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Jørgen Jensen (soldier)

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Jørgen Christian Jensen
AWM D00020 Corporal Joergen Christian Jensen VC.jpg
Corporal Jørgen Jensen, August 1918
Born (1891-01-15)15 January 1891
Løgstør, Denmark
Died 31 May 1922(1922-05-31) (aged 31)
Adelaide, South Australia
Buried West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Australian Imperial Force
Years of service 1915–18
Rank Corporal
Unit 10th Battalion (1915–16)
50th Battalion (1916–18)
Battles/wars

World War I

Awards Victoria Cross

Jørgen Christian Jensen, VC (15 January 1891 – 31 May 1922) was a Danish-born Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Jensen emigrated to Australia in 1909, becoming a British subject at Adelaide, South Australia, in 1914. A sailor and labourer before World War I, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in March the following year, serving with the 10th Battalion during the latter stages of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. After the Australian force withdrew to Egypt, Jensen was transferred to the newly formed 50th Battalion, and sailed for France with the unit in June 1916. On the Western Front, he was wounded during the battalion's first serious action, the Battle of Mouquet Farm in August, and only returned to his unit in late January 1917. In April, his battalion attacked the Hindenburg Outpost Line at Noreuil, where his actions leading to the capture of over fifty German soldiers resulted in the award of the Victoria Cross.

In June 1917, the 50th Battalion was involved in the Battle of Messines, and the following month, Jensen, now a corporal, was posted to a training unit in the United Kingdom for several months. He returned to his battalion in October, and was promoted to temporary sergeant the following month. In March 1918, the German Spring Offensive was launched, and Jensen fought with his battalion at Dernancourt and Villers-Bretonneux. Shortly after the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, Jensen was on patrol when he received a severe head wound, and was evacuated to the United Kingdom, then repatriated to Australia where he was discharged in Adelaide at the end of the war. Jensen worked as a marine store dealer, and married in 1921, but died the following year of war-related injuries.

Early life[edit]

Jørgen Christian Jensen was born on 15 January 1891 in Løgstør, Denmark, the son of Jørgen Christian Jensen and Christiane, known as Jensen. His early life is otherwise unrecorded. In 1908 at the age of 17, he travelled to the United Kingdom, before emigrating to Australia the following March. He sailed to Melbourne, but then moved to Morgan, South Australia and then Port Pirie, working as a sailor on river steamers on the Murray River, and as a labourer. He was naturalised as a British subject in Adelaide on 7 September 1914.[1][2][3]

World War I[edit]

On 23 March 1915, Jensen enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) for service in World War I, and was allotted to the 6th reinforcements to the 10th Battalion with the regimental number 2389.[1][4] His reinforcement draft embarked on HMAT Borda at Outer Harbor on 23 June, and joined the battalion at Gallipoli on 4 August.[5] By the time Jensen arrived, nearly half of the battalion had been evacuated sick with dysentery.[6] For the remainder of the Gallipoli campaign, the 10th Battalion rotated through various positions in the line defending the beachhead until withdrawn to Lemnos in November.[1][7][8] Jensen remained with his unit throughout, except for a week in late September/early October which he spent in hospital.[9] The battalion embarked for Egypt late the following month and spent the next four months training and assisting in the defence of the Suez Canal. During their time in Egypt, the battalion was split into two, with one half forming the nucleus of the new 50th Battalion, which was part of the 13th Brigade, 4th Division.[10] In April 1916, Jensen and a number of other 10th Battalion men were transferred to the 50th Battalion, and later that month Jensen was charged for not being in his tent at tattoo.[9] On 5 June the battalion embarked for France, arriving in Marseilles six days later. The unit then entrained for the Western Front, entering the trenches for the first time on 28 June.[1][11]

The battalion saw its first serious action during the Battle of Mouquet Farm in mid-August.[12] During the battle, the 50th Battalion suffered 414 casualties, largely from the heavy German artillery bombardment.[13] On 14 August, Jensen had joined the casualty lists, hit in the left shoulder by a piece of shrapnel. He was evacuated to the United Kingdom and admitted to Graylingwell War Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex. While in the United Kingdom, he was charged with more disciplinary infractions in September, December and January, on one occasion being sentenced to 28 days field punishment for missing the troop train to return to France, and on another serving 12 days detention for being absent without leave.[14] As a consequence, he did not rejoin his unit until 28 January 1917.[9] The 50th Battalion continued to rotate through front line, support and reserve positions, and underwent training in rear areas.[15] The battalion was also involved in pursuing the Germans as they withdrew to the Hindenburg Line of fortifications. On 2 April, the 13th Brigade attacked the Hindenburg Outpost Line at Noreuil.[12] The attack consisted of the 51st Battalion attacking the village from the north, and the 50th Battalion from the south.[16] During this assault, which was preceded by a weak artillery barrage, the 50th Battalion suffered extraordinary difficulties, and the centre company, to which Jensen belonged, was forced to detach a party of bombers to deal with a strong German post that was holding out between their company and the one on their right. Jensen was a member of this party.[17] It was during the reduction of this post that Jensen's actions resulted in a recommendation for the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.[1] The recommendation read:[18]

At Noreuil on 2nd April 1917, this man took charge of five men and attacked a barricade behind which were 40/50 Germans with a machine gun. One of his men shot down the German gunner. Jensen who is a Dane, then rushed the whole post singlehanded and threw a bomb in. He had still a bomb in one hand and taking another from his pocket he drew the pin with his teeth. Threatening them with two bombs, he called on them in German to surrender and bluffed them that they were surrounded by Australians. The enemy dropped their rifles and gave in. Jensen then sent a German to tell another enemy party who were fighting our Stokes Gun to surrender and they too gave in. A different party of our men then saw these Germans for the first time and began firing on them. At considerable risk, Jensen stood up on the barricade, waved his helmet, and sent the German prisoners back to our line under an escort of lightly wounded men.

During the assault Jensen also freed a number of Australian prisoners, and assisted in the "mopping-up" of German resistance in the village itself when he captured a German officer or non-commissioned officer who pointed out which building the fire was coming from.[19] During the fighting for Noreuil, the 50th Battalion suffered 360 casualties, including 95 dead, and captured 70 Germans, nearly all of whom were captured by Jensen.[20] On 4 April, Jensen was promoted to lance corporal.[1][14] His award of the Victoria Cross appeared in The London Gazette on 8 June,[18] by which time the 50th Battalion was involved in the Battle of Messines,[12] during which the battalion suffered 149 casualties.[21] After being relieved, the battalion continued its rotation through front line, support and reserve positions.[15] In July, Jensen was temporarily promoted to corporal and transferred to the 13th Training Battalion at Codford in the United Kingdom as an instructor. During his time in the United Kingdom, he was entertained by Danish residents of Kingston upon Hull.[22] After another disciplinary infringement, he left the United Kingdom to return to France, rejoining his battalion on 6 October. He was temporarily promoted to sergeant in early November, and the battalion went through the winter of 1917/1918 rotating through the front line.[1][23][24] In late March 1918, the battalion left its rest area and along with many other Australian units was quickly deployed to meet the German Spring Offensive south of the River Ancre. On 5 April, the battalion took up positions at Dernancourt and there contributed to the defeat of the "largest German attack mounted against Australian troops during the war".[12] This was followed by a move to the Villers-Bretonneux sector, where, on 25 April the battalion was part of the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux which drove the Germans from that village,[12][24] at a cost to the battalion of 254 casualties.[25] On 5 May, Jensen was on patrol near Villers-Bretonneux when he was shot in the head. Severely wounded, he was admitted to hospital in France, and on 18 May was evacuated to the United Kingdom, where he was admitted to the Richmond Military Hospital in Surrey.[1][26]

Jensen reverted to the rank of corporal on being evacuated, and after recovering sufficiently and having two weeks' leave, was repatriated to Australia in August,[1][27] disembarking in Adelaide on 11 October. He was discharged from the AIF on 2 December.[28] For his service during the war, in addition to his Victoria Cross, he was also issued the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.[29]

Post-war[edit]

Grave marker of Jørgen Jensen at the West Terrace AIF Cemetery, Adelaide

After discharge, Jensen found work as a marine store dealer in Adelaide. He married Katy Herman (née Arthur), a divorcée, at the Adelaide Registry Office on 13 July 1921. In April 1922, a photograph of Jensen and his horse-drawn cart, with "J. C. Jensen V.C." painted on the side, was published on the front page of The Sunday Times newspaper in Sydney, which noted that he employed several men in his business.[30] Jensen died of war-related causes at the Adelaide Hospital on 31 May of that year.[1][31] On 2 June, his casket was carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage to the West Terrace Cemetery, followed by hundreds of former members of the 50th Battalion, and he was buried with full military honours in the AIF section of the cemetery. It was reported as "one of the most impressive funerals which have passed through the gates of the West Terrace Cemetery",[32] and "probably one of the largest military funerals ever held in Adelaide".[33] His medal set, including his Victoria Cross, was donated by a family member to the Australian War Memorial in 1987 at a ceremony attended by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and is displayed in the Hall of Valour of the memorial.[34][35]

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