellar). All the men signed an autograph book for the occasion which was later presented to Sir Charles Mackellar, and which is also held by the State Library.
Among those who were present and signed the book was Corporal Arthur Hall, V.C. In many ways Corporal Hall matches Private Jackson’s modesty; even his diary is remarkable for its understatement.
Corporal Hall received his award for action on the 1 and 2 September 1918. His commendation states that on the 1 September he singlehandedly rushed a machine gun post killing four occupants, capturing nine others and a further two machine guns. Hall was continually in the advance and personally led others to the assault. Then on 2 September, during a heavy barrage, he carried a critically wounded comrade to safety and afterwards returned to his post.