1 SEP 1918: World War I and Private Robert (Bob) Mactier, 23rd Battalion, originally from Tatura, Victoria, earns the Victoria Cross at Mont St Quentin. Robert Mactier was born at Tatura on 17 May 1890, the seventh of ten children of Robert and Christina Mactier of “Reitcam” (“Mactier” spelt backwards), a nearby property.
In his formative years, he was a keen sportsman. He went to school locally, and later worked on his father’s properties until he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Seymour on 1 March 1917.
He sailed from Melbourne with the other 151 Victorians of the 23rd Battalion’s 19th Reinforcements aboard HMAT A11 Ascanius on 11 May. He arrived in France on 14 November, and joined the battalion on 23 November.
Posted to B Company, he fought in all of the Battalion’s subsequent battles until his death, including at Albert, where he was gassed, Hamel and the August Offensive in 1918. His brother, David, served with the 37th Battalion.
He was 28 years old, and a private in the 23rd Battalion when the following deed took place for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The full citation for the Victoria Cross appeared in a supplement to the London Gazette on 13 December 1918: “For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the morning of the 1st September, 1918, during the attack on the village of Mt. St. Quentin. Prior to the advance of the battalion, it was necessary to clear up several enemy strong points close to our line. This the bombing patrols sent forward failed to effect, and the battalion was unable to move. Private Mactier, single handed, and in daylight, thereupon jumped out of the trench, rushed past the block, closed with and killed the machine gun garrison of eight men with his revolver and bombs, and threw the enemy machine gun over the parapet. Then, rushing forward about 20 yards, he jumped into another strong point held by a garrison of six men, who immediately surrendered. Continuing to the next block through the trench, he disposed of an enemy machine gun which had been enfilading our flank advancing troops, and was then killed by another machine gun at close range. It was entirely due to this exceptional valour and determination of Private Mactier that the battalion was able to move on to its “jumping off” trench and carry out the successful operation of capturing the village of Mt. St. Quentin a few hours later.”
Mactier was buried nearby at Clery but in 1924, he was reinterred in the Hem Farm Military Cemetery near Péronne, France. Mactier’s actions have been described as “a remarkable one-man offensive”. He was unmarried.
Mactier has been commemorated in numerous ways. In his home town of Tatura, there is a stained glass window in St Andrews Church dedicated to the memory of Mactier and his parents.
The Robert Mactier VC Memorial Garden, commonly known as Mactier Park, is also named after him. In 1956, his two sisters represented him at the Victoria Cross centenary in London.
The soldiers’ club at Simpson Barracks, Watsonia, Victoria was later named the “Mactier VC Club” in his honour. It also holds a bust of him by Wallace Anderson. Mactier’s Victoria Cross was presented to the Australian War Memorial, in Canberra by his family in 1983, where it is now on display. More; http://ow.ly/RC2Bv