Monday, 25 April 2011

S Jacka - An Australian Cornishman on ANZAC Day

Sydney Jacka

Born in 1893 at Sydney, NSW, Australia.  Died 6 November 1914 in or near Bristol.
Pte 1969 2nd Wessex Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps.

Sydney Jacka was born in Sydney, Australia in 1893 to John and Ellen Jacka.  The NSW register shows his middle initial as "E", however his is listed as Sydney James Jacka on the list of soldiers dying in WW1.  What is certain is that his father was Newquay born and bred.  John's mother, Elizabeth, appears to have been widowed early and brough John and his siblings up herself, working as a dressmaker into her seventies to support herself and her family.  John made a living as a carpenter and joiner and plied his trade in Australia for a while.  However, by the turn of the century he was back in Newquay living in Belmont Place, just up the road from his mother.  Sydney had three sisters and a younger brother, Ernest, born in Newquay in 1899. 

Sydney clearly answered his country's call promptly and became a driver for the 2nd Wessex Brigade Field Ambulance.  Field Ambulances were not vehicles (as I once thought!) but a mobile front line medical unit.  Sydney would have been driving the horses pulling the carts carrying equipment.  I have no information as to how Sydney met his death; perhaps it was simply an accident, perhaps he became ill.  He is buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol.  As an Australian Sydney is also listed on the Australian Commemorative Roll. 

With Sydney's death John and Ellen Jacka lost their only surviving son; young Ernest had died aged three.  They appear to have continued living in Belmont Place for many years. 

Writing about Sydney today is something of a coincidence.  On my family history blog today I have written about two of my great uncles.  They lived in Bristol, not far from Arnos Vale Cemetery, but emigrated to Sydney, NSW from where they embarked for Gallipoli and then the Western Front where they were killed in action.


  1. Hello again. I have no more info than you about his death and he has no medal card as he did not serve overseas. However, more info re "Driver" in Field Ambulances. There were 2 types - Mechanical Transport & Horse Transport. The former primarily drove the motorised ambulances of the unit (24th, 25th & 26th FA were one of the first FAs to get motorised ambulances in the war) and the latter not only Horse-drawn carts but also horse-drawn ambulances which were used extensively in the rear areas (horses were too valuable (and also prone to bolting) to be used in forward areas). The War Diary starts when 25th were already in France so may not be able to help with his death. Service Records do not survive. (Pity he did not enlist in Australia!)

  2. Hello again Snapesould - thanks for the additional information on the Field Ambulances and drivers. I know what you mean about Australian records - of my two grandfathers and six great uncles who served in WW1 we have service records for only three. The most complete are the records of the two who joined the AIF in Sydney, although my maternal grandfather's records from the RFA are pretty good.

    Once again, thanks for taking the time to comment, much appreciated.