This morning in Fremantle, at the Army Museum of Western Australia, a short ceremony took place to farewell the Victoria Cross of Martin O’Meara, who was the only Irish born winner of the V.C. in Australian service in World War 1. The medal is making a journey back to Ireland on loan to the National Museum of Ireland for 12 months. This is the first time any V.C. in public ownership in Australia has been permitted to leave the country. A truly remarkable co-operation between the two countries!
The Tipperary man won the Victoria Cross because of his astonishing acts of bravery over a number of days at the height of fighting at Pozières, France, in August 1916, saving the lives of 20 men. Martin had emigrated to Australia around 1912 and there he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in 1915 and ended up in France. He was awarded the V.C. by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 21, July 1917. He subsequently visited his family briefly in Tipperary before returning to the front.
The war never ended for Martin, as following his return from service in 1918, he spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals, with much of it in straitjackets. His torment ended with his death some 17 years later in 1935.
Marty Kavanagh, Honorary Consul of Ireland with Maj. Henry Fijolek and Neil Daley of the War Museum at the Museum in Fremantle.
This historic event, happening just 102 years after the King honoured him, is yet another fascinating chapter in the story of Martin O’Meara. It will be on display in the National Museum of Ireland by the end of this week and a truly significant homecoming is guaranteed.
These images were taken by my friend Leith Landauer this morning. Leith, fascinated by this Irishman, researched and shared and promoted Martin’s story over the years. It is very fitting that she too is making her way back to Ireland, having attended the leaving in Fremantle she will be here for the welcome in Dublin and to see it proudly displayed at Collins Barracks.