Martin O’Meara’s relatives, Noreen, Bridget and Billy with their cousin Anthony beside the VC Medal during a very special ceremony in the Australian Embassy on Thursday evening July 25th 2019 to mark the arrival of the VC medal to Ireland where it will remain for 12 months on loan to the National Museum Collins Barracks.
On Friday July 26th 2019, another ceremony took place in the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks where Martin’s VC along with his British War Medal and Victory Medal are now on loan for 12 months. The medal will be brought to Lorrha in 2020 before it returns to Australia.
Martin O’Meara VC is Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War. He was born on 6th November 1885 in the parish of Lorrha. Migrating to Australia in 1911 he was a resident of Western Australia when he joined the Australian Imperial Force in Perth on 19 August 1915 and left Australia with the 12th Reinforcements for the 16th Battalion in December 1915. In early 1916, O’Meara joined the Battalion in Egypt where it had returned following the evacuation from Gallipoli. After undertaking training there, the Battalion moved to the Western Front in France.
On 9–12 August the 16th Battalion mounted an attack on German positions at Mouquet Farm near Pozières. During this period O’Meara, an Australian Army scout, behaved in a manner which led one officer to describe him as ‘the most fearless and gallant solider I have ever seen’. He was credited with having saved the lives of over twenty-five wounded men by carrying them in from no man’s land ‘under conditions that are indescribable’. At other times he had, on his own initiative, brought up much-needed supplies of grenades, ammunition and food. For these actions O’Meara was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Tragically, upon returning to Australia in November 1918, O’Meara had some sort of serious mental breakdown between 8–13 November. A lack of surviving records make it difficult to accurately determine what actually happened. Institutionalised as someone suffering from ‘delusional insanity’, O’Meara never left institutionalised care and died at the age of 50 on 6 November 1935. His will left his Victoria Cross medal to the care of the 16th Battalion Association, which later donated the medal to the Australian Army Museum of Western Australia, where it has remained on display.
The loan of the VC to the National Museum of Ireland will likely be the second time the medal has visited the shores of Ireland. After receiving his VC medal from King George V, O’Meara later visited Ireland in October 1917. It is highly likely that he took his medal with him when he visited family in Lorrha some 102 years ago.
O’Meara’s life is commemorated in both Australia and Ireland. In Ireland, bronze plaques at Lorrha’s Roman Catholic Church commemorate him and in June 2013 a memorial stone was unveiled in Lorrha by the Lorrha Development Association.
Australian Ambassador H.E. Richard Andrews in the grounds of Collins Barracks.
Major Henry Fijolek, Manager, Army Museum of Western Australia.
The two men tasked with escorting Martin’s VC to Ireland Neil Dailey, Manager Army Heritage, Australian Army History Unit, Major Henry Fijolek, Manager, Army Museum of Western Australia holding the VC along with the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Major Henry Fijolek, Manager, Army Museum of Western Australia, Defence Attaché Col Sue Graham, Ambassador Richard Andrews, Neil Dailey, Manager Army Heritage, Australian Army History Unit.
Lorrha people who were invited to the special ceremony on Thursday evening also attended at the National Museum Collins Barracks the following morning are pictured with Dignitaries before the medal was place in a case in the Museum.
Martin’s grand-niece Noreen, pictured here signing the VC loan forms for display in the National Museum of Ireland with Chris Harbidge, Documentation/Loans Officer.
National Museum curator Brenda Malone pictured with Martin relatives just before his VC medal along with his British War medal and the medal for Victory were placed on display.
Ambassador Richard Andrews placing the VC in the special case for display in the Museum.
Martin’s relatives place his British War Medal and Victory Medal also into the case.
And after all the formalities it’s time for a chat!!
All smiles for the camera in the Australian Embassy…
Deep in conversation in Collins Barracks reception hall…
Neil Dailey, Manager Army Heritage, Australian Army History Unit and Major Henry Fijolek, Manager, Army Museum of Western Australia at Martin’s memorial in Lorrha when they visited recently.
In June 2019 Michael Madden and his son was visiting Ireland from Australia and they presented a set of replica medals along with his sons publication of VC recipients to Lorrha school Principal Mrs. O’Meara.
Follow Martin’s life by clicking on the link.
‘Lorrha People in The Great War’ is a book written by Ger O’Meara and features the life of Martin O’Meara V.C. The book will be launched on Saturday 19th November 2016 by the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Andrews.
The Plaque to Martin O’Meara V.C. which was unveiled in Glasnevin Cemetery on Friday November 11th 2016 Armistice Day
Martin’s grandnieces Noreen & Bridget with the Australian Ambassador to Ireland Richard Andrews.
Lorrha native Seamus King has written extensively about Martin O’Meara VC in his book a “A Lorrha Miscellany” which was published in 2012. Copies can be purchased from Seamus by contacting (062) 61307
I am pleased to advise that my biography of Martin O’Meara VC, Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War, has now been published and is available to purchase. An enlistee from Collie, Martin is also notable as the second Western Australian to get a VC during the War, the first Western Australian to get a VC on the Western Front, and the first 16th Battalion soldier to get a VC during the war. Sadly, Martin is also remembered for his severe mental breakdown shortly after returning to Australia in November 1918. He spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals and is buried at Karrakatta here in Perth.
The book can be purchased through several channels.
If you’re in Perth email me (email@example.com) or call me 0417 674 974 and we can organise something. It’s also available at the Army Museum of Western Australia’s bookshop at Fremantle. If you’re overseas or not in Perth, it can be ordered via my print-on-demand supplier via the following link:
If you’re after multiple copies feel free to contact me and we can negotiate a bulk order discount.
In closing, exactly one hundred years ago Martin O’Meara’s 16th Battalion moved from a training camp near the French village of Warloy to positions near the town of Albert ready to move forward to front line positions. Next week marks the centenary of the 16th Battalion’s actions near the village Pozieres that saw Martin awarded the VC. Take time over the coming week to reflect on the sacrifices made by Martin’s fellow servicemen from Western Australia and South Australia near Pozieres.