Cecil John Jacobs was born in Lucknow in 1894 to William Henry Jacobs and his wife Lucy Ann Bell. His siblings were Olive (b. 1890), William (b. 1892), Aileen (b.1896) and Allen (b. 1904). Cecil grew up in Orange and was working as a butcher in Summer Street at the time of his enlistment in the A.I.F. in December 1915, aged 23.
Cecil was assigned to the 3rd Pioneer Battalion, an engineers and communications unit, and departed Port Melbourne for the battlefields of the Somme, via England, on 6 June 1916 aboard Her Majesty’s Australian Transport ship Wandilla (along with former Prime Minister John Howard’s father, Lyall, then 19 years old).
Private Jacobs arrived in France in November 1916 and served with the unit until the end of the war laying and maintaining communication lines. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in August 1918 and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field in September 1918. Details of his award provide insight into the work of the unit:
On the night of 22/23 August 1918, between Company Headquarters East of ETINEHEM and Battalion H.Qrs on the West edge of that village, No. 458, Lance Corporal Cecil John Jacobs was in charge of a section of signallers maintaining a section of telephone line between Company and Battalion H.Qrs. From two hours before zero until the attack was finished, their whole area was exceptionally heavily shelled by the enemy. Throughout the whole time, Lance Corporal Jacobs showed great courage and devotion to duty, and kept his men cheerfully working on the line during the whole night, thus enabling communication to be kept up throughout the whole period of the attack.
Corporal Jacobs returned to Australia in August 1919 aboard the Zealandia. I have no doubt that his contribution was one he was proud to make but, like many WWI veterans, my grandfather rarely spoke of his war experiences.
After his return, Cecil married Mabel Doris Langham at Holy Trinity Church in Orange in February 1921 and worked as an engine driver in the district. Cecil and Mabel had 5 children: Maisie (b. 1921), Beryl (b. 1923), Jack (b. 1925), Allan (b. 1926), and Betty (b. 1927). The couple lived for most of their married life in March Street, East Orange. Cecil passed away in 1969, aged 74 years, and is memorialised, with his wife, at Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens, North Ryde.
* Cheryl Scott (McCarthy), May 2014
Leader, 9 February 1921, p. 4.
Wedding: Jacobs – Langham