The Soldiers’ Mental Hospital Lemnos

The Soldiers’ Mental Hospital Lemnos (in the Perth suburb of Shenton Park) was opened on 12 July 1926. It was a collaborative venture between the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments and was designed to provide a more comfortable environment that that at the Claremont Mental Hospital where many of its patients had been. Martin O’Meara VC, Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War, was a patient at Lemnos between 1926 and 1935.

The Lemnos hospital consisted of three ward blocks together with administration and kitchen/dining room blocks. The more acute cases occupied the northernmost ward (Ward A) which had beds for 23 patients. This ward was more secure than the other two, with the same newspaper report noting that:

Here, it will be possible to exercise all necessary Control and Supervision over refractory patients. All the windows are chocked in such a manner that the patient may be confined there in safety and yet the window may be kept open for a space of about six inches. There is a day room attached to this, and to all other wards. A billiard table, handsome upholstered chairs, bookcases, and a cosy fireplace are provided while the bay windows are magnificently draped and the walls plentifully decorated with pictures.

Ward A was further divided into two dormitories, one with ten beds and another with twelve beds, and three single rooms ‘for special cases’. Martin O’Meara was one of the ‘special cases’.

Here are some photographs of Ward A, taken today:

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Martin O’Meara VC, along with twenty other patients from the Claremont Mental Hospital, was transferred to Lemnos on 20 September 1926, and remained there until December 1935 when he was transferred back to Claremont. The hospital buildings are now part of Shenton College.

On this day in 1935…

Sergeant Martin O’Meara VC, Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War, was buried at Perth’s Karrakatta Cemetery on this day in 1935 – 80 years ago. O’Meara was awarded the VC for a series of acts of valour in the period 9-12 August 1916 during the 16th Infantry Battalion’s attacks on German positions near the village of Pozieres in France.

He had died on 20 December 1935. O’Meara had been in poor mental health since his return to Australia in 1918 and his physical health had been deteriorating for at least a month or so prior to his death.

Here are some photographs of O’Meara’s funeral taken from Perth newspapers of the time.

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Coincidently, tomorrow (22 December) represents the 100th anniversary of Martin O’Meara’s departure from Fremantle with the 12th Reinforcements of the 16th Infantry Battalion.

Martin O’Meara’s Port Augusta links

Click here for a link to a piece I provided to the Port Augusta newspaper The Transcontinental on Martin O’Meara VC’s Port Augusta links. Martin worked as a labourer on the construction of the railway line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie in 1912-13 and some of the newspaper reporting of his time there provides quite an insight into the depth of his Roman Catholic faith, his belief in the Irish nationalist cause, and his identification as a member of the ‘working class’.