A Victoria Cross medal awarded to an Irish-Australian soldier will be put on display at Dublin’s National Museum of Ireland.
The medal has been returned to the homeland of its Irish-born recipient Sergeant Martin O’Meara for 12 months, marking the first time an Australian VC has been loaned to an international museum in over 60 years.
The Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said O’Meara’s heroic actions in France during the First World War “undoubtedly saved many lives”.
“Showing utter contempt for danger, Sergeant O’Meara is a true representation of the ANZAC spirit,” Minister Reynolds said.
Changes made to Australian legislation surrounding cultural heritage in 2018 have allowed for the temporary export of the treasured artefact.
Just four years after arriving in Australia in 1912, O’Meara joined the Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front.
O’Meara faced a barrage of German artillery and machine gun fire while he retrieved his wounded fellow soldiers from No Man’s Land over a four day period during the Battle of the Somme, his bravery rewarded with the Victoria Cross.
The medal, awarded by King George V at Buckingham Palace in 1917, has been housed at the Army Museum of Western Australia.
O’Meara was promoted to the rank of Sergeant before returning to Australia in 1918, spending much of the rest of his life in mental hospitals haunted by what he had seen during the war.
He was celebrated as a hero during a visit to Ireland when the residents of his hometown of Lorrha raised funds to recognise his courage.
In yet another display of his character, O’Meara donated the funds towards the town’s historic Abbey.
More than 80 years after his death, the returned soldier will once again be honoured in his home-country when the symbol of his service and gallantry goes on display.