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The Officers, NCO’s and Soldiers of A Squadron, 10th Light Horse paraded on Saturday 10th August 2019 at the Australian Army Museum of Western Australia to celebrate and commemorate the return of the original 10th Light Horse Regiment, AIF, to Western Australia in August 1919.

Having served with distinction throughout the First World War on the Gallipoli Peninsular, and in Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the regiment was held in Egypt at the cessation of hostilities to help quell the Egyptian Uprising against Britain. The regiment was finally released from duty and embarked aboard the SS Oxfordshire at Kantara, Egypt on 4 July 1919, arriving in Fremantle on 4 August 1919.

Throughout the war the regiment’s Officers, NCO’s and men received many awards; the most notable being the Victoria Cross awarded to Captain Hugo Throssell at Hill 60, Gallipoli; the only VC to be awarded to a member of the Light Horse.

MARTIN O’MEARA V.C. – 16th BATTALION, A HERO’S MEDAL ON LOAN TO IRELAND

3970 Pte (later Sgt) Martin O’Meara’s VC medal, proudly cared for by the Army Museum of Western Australia is to be loaned to the National Museum of Ireland to be displayed at Dublin’s Collins Barracks Military Museum’s exhibition – “Cost of War – Costas Cogaidh”.

Martin O’Meara was born in Lorrha, County Tipperary, in 1885. He emigrated to Australia in 1912, working his way by ship and initially settling in South Australia. At the time of his enlistment in Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) in late 1915 he was a sleeper cutter living near Collie in WA’s south west.

Martin O’Meara is the only Irish-born recipient of the Victoria Cross who served in the AIF during the First World War, and at the time of his award he was the first West Australian to receive the VC on the Western Front, preceded only by fellow West Australian, Hugo Throssell’s award won at Hill 60, Gallipoli in late August 1915.

Martin O’Meara was awarded a Victoria Cross for his heroic exploits as a member of B Company, 16th Battalion AIF in August 1916 during the worst days of the Battle of the Somme, at Pozieres and Mouquet farm.

Usually a Victoria Cross is awarded for one significant act of gallantry, but for this nomination his comrades and officers; including the legendary character of the 16th Battalion, Major Percy Black, testified time and again to O’Meara’s extraordinary bravery over a four day period between 9th and 12th August 1916. One officer saying – “The most fearless and gallant soldier that I have ever seen” another soldier testified on his behalf – “This man has been responsible for the evacuation of at least 20 men under conditions that are indescribable”.

His citation from the supplement to the London Gazette of September 9, 1916 reads:

“No 3970 Pte. Martin O’Meara, Aus Infy. 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 heavily shelled at the time.

He showed throughout an utter contempt of danger, and undoubtedly saved many lives”

Pte Martin O’Meara received his VC from King George V, in London in October 1916. Wounded three times between 1916 and 1917, in 1918 he returned to Australia to participate in reviving the flagging recruitment campaign. Arriving home to Perth in November 1918, Martin O’Meara was hailed as a hero but the war was in effect over.

Soon after returning to Western Australia he suffered a severe nervous breakdown and was quickly diagnosed with “delusional insanity”. O’Meara, doctors concluded, had “hallucinations of hearing and sight, is extremely homicidal and suicidal, and requires to be kept in restraint”.

Sadly Martin O’Meara spent the rest of his life in mental institutions. For long periods during his incarceration he was in a straitjacket for 16 hours a day. He died at Claremont Hospital for the Insane on 20 December 1935, aged 50.

Martin O’Meara VC was buried with full military honours at Karrakatta cemetery Perth.

The loan of a VC (classified as a National Treasure) by the Australian government is so rare that it needed changes to legislation to allow the medal to temporarily leave the country for exhibition at Collins Barracks, Dublin The National Museum of Ireland director, Lynn Scarff, said she was “delighted” that the Victoria Cross on loan from the Australian Army Museum of Western Australia would go on exhibition in Collins Barracks later this year. “We are especially honoured given that it is the first loan permitted under new Australian regulations. This loan will provide us with a new opportunity to strengthen the ongoing work and connection between our two countries’ histories and heritage.”

The medal will travel from Artillery Barracks in Fremantle to Collins Barracks in Dublin to be part of the “Cost of War – Costas Cogaidh” exhibition. On display, the Victoria Cross will be reunited with O’Meara’s World War One Victory medal which is cared for by a family member. The whereabouts of O’Meara’s missing British War Medal are not known; it is hoped that the exhibition and publicity surrounding the exhibition may lead to its rediscovery.

The Army Museum of Western Australia will be supporting this unique loan with sets of replica medals for the National Museum of Ireland and the O’Meara family encased in specially engraved jarrah display boxes donated by Medal Boxes Australia, together with cased copies of Michael Madden’s publication The Victoria Cross; Australia Remembers which features Martin O’Meara’s VC on the cover as well as signed copies of Martin O’Meara’s biography by Perth author Ian Loftus.

On Thursday April 18th we had two more special than usual visitors to the Museum.

Ian “Bagzar” Stiles was with the Australian SASR with two tours in South Vietnam. The first in 1966-67 and the second in 1969-70.  Ian also served in the Rhodesian SAS during the “bush wars” 1974-75. He is one of the “SAS legends” and is well written up in histories on the SAS.

Our other guest was Mr. Vo Xuan Thu. Born in Danang in 1950 and now living in Vung Tau.

Mr. Thu is an NVA veteran who served with the 33rd NVA Regiment.

It was the 33rd NVA Regiment that 5RAR was up against in the Battle of Bihn Ba, the 50th anniversary of which is on the 6-8th of June 2019.

 

The February 2019 Sunset Concert Spectacular was another huge success

As usual there was an interesting program of music presented in a most professional and entertaining manner.

The evening was a credit to the musicians from the Australian Army Band Perth, the Royal Australian Navy Band WA as well as the massed Pipes and Drums from the Australian Army Band Perth; 51 ACU Swan Regiment Drums and Pipes and the Presbyterian Ladies’ Pipe Band.

The entrance of the massed Pipes and Drums always causes a stir and is very colourful.

There was a fly-by with five aircraft in formation. We had a Bushmaster make an appearance as well as the grand entrance of our own M113A.

  

  

   

 

   

  

  

 

 

The Len Hall – Dockers football match will be held on Saturday April 27th as part of our ANZAC Day commemoration.

Over the years since the Australian Army Museum of WA has had a relationship with the Fremantle Football Club (The Dockers), it has primarily been a fundraising activity for the benefit of the museum with AAMWA volunteers (and their family and friends), “rattling tins” outside the football stadium prior to the game.

This football game for the Dockers is an ANZAC Day commemorative event that they have called “The Len Hall Game” (Len Hall being the last 1st AIF 10th Light Horse Regiment veteran). It is therefore held the closest Saturday to ANZAC Day.

While the museum volunteers look after the fundraising, the museum Army staff, especially the Museum Manager, Major Henry Fijolek, arrange the Australian Defence Force (ADF) pre-game ceremonial support. This comprises an Honour Guard of some 30 soldiers, a guard commander,  a senior ADF officer to take the salute, a bugler (for the Last Post), a singer (for the National Anthem) and 4 cadets (for the flag guards).

The Army staff have also been asked over the years to provide Australian military history guidance to support annual special military anniversaries that the Dockers have chosen to commemorate.