Martin O'MEARA VC

O'MEARA, Martin

Service Number: 3970
Enlisted: 19 August 1915, Blackboy Hill, Western Australia
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 16th Infantry Battalion
Born: Lorrha, Tipperary, Ireland, 6 November 1885
Home Town: Collie, Collie, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Natural causes, Claremont, Western Australia, 20 December 1935, aged 50 years
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery & Crematorium, Perth, W.A.
Memorials: Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, North Bondi War Memorial, Winchelsea WWI Memorial
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World War 1 Service

19 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Blackboy Hill, Western Australia
22 Dec 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3970, 16th Infantry Battalion
22 Dec 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 3970, 16th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ajana, Fremantle
30 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 3970, 16th Infantry Battalion
30 Nov 1919: Discharged AIF WW1

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Biography

Martin O'Meara (1885-1935), sleeper-cutter and soldier, was born on 6 November 1885 in the parish of Lorrha, Tipperary, Ireland, son of Michael O'Meara, labourer, and his wife Margaret, née Connor. He arrived in South Australia in 1912, where he worked on a labourer.

He travelled to Western Australia in early 1914 and worked as a labourer in the Pinjarra area before working as a sleeper-hewer near Collie. He joined the Australian Imperial Force at Blackboy Hill on 19 August 1915 and left Australia with the 12th Reinforcements for the 16th Battalion in December 1915.

After training in Egypt in early 1916 the battalion moved to the Western Front where it fought in most significent actions.

The 16th Battalion was near Armentieres in northern France when O'Meara joined its Scouting Section.

On 9-12 August the 16th Battalion mounted an attack on German positions close to Mouquet Farm near Pozières. Devastating German artillery fire caused heavy casualties, an entry in the battalion war diary on 12 August stating laconically that 'the trench as a trench had ceased to exist'.

During this period O'Meara behaved in a manner which led one officer to describe him as 'the most fearless and gallant soldier 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 undescribable'. Even after the battalion was relieved its commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel E. Drake-Brockman, saw O'Meara returning to the front line through the bombardment to rescue two wounded comrades despite having himself 'reached a position of comparative safety'. At other times he had, on his own initiative, brought up much-needed supplies of grenades, ammunition and food.

O'Meara was wounded in action three times whilst serving with the 16th Battalion. He travelled to London in July 1917 and was presented with his VC medal by King George V.

He was recalled to Australia in 1918 to assist with recuitment; he left England in September 1918 and arrived in Western Australia in November 1918.

He had a mental breakdown shortly after returning and spent the rest of his life in several mental hospitals in Perth. He died in December 1935.

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