Day 28 – Thursday, 21 October 2021

After breakfast we headed down to the Wehla Block area of the Kooyoora State Park which we have not yet explored. We hoped to find some more new wildflowers (which we did, and I cannot name two of them) and enjoy the fresh air.  

The Wehla Block has some amazing track names including Devil’s Range Track, Jordan’s Track, Burke’s Flat, McIntyre Road, Tannock’s Track, Charcoal Track and Mail Robbery Track. We didn’t travel over the Mail Robbery Track as it would have shortened our journey by a considerable amount, and the Charcoal Track was particularly challenging in lots of places. 

We did get to see the Plum Pudding flower – a flower I have never heard of before – which grows awfully close to the ground among clover or ground cover and is a native to South Africa. The fruit pods below the flower are edible and contain numerous black seeds in white sweet pulp. 

We stopped and had lunch under the shade of some red gums and were lucky enough to have a breeze blowing to combat the 27-degree heat somewhat. 

Once back in Wedderburn I stopped at the local park to get some photos of more murals and info on Jacka and Borella – both recipients of the Victoria Cross. A fascinating history. 

Captain Albert (Ben) Jacka, VC, MC and Bar was born near Winchelsea on 10 January 1893. He was raised and schooled in Wedderburn along with his seven siblings who were all baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Wedderburn. He was known to have a good tenor voice and a passion for sport. 

Ben Jacka enlisted in the 14th Battalion Australian Infantry Forces (AIF) at Heathcote in September 1914, aged 21 years old. The 14th Battalion came wholly from Victoria and was a part of the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade (Light Horse), whose Brigadier was Colonel John Monash. Monash would prove to be the greatest to ever command an Australian Brigade. Jacka went ashore at Anzac Cove on 26 April 1915. 

On 19 May 1915 at “Courtney’s Post” he recaptured a portion of trench line taken by the Turkish forces and single-handedly killed seven of the enemy. He became a national hero when he was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first VC awarded to an Australian in World War I. He received 500 pounds and a gold watch. 

His unit was transferred to the France and in August 1916 at Pozieres, Jacka’s position was overrun by the Germans. With only a handful of men he led a counterattack and was wounded numerous times. He was inspirational during fierce hand-to-hand fighting, and with the help of other Australian soldiers the ground was retaken. He recovered forty captured Australian soldiers and took fifty German prisoners. For this “individual audacity” Jacka was awarded the Military Cross (MC). 

In April 1917 Jacka received a Bar to his MC for his bravery during the action at Bullecourt, and for capturing am enemy patrol. His Battalion became known as “Jacka’s Mob”. 

In 1918 Jacka was badly gassed, which effectively ended his military career. 

In October 1919 he returned to Melbourne to a grand reception, and on 28 October he returned to his family in Wedderburn where he announced that he would be making Melbourne his new home. 

He established an electrical goods business and was elected Mayor of St Kilda in 1930. Interestingly, his soldier brother William Jacka became the Mayor of Footscray. 

Albert (Ben) Jacka died as a result of his injuries on 17 January 1932, aged 39. 

Lieutenant Albert Chalmers Borella, VC, MM and MID was born at Borung near Wedderburn on 7 August 1881. He was raised in the Borung district and schooled at the Borung and Wychitella South State Schools. 

He joined the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Melbourne in 1910 and spent two years driving horse-driven and the new motorised equipment. He resigned in 1913 to take an agricultural selection on the Daly River in Northern Territory. 

He occupied the selection in late 1913 and with the aid of local Aborigines he built a house, ringbarked the trees and cut 2000 posts, erected 2 miles of fencing, and sunk a well. 

His debts were mounting, he had no income, and he realised he had no chance of success, so he relinquished his holding and returned to Darwin. He was offered a job as a cook in a camel mounted survey party in remote Central Australia which headed south to Tennant Creek in October 1914. 

After three months he decided the job was not to his liking, so he returned to Darwin to enlist. His epic journey to Darwin became legendary. 

He set out on foot, borrowed a horse later then caught a ride on the mail cart before boarding the train from Pine Creek to Darwin. This 1000-kilometre journey took six weeks, but upon arrival at Darwin he found the Northern Territory government was not taking volunteers for the war. 

Undeterred, Borella embarked on a coastal steamer for the 2000-kilometre journey to Townsville, the nearest recruitment centre. 

In early 2015 the Northern Territory government re-enacted Boralla’s journey overland to Darwin as its hallmark Anzac Centenary event. 

The Victoria Cross (VC) was awarded in recognition of exceptional gallantry and devotion to duty during operations at Villers-Brettoneaux, France, on 17 July 1918. 

“For most conspicuous bravery in attack, whilst leading his platoon with the first wave Lieutenant Borella marked an enemy machine gun firing through our barrage. He ran out ahead of his men into the barrage, shot two German machine-gunners with his revolver, and captured the gun. 

He then led his party, now reduced to ten men and two Lewis guns, against a very strongly held trench, using his revolver, and later a rifle, with great effect, causing many enemy casualties. 

His leading and splendid example resulted in the enemy garrison being quickly shot or captured. Two large dug outs were also bombed, and thirty prisoners taken. 

Subsequently the enemy twice counterattacked in formidable force, on the second occasion outnumbering Lt Borella’s platoon by ten to one, but his cool determination inspired his men to resist heroically, and the enemy was repulsed with very heavy losses.” 

Between World War I and World War II Borella farmed as a soldier settler at Hensley Park near Hamilton. In 1924 he stood for the seat of Dundas in the Victorian parliament. Albert (Ben) Jacka travelled from Melbourne to Hamilton to give a speech in his support. 

In January 1932 Borella was one of eight Victorian Cross recipients to act as pallbearers at Jacka’s untimely funeral. 

During World War II Borella re-enlisted and rose to the rank of Captain. He served for a further six years mainly in Prisoner of War camps in the Goulburn Valley and later at Myrtleford (Correction: Even though this information came from Wedderburn historical data, one who knows better, Shirley Cox, who has meet with Captain Borella, the actual POW camp near Myrtleford was actually located at Whorouly.). 

He settled in Albury and in 1956 he attended the Victoria Cross centenary in London. He continued to visit his family in the Borung district until three years before his death in Albury on 7 February 1968, aged 87. He was buried with full military honours. 

I washed the towels and put them out on the line overnight as the temperature is not expected to get lower than 14 degrees.