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Priceless WA VC finds temporary new home in Ireland

VC
Major Henry Fijolek and Deputy Museum Manager Richard Bennett with Sergeant Martin O’Meara’s Victoria Cross medal. Photo: Dept of Defence

 

IN a historic salute to Ireland, a Victoria Cross medal has been sent offshore from Australia – on loan to one of the Emerald Isle’s international museums.

It’s the first time in 60 years that a VC has left Australia and marks a significant milestone celebrating Australia’s longstanding historic relationship with Ireland.

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“I am very proud, on behalf of the nation and the Army Museum of Western Australia in Fremantle, to announce the loaning of Sergeant Martin O’Meara’s Victoria Cross to the National Museum of Ireland,” says Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.

“More than 80 years after Sgt O’Meara’s death, the Victoria Cross, a symbol of his service to his adopted nation, will return to his homeland.”

The VC medal will be exhibited in Dublin for 12 months, with Sgt O’Meara’s British War Medal and Victory Medal, before returning to Australia in July 2020.

The loan of Sgt O’Meara’s Victoria Cross is a first, following an amendment to the Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 last year, allowing for the temporary export of important cultural artefacts.

Sgt O’Meara was one of about 6000 Irish-born ANZACs who served with the Australian Imperial Force during World War I.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross following his acts of bravery and courage at Pozieres, France, on 9-12 August, 1916.

During four days at the height of battle, Sgt O’Meara repeatedly went out and brought in wounded soldiers under intense artillery and machine-gun fire.

His heroic actions saved many lives. He also volunteered to carry up ammunition and bombs through a heavy barrage to a portion of the trenches, which was being heavily shelled at the time.

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