Martin O'Meara: Victoria Cross
Martin O’Meara VC is Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War.
Martin O’Meara was born on 6 November 1885 in the parish of Lorrha, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. He migrated to Western Australia in 1911 where he worked as a labourer, until he joined the Australian Imperial Force in Perth on 19 August 1915, as 16th Battalion, and left Australia to fight on the Western Front.
From 9 to 12 August, the 16th Battalion mounted an attack on German positions at Mouquet Farm near Pozières. During this period O’Meara 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. O’Meara was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.
Tragically, upon returning to Australia in November 1918, O’Meara suffered a mental breakdown. He never recovered, and remained in institutional care until he died at the age of 50 in November 1935. He left his Victoria Cross medal to the care of the 16th Battalion Association, who later donated it to the Australian Army Museum of Western Australia.
The loan of the VC to the National Museum of Ireland is likely to be the second time the medal has been in Ireland. O’Meara visited Ireland in October 1917, after he was awarded the Victoria Cross. It is likely that he took his medal with him when he visited family in Tipperary, some 103 years ago.
This loan marks the first time an Australian Government owned Victoria Cross will have left the country. Australia’s Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 dictated that Victoria Cross medals could not be exported from Australia for any length of time or for any purpose. The Act was amended in late 2018 to allow the loan of Sergeant O’Meara’s medal to Ireland.
O’Meara’s life is commemorated in both Australia and Ireland. In Lorrha, Co. Tipperary, a bronze plaque at the parish’s Roman Catholic Church is dedicated to him, and a memorial stone was unveiled by the Lorrha Development Association in June 2013.
Martin O’Meara’s medal will be on view at the NMI until April 2021.
In a world first, an Australian Government owned Victoria Cross is on loan to the National Museum of Ireland. It is currently on display in the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition.
Martin O'Meara: Victoria Cross is located at:
Collins Barracks ,
In a world first, the Australian Government has loaned an Australian Government owned Victoria Cross to the National Museum of Ireland.
Decorative Arts & History
Collins Barracks ,
+353 1 677 7444