Chalmers, John 'Jack' (Private, b.1894 - d.1982)

Accession Number AWM2017.200.3
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 1.5 cm; Wallet/s: 1
Object type Letter
Maker Various
Place made Australia, United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Date made 1922; 1919; 1972
Access Open
Conflict Period 1920-1929
First World War, 1914-1918
Copying Provisions Copying is permitted for the purposes of research and study, subject to physical condition

Collection relating to the First World War and post-war service of 3039A Private John 'Jack' Chalmers, 45th and 47th Infantry Battalions, France, 1916-1918. The content relates mainly to the awarding of the Albert Medal (George Cross) to John 'Jack' Chalmers in 1922.
The collection consists of thirteen letters to Mr Chalmers, a brief report and documents relating to his service.

The letters are written in 1922, and are from a variety of people congratulating Chalmers on his heroic act. There are letters from a man who lost his own son to shark attack and wishes Jack Chalmers had have been there to save him; from the NSW Premier; from the Sydney Mayor; the West Wyalong RSL Sub-Branch; congratulations from a bereaved Wilcannia mother whose son was killed while serving with the 45th Battalion; from various Ulster Loyal Orange Lodges; one from the Mayor and people of Goulburn, and others from clubs and individuals, including the brother of the shark attack victim.

Additionally, the collection includes a report of the incident by the Captain of the Coogee Life Saving Club; an AIF Certificate of Discharge from 1919, and an invitation to cocktails at the RAF Club London with The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, 11 July 1972.

John ‘Jack’ Chalmers was born in New Zealand in 1894 and moved to Australia as a boy. Enlisting on 5 October 1915, he served on the Western Front as a stretcher bearer with the 47th Battalion. Chalmers suffered from trench foot in France and was invalided to England in 1917 where he met and married Jessie Alice Courtenay. Rejoining his unit later in 1917, in April 1918 he was transferred to the 45th Battalion.

Post-war in Sydney with his wife, Chalmers joined the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club. In 1921, he won belt races at several beaches around Sydney, and won the Australian Lifesaving Belt Championship in 1922. That year he was also awarded the Albert Medal for rescuing a swimmer during a shark attack at Coogee Beach. Although the swimmer subsequently died from his injuries, Chalmers' bravery in rescuing him was recognised. King George V awarded Chalmers the Albert Medal, then the highest bravery award for civilians. After the Albert Medal was discontinued in 1971 living recipients of the decoration were invited to exchange their medal for the George Cross, which Chalmers elected to do. In 1972 at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II conferred the George Cross on surviving Albert medallists including Chalmers. Chalmers worked as an ironworker at the Balmain shipyards and later as a rigger. He died on 29 March 1982 in Sydney.