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Lest we forget

23 April 2016

This ANZAC Day we share the story of graduate Robert 'Jack' Massie who sacrificed a blossoming sporting career to fight in World War One.

Rocbert 'Jack' Massie (seated, at far right) pictured with the 1911-12 University of Sydney cricket club. 

Born at St Leonards in Sydney, Robert John 'Jack' Massie [1890-1966] remains one of the finest athletes and soldiers to attend the University of Sydney. A gunshot wound to his left shoulder, his bowling arm, and a shrapnel injury to his foot halted his very promising sporting career.

Graduating in 1914 with the University Medal and 1st Class Honours in Civil Engineering, Massie was a prolific athlete representing the university in cricket, as a left-arm bowler, rugby, rowing (he was rowing for the University 8s while still at school) and athletics. He also won a state championship in heavyweight boxing in 1914.

His sporting feats didn’t end at university level, with Massie also represented New South Wales in cricket, rugby and athletics.

Battle for Lone Pine

Enlisting soon after Australia entered World War One in August 1914, Massie left for Egypt two months later, and was among the first troops to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

In the Battle for Lone Pine at Gallipoli where many in his battalion were killed, Massie was wounded three times – severely on 7 August – and his valour was mentioned in despatches three times.

For his service, he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre – awarded to soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy.

The Western Front

In December 1915 he was promoted to captain, and following convalescence in England and Australia he was sent to fight on the Western Front in Armentières, France.

Massie was again wounded in action on 3 February 1918, and recovered to undertake a course at the machine-gun training centre at Grantham, England, where he was passed 'technically qualified to command a Machine Gun Battalion'.

Massie was attached to the Australian Corps School later that year, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

For his service in France and Belgium, Massie was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was twice mentioned in dispatches.

Most suitably, after the Armistice he was appointed as organiser of Sport for the Australian Corps.

Massie had a long association with the University, serving as Esquire Bedell to the Chancellor from 1919 to 1946.

Survived by his wife and two daughters of his first marriage, Massie died on 14 February 1966 in Sydney.

Meet more of the University men and women who served in World War One on Beyond 1914 - Sydney University and the Great War.