Thursday, 27 February 2014

Holy Trinity Cemetery, Hoiylake: Lieut. John O'Neill, VC MM

Although not a casualty of the First World War, John O'Neill did fight and was awarded his VC during that conflict.

According to the VC website - - the story behind O'Neill;'s VC is as follows:

On the 14th October 1918, the 2nd Battalion, Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment, moved out of Ypres towards the heavily contested ground around the strongly held town of Courtrai. They advanced slowly to a point between the villages of Ledegem and Moorsele, some six miles from Courtrai, where the attack ground to a halt, checked by two enemy machine guns and an artillery battery firing over open sights.
Sergeant O'Neill, leading a small group of eleven men, decided to charge the German battery. The small party successfully overcame the enemy positions and some of the captured guns were turned towards the German lines. Elevating them as high as possible, they loosed them off in the vague direction of the enemy.
Six days later O'Neill was once again involved in an action which was part of his VC citation, when he charged a machine gun position single-handed, with only one man to cover him. Both of O'Neill's actions were witnessed by Captain John Moran MC, an officer in the 2nd Leinsters, who later in life became Father Moran.

Between the wars, O'Neill served in the RAF as an Armourer Sergeant when he served alongside Lawrence of Arabia.

In 1940 he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps defending Liverpool's docklands from air attack. He died of a heart attack age 45 on 16 October 1942.

Medal entitlement of Lieutenant John O'Neill - 2nd Bn, Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment
  • Victoria Cross
  • Military Medal ( MM )
  • 1914 - 15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Knight, Order of Leopold II ( Belgium )
  • Medaille Militaire ( France )

In 1962, John O'Neill's medals were given for sale by auction to the specialist company BA Seaby. The company was subsequently robbed and over £30.000 worth of medals and coins were stolen.

John O'Neill's VC has never been seen since.