The treatment of returned servicemen in Western Australia’s mental health system was a topic of some discussion during the early 1902s. An army hospital, ‘Stromness’ at Mosman Park, housed some of the men but more severe cases were accommodated at the Claremont Mental Hospital.
In early 1924, following lobbying by the RSL together with critical coverage in several Perth newspapers, the returned servicemen at Claremont were moved from the main wards to another ward (known as X Block) on the hospital campus.
This group of men included Sgt Martin O’Meara VC, Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War.
On 19 May 1924 representatives of the RSL visited the men at X Block and reported that had been an improvement in the men’s conditions since the move; they also made specific reference to Martin O’Meara’s condition:
We are glad to report that the improvement in certain individual cases has been excellent … a V.C. hero, who before the R.S.L. took action to have the change brought about was deemed to be in a hopeless condition and was addicted to violent outbreaks, is now enjoying the limit of freedom, and spends most of his days in the open grounds tending a garden. It is hoped that he will soon regain the full vigour of his health and be well enough to return home. (Daily News, 26 May 1924, p.2.)
O’Meara, however, did not return home; he was to spend more than ten more years in mental hospitals in Perth, at Claremont, and then at the newly-built Lemnos Hospital, and then back to Claremont in late 1935. He passed away at Claremont in December 1935 and was buried at the nearby Karrakatta Cemetery. His Victoria Cross medal is held by the Army Museum of Western Australia at Fremantle.
Martin O’Meara’s story is told in a biography, published in 2016.