Martin O’Meara, Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War, started to rescue wounded men from No Man’s Land near Pozières on 9 August 1916.
O’Meara was a scout with the 16th Battalion, and was patrolling No Man’s Land in the early hours of 9 August 1916, following a disastrous attack on German positions by the 15th Battalion the previous night, when he encountered many seriously wounded Australian (from the 15th Battalion) and British (from the Suffolk Regiment) men. He was able to removed a number of them to safety during the course of the day. The 16th Battalion attacked the same German positions that evening, with better results.
O’Meara remained with the 16th Battalion in the front line until 12 August 1916 when the unit was withdrawn, and was himself wounded on 12 August 1916.
On 8 September 1916, whilst he was recovering in hospital in London, the announcement was made that O’Meara had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions the previous month:
HIS MAJESTY THE King has been graciously pleased to award the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned soldier:-
No. 3970 Private MARTIN O’MEARA
For most conspicuous bravery. During four days of very heavy fighting he repeatedly went out and brought in wounded officers and men from “No Man’s Land” under intense artillery and machine gun fire. He also volunteered and carried up ammunition and bombs through a heavy barrage to a portion of the trenches, which was being shelled at this time. He showed throughout an utter contempt of danger, and undoubtedly saved many lives.
O’Meara returned to Australia in November 1918, but suffered a serious mental breakdown and spent the rest of his life in several mental hospitals in Perth. He died in 1935.
Martin O’Meara’s story is told in The Most Fearless and Gallant Soldier I Have Ever Seen, published in 2016.