After 80 years, correct headstone to be erected on WWII grave of 15-year-old Jew

September 8, 2021 by  
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In early 1940, thirteen-year-old Jacob Sorsky ran away to sea and joined the Merchant Navy, keen to fight the Nazis. Just two years later he was killed – the second-youngest soldier to die whilst serving in the Australian Army in WWII – and then buried in an unknown grave, on the other side of the world from his family.


Jacob ‘Jacky’ Sorsky, who served as VX64715 Signalman J. T. Drummond, Corps of Signals. Despite his youthful looks, he somehow convinced the Australian Army recruitment officer that he was 21, six years older than his actual age.

Operation Jacob – launched last April by Australian Jewish military historian, Peter Allen – has succeeded in having that error rectified, with a corrected headstone to be installed on Sorsky’s grave in Melbourne, some 80 years after his death.

Known as Jacky, Sorsky was the eldest child of a large Jewish family living in Liverpool, UK, and was a member of the local Jewish Lads Brigade. Six months after the start of WWII and his bar mitzvah, Jacky sailed from Liverpool on the MV Armadale – fatefully the day before Anzac Day 1940 – using the alias ‘J. Drummond’. He ‘jumped ship’ in Melbourne and in October 1941 aged just fifteen, joined the Australian Signals Corps, attesting to be ‘James Terence Drummond,’ 21-years-old and Roman Catholic – further hiding his identity.

After training to be a motor-cycle despatch driver, on 23 March 1942 he collided with a bus at the intersection of Whitehorse and Barnsbury Road, Balwyn, and was critically injured. Tragically Jacky died in hospital two days later, secretly aged only fifteen and a half, and was buried in the Catholic section of Springvale Cemetery, Melbourne. Jacky’s family learned of his death, but because they often moved – compounded by frequent bombings of Liverpool during the Blitz – they never had contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), and consequently had no role in the text inscribed on his headstone. So, when a headstone was erected on his grave in December 1948 with the name of Signalman James Drummond, aged 21, it made no reference to Jacky’s correct name and age – and had no religious emblem inscribed.

In 2016, AJEX UK historian Martin Sugarman discovered this error and began research to prove Jacob Sorsky was indeed buried in the grave labelled ‘James Drummond’. Appeals in Liverpool uncovered surviving siblings – including Philip Sorsky of Liverpool, Sylvia Gold in Cyprus and Rachel Horesh in Israel – who were astonished and most upset at the totally false details on their eldest brother Jacky’s headstone. Martin collated documents and letters from the family, proving who Jacob Sorsky really was, even securing a letter from the Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, Ephraim Mirvis.

Eventually, in 2020, the CWGC accepted that Signalman James Drummond was really Jacob Sorsky and changed the details on its website, also naming Jacky as son of Maurice/Morris and Dora Sorsky of Liverpool. However, the Commission would not agree to change his headstone. Martin then contacted Peter Allen in Australia, who with Dr Merrilyn Sernack’s help, made a submission on behalf of Jacky’s family and FAJEX to the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG).

Ultimately, on 30 August 2021 – one week before Rosh Hashana 5782 – OAWG agreed that the headstone would be replaced, inscribed with both Jacob Sorky’s real and assumed names, and could include an epitaph stating he was Jewish, his date of death 7 Nisan 5702 and even Hebrew text. However, no religious symbol will be permitted as “he had attested as RC” – even though it was not uncommon for Jewish serving personnel to hide their identities, to avoid harassment or if captured by the Germans.

After 80 years, at last Jacky will have his true name and details inscribed on his grave:






25 MARCH 1942 AGE 15

                      תנצבהN7 NISAN 5702   זכור


                     A LIVERPOOL UK JEWISH LAD

                    BOLD ‘JACKY’ NOW AN ANZAC

Following this accomplishment, in the next submission – of between five and ten more anticipated corrections – we will be seeking the replacement of a Cross with a Star of David on the headstone of RAAF Pilot Officer Raymond Shaw, aged 20, who Died of Wounds on 29 May 1942, as a result of air operations with 450 Sqn in North Africa. Gaining official agreement forthat change will not be as difficult as attaining the physical change of Ray’s headstone, which is located in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya.

We Will Remember Them.

This article was written by Peter Allen, the Coordinator of Operation Jacob, which is supported by the Australian Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) and the Federal Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (FAJEX).

Peter was the National Coordinator of the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program (2012 – 2018). He is currently preparing narratives of the more than 340 Australian Jews who have died on service since 1900, for the ACT Jewish Community museum’s touchscreen and the Australian Jewish Military pages of the AJHS website – see:

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