Sergeant Martin O’Meara, Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War, was a machine gunner in Egypt before serving on the Western Front as a scout with the 16th Battalion.
From 3-22 April 1916, whist serving with the 4th Machine Gun Company, he attended a machine gunners’ course at the Imperial School of Instruction at Zeitoun near Cairo. Those men selected to attend the machine gunners’ course were required to ‘have some aptitude for the work, be of good physique, keen and intelligent.’
The men trained on the Vickers machine gun, a water-cooled, tripod mounted weapon capable of firing some 450 rounds of .303 inch ammunition (the same as used by the infantry’s Lee Enfield rifles) per minute. The gun’s team consisted of one man firing, one man feeding the ammunition belt into the gun, and several other men who were responsible for carrying ammunition and supporting the gun’s movement. Martin O’Meara was one of 57 4th Machine Gun Company men who attended the three-week machine gun course, passing the course as a first-class machine gunner. He subsequently served with the 4th Machine Gun Company on Suez Canal defences.
Martin O’Meara returned to the 16th Battalion shortly before it sailed for France, and received his Victoria Cross for actions near the village of Pozieres during the first part of August 1916.
Martin O’Meara’s life is told in my biography of this brave man, which is available until midnight on 25 April at the special price of $18.75 – a discount of 25% off my normal retail price by clicking here. It’s also available from Amazon by clicking here.