Official notice that Private Martin O’Meara of the 16th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, had been awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery was published in the London Gazette on this day in 1917
O’Meara was the only Irish-born Australian soldier to receive the Victoria Cross during the First World War.
Notice of Victoria Cross awards to other Australians were also published the same day: Lieutenant Arthur Blackburn, Private William Jackson, Private John Leak, and Private Thomas Cook.
Martin O’Meara remained with the 16th Battalion until late August 1918 when he was transferred to London and then returned to Australia to participate in recruitment-related activities. The war ended shortly after he arrived at Fremantle, Western Australia.
O’Meara suffered a serious mental breakdown in November 1918 and spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals. He died in 1935.
His story is told in the biography The most fearless and gallant soldier I have ever seen.
Remarkably, the Victoria Cross recommendation from his Commanding Officer was made on 13 August 1916, less than a month before notice was gazetted. During that time the recommendation would have passed to the brigade commander, and then the divisional commander, and finally the corps commander before finally making it to the War Office in London. From there it would have been submitted to Buckingham Palace.