Victoria Cross : Private J C Jensen, 50 Battalion, AIF

Unit 50th Australian Infantry Battalion
Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Bapaume Cambrai Area, Noreuil
Accession Number OL00404.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Bronze
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: Somme to Hindenburg Line
Maker Hancocks
Place made United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Date made c 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Description

Victoria Cross. Engraved reverse suspender with recipient's details; reverse cross with date of action.

History / Summary

Joergen (Jorgan; Jorgen) Christian Jensen was born to Joergen Christian and Christiane Sorenson at Loegstoer, Denmark on 15 January 1891. Little is known of his life before he migrated to Australia on 14 March 1909. Shortly after arriving in Victoria he moved to Morgan in South Australia, and then on to Port Pirie. He was labouring in Port Pirie when he enlisted in the AIF as private 2389 in August 1915, 11 months after he was naturalized.

Posted as reinforcement to the 10th Battalion, Jensen embarked on HMAT Borda at Adelaide on 23 June 1915, bound for Egypt. He joined his unit on Gallipoli in September, serving there until the end of November. During the ‘doubling’ of the AIF in Egypt in February 1916, where battalions were reorganised to have around half their number as new recruits with the remainder made up of veterans, Jensen was transferred to the newly formed 50 Battalion. On 5 June the battalion embarked at Alexandria for France.

The battalion’s introduction to war on the Western Front began in the trenches between Mouquet Farm and Pozieres on 12 August. Later in the day, according to the battalion’s war diary, the enemy barrage was ‘violent and continuous’ and by the 14th the German artillery had begun ‘blowing trenches and saps to pieces.’ By the time the battalion was relieved on the evening of the 15th it had suffered over 400 casualties, including Jensen, who was wounded by shrapnel in the left shoulder and evacuated to England.

During his period of convalescence Jensen was not always a model soldier. Lapses in discipline led to periods of incarceration and loss of pay before he eventually rejoined his unit in France on 28 January 1917. In late March the battalion was moved up for an attack on Noreuil, one of the German ‘outpost villages’, separating the Allied forces from a direct attack on the Hindenburg Line.

On the morning of 2 April, the battalion attacked the village from the south-east. As they closed in on their objective the area was swept with enemy machine gun fire. Though a number of casualties resulted the troops gained ground and managed to capture or silence many of the German positions. On the right, however, part of the battalion met resistance from an enemy strong point which held up the advance. A bombing party, including Jensen, was ordered to silence the post.

Jensen moved toward the strongpoint, covered by Private W O’Connor who managed to kill the German gunner, allowing Jensen to close in and throw a bomb into the post. Immediately Jensen stood and threatened the Germans with more bombs. Convincing them to surrender, Jensen ordered one of the Germans to persuade a nearby party to also surrender.

When the second party lay down their arms, they were mistakenly fired upon by another Australian unit. Jensen immediately exposed himself to the fire to alert the Australians that the Germans had capitulated and were now prisoners. The firing ceased and the prisoners were sent to the rear. The town was taken later that day. For his actions during the taking of Noreuil Jensen was awarded the Victoria Cross. The recommendation for the award reads:

‘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 & bluffed them [illegible] 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 the German for the first time and began firing on them. At considerable risk, Jensen stood up on the barricade waved his helmet, and then sent the german [sic] prisoners back to our line under an escort of our lightly wounded men.’

Within days of this action Jensen was promoted to lance corporal, then to corporal on 4 July 1917. On patrol near Villers-Bretonneux on 5 May 1918 Jensen suffered a serious head wound that ended his active service. Invalided home to Australia he arrived in Melbourne on 11 October and was discharged from the AIF on 12 December.

Jensen struggled with civilian life. He married Katy Herman in July 1921 but their union was cut short when he died of his war related injuries on 31 May 1922. Jensen was accorded full military honours at a funeral that was reported to be ‘one of the largest military funerals ever held in Adelaide.’ During the funeral Pastor G T Walden said of him that he was ‘modest always, he was ever ready to enlarge on the bravery of others, without touching on his own accomplishments.’

Jensen's Victoria Cross is accompanied by service medals for the First World War.