Martin O’Meara, Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War was presented with his VC medal by King George V in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace on this day in 1917. He had travelled from the Western Front specifically for the event.
The King presented 24 Victoria Crosses that day, including six to Australians: to Captain James Newland, Sergeant John Whittle (who was also presented with the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Corporal George Howell (who was also presented with the Military Medal), Private Jorgen Jensen, Private Bede Kenny, as well as Martin O’Meara.
The King also presented a further eight Victoria Crosses to the families of posthumous awardees, all British. The presentation ceremony started at 11.00am and lasted nearly one and a half hours, with the Times newspaper reporting that:
Each man’s name was called singly, and Colonel Clive Wigram read a summary of the record of services for which the V.C. was awarded. Perfect silence was maintained until the King had actually pinned on each decoration, shaken hands with the recipient, and said a few congratulatory words.
Grainy newsreel footage shows Martin O’Meara speaking briefly with the King, before saluting him and then marching away. He did not remain long in London, and was later quoted as saying ‘Then after I had a look around the place I went back to France.’