Sapper John James O Meara

Sapper John James O Meara


4874 – 1st Tunnelling Company / 2nd Mobile Vet Section

Townsville, Queensland was the birthplace of John James O’Meara on August 26, 1892, the son of a Patrick O’Meara, a Wheelwright by trade and wife Ellen (nee McElligott).

He enlisted at the Townsville Recruiting Office on September 27, 1915 for service abroad passing the medical examination and sworn in the same day. Attestation papers reveal he was a 22 year old Striker and stood 169cms (5ft 6¾ins) tall, weighed 58.1kgs (128lbs) with a chest expansion of 82-89cms (32-35ins). Sallow was his complexion with hazel eyes and dark brown hair. Religion was given as Roman Catholic. His father Patrick O’Meara of West End, Townsville was named as next-of-kin and nominated two-fifths of his pay to him. He departed that evening for Brisbane, Queensland.

The departure was reported in The Townsville Daily Bulletin on Tuesday September 28, 1915:

The next day basic training began with the 7th Depot Battalion where he remained until March 23, 1916. The following day he was transferred to the No 4 Company, Aust. Mining Corps which embarked from Brisbane, Qld early in May, 1916 aboard HMAT A69 Warilda for Sydney, NSW. Six officers and 152 other ranks together with the 1st Reinforcements of fifteen other ranks made up the two sections.

At Rosebery Park, Sydney, NSW they joined their Headquarters and two sections (8 officers & 153 O.Rs.) plus 1st Reinforcements consisting of one officer and seventeen other ranks for final training. He was assigned the rank of Sapper with the Regimental number 4874 and placed in the 1st Reinforcements to No 4 Company on May 17, 1916.

The 7713 ton transport A69 Warilda departed Sydney, NSW on May 22, 1916 and collected in Melbourne, Victoria the No 5 Company recruited from Victoria, South Aust. & Tasmania made up of Headquarters and 2 Sections (8 officers & 173 men) (3 M.D.). 1 Section from Tasmania (3 officers & 76 O.Rs); also 1st Reinforcements for No 5 Company (17 men from Vic. & 8 men Tas.) The ship departed on May 25, 1916 for Adelaide, S.A. to collect one Section of 3 officers & 76 O.Rs with 1st Reinforcements of 8 O.Rs.

Docking at Fremantle, W.A. on June 1, 1916 added No 6 Company recruited from W.A. of 14 officers and 325 O.Rs along with 1st Reinforcements of 1 Officer & 32 O.Rs departing the same day.

Durban, South Africa was reached on June 16, 1916 and Cape Town on June 21, 1916 while St Vincent completed the African ports of call on July 7, 1916. Discipline was fairly good except at intermediate ports where Away without Leave caused concern. The fifty-eight day voyage experienced remarkable pleasant weather terminating at Plymouth, England on July 18, 1916. Four, Five and Six Companies comprising of 1064 officers and other ranks were detrained to Amesbury and Tidworth to begin training for the front at Perham Down’s camp.

While in camp he was admitted to the Military Hospital at Bulford where he received 12 days treatment for a social disease, returning to duty in time to depart England.

The troops proceeded overseas to France on August 28, 1916 and marched into the 2nd A.D. Base Depot and on September 30 Sapper O’Meara was taken on strength with the 1st Aust. Tunnelling Company.

News of his departure from training camp in England appeared in The Townsville Daily Bulletin on Friday October 27, 1916:

On November 5, 1916 he was admitted to the 6th London Field Ambulance for treatment of Dental Caries and again reported sick on November 26 to 47th D.R. Station and taken to D.A. Hospital via N/M Casualty Clearing Station. He returned to duty on December 11, 1916.

Was taken sick from the field on January 4, 1917 to 47th D.R.S. and moved to 10th C.C.S. diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Two days later was conveyed on A.T. 18 to Boulogne for treatment where he remained until January 24.

Sapper was evacuated to England on the Hospital Ship St Patrick and admitted to the 3rd Southern General Hospital where his debility was classed as slight the following day. By February 9, 1917 was transferred to the 1st Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield, Middlesex, Eng to convalesce until he was discharged to furlough on March 26, 1917.

Information from overseas was published in The Townsville Daily Bulletin on Thursday February 18, 1917:

On May 9, 1918 he proceeded from No 4 Details Camp overseas to France via Folkstone and marched in to the Aust. General Base Depot at Etaples and remained until May 24 then rejoined his unit the next day.

By May 29 was taken from the field sick May 30 was taken to the 60th Field Ambulance and admitted with N.Y.D. (not yet diagnosed) Haemorrhage of Lung and transferred to 23rd D.R.S. then 10th C.C.S. Two days later was admitted to the 3rd Stationary Hospital at Wimereux. On June 21 was at No 1 Command Depot at Boulogne and the next day sent to 3rd Rest Camp for a few days.

Marched in to the A.G.B.D. at Rouelles and stayed until July 31, 1917 when he was transferred to the Aust. Vet Hospital at Calais being taken on strength the same day in the rank of Private.

Was admitted to 37th Stationary Hospital at Calais on September 21, 1917 suffering from Bronchitis and was evacuated to England on October 1st on the Hospital Ship Stad Antwerpen and entered Beaufort War Hospital, Bristol the day after with Bronchitis.

He was relocated on October 12 to 3rd Aust Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford to convalesce for five days. On October 17 was discharged to No 2 Command Depot at Weymouth and five days later marched out to Sutton Veny and No 1 Command Depot receiving the medical classification B1.A.2. on October 28, 1917.

A telegram was sent from Base Records to his father regarding his illness. It reads:

On November 19 disciplinary action was taken for the following:

Offence:Sutton Veny A.W.L. m/i 9/11/17 till 4 p.m. 15/11/17

Award:6 days F.P. (field punishment) No 2 by Capt J. Gettingly

In custody awaiting trial 3 days.

Total Forfeiture: 15 days pay.

The same occurred on December 6, 1917

Offence:Sutton Veny A.W.L. from 2400 hrs 6/12/17 till 1.30p.m.

Award:2 days F.P. No 2 by Lt-Col G. Knox

In custody awaiting trial 1 day

Total Forfeiture:5 days pay forfeited. Total 7 days pay.

On December 14, 1917 marched out to the overseas Training Brigade at Longbridge Deverill.

At Sandhill camp the following Offence took place:

Offence:Sandhill A.W.L. from Tattoo 27/12/17

Award:3 days F.P. No 2. by Major W.M. Trew

In custody awaiting trial 2 days.

Total Forfeiture:7 days pay.

A marriage ceremony by License took place at the West Hendred Parish Church, Steventon, Berkshire on March 19, 1917 between the 24 year old John J. O’Meara, son of Patrick O’Meara, a wheelwright of Townsville, Qld and Miss Evelyn Sessions, eighteen year old daughter of James Roberts, a roadman of Steventon.

On April 4, 1918 was Taken on Strength of Aust. Vet. Hospital at Calais, France from A.A.V. Details at Parkhouse Camp, England.

At Coquelles, France the following Crime was dealt with on May 2, 1918:

Crime:Absent from Tattoo Roll Call 1/5/18 9.15 p.m.

Award:7 days C.C. by Officer Commanding Aust Vety Hospital.

Results of the Proceedings of the Medical Board were given on May 26, 1918 when he was classified at BI. Reclassification to BII came through on September 22, 1918.

A change of next-of-kin and re-allotment of pay from his father to his wife Evelyn was given on May 3 and passed on June 4, 1918 by the Estates Branch, A.I.F. London.

On October 19, 1918 he was posted to Mobile Veterinary Section.

After the Armistice he remained with his unit and on November 30, 1918 the following altercation took place:

Crime:29/11/18 W.O.A.S. Disobeying a Lawful Command given by his Superior

Officer in that he at the billet between the hours of 14.00 & 14.15 on 28/11/18 did not carry out the order to wash a vehicle as ordered.

Award:7 days F.P. No 2 by O.C. 2nd A.M.V.H. Section.

Private O’Meara proceeded to the Aust General Base Depot on December 3, 1918 marching in the following day to Havre to await his return to England. He transferred to England on December 9 and marched in to No 2 Command Depot at Weymouth the next day.

He was to embark on the HT Ulysses for his return to Australia for discharge due to debility but failed to embark. While waiting for reallocation the following were committed at No 2 Command Depot:

Crime:Westham A.W.L. 23.59hrs 6/1/19 to 12.00hrs 8/1/19

Award:5 days F.P. No 2 by Major E.F. Playford.

Total Forfeiture:7 days pay.

Crime:Westham A.W.L. 23.59hrs 25/2/19 until apprehended at 22.00hrs 27/2/19

Award:5 days F.P. No 2 by Major E.F. Playford.

Total Forfeiture:7 days pay.

Crime:No 5 Group Westham A.W.L. 23.59hrs 19/4/19 to 14.00hrs 20/4/19.

This was dismissed by Major E.F. Playford.

Private O’Meara accompanied by his wife Evelyn departed for Australia on the HT Canberra on July 23, 1919 and disembarked in Sydney (2nd M.D.) on September 14, 1919. His next-of-kin was notified of their departure on August 12, 1919.

He returned to Queensland (1st M.D.) for discharge which was granted on November 1, 1919 due to debility – medically unfit.

For serving his country Sapper / Private 4874 John James O’Meara, of 1st Tunnelling Company / Mobile Vet Service was awarded the British War Medal (17082) and the Victory Medal (16685).

A Statement of Service was forwarded to the Brisbane Repatriation Department on March 31, 1927.

He wrote to the Records Office at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, Vic hoping to trace his two lost Badges and get replacements if they had not been returned. A Statutory Declaration dated July 30, 1936 was sent from his address 96 Hermitage Road, West Ryde, Sydney, NSW, declaring the loss of his King’s Silver War Badge (GRI) and the Returned Soldiers Badge which were lost while moving from Townsville to Home Hill, Qld. On August 6, 1936 he receipted the replacement delivery of both these medals.

John James O’Meara died in Sydney on September 9, 1938 aged 45 years. Interment was at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney, NSW in the Roman Catholic Section 14, grave number 3412.

A letter sent from the Australian Military Forces at Victoria Barracks, Paddington, Sydney dated December 1, 1938 asked for clarification from Base Records, Canberra, ACT as to which Unit’s name should appear on his headstone as his widow asked it to be as per his Discharge Form which was 1st Tunnelling Company.

Base Records replied with the opinion that it would be incorrect to refer to him being a member of the 1st Tunnelling Company even though this was his original unit. Supporting this opinion the office revealed their records showed he was taken on strength with the Australian Veterinary Corps on July 31, 1917 then transferred to the 2nd Mobile Veterinary section until he returned to Australia and was discharged.

On November 14, 1968 a letter was sent to the Gallipoli Medallion Section, Canberra from Mr J.J. Thomas, formerly No 245 of 25th Battalion A.I.F., residing at 514 Victoria Street, Rydelmere, NSW inquiring on behalf of his daughter-in-law Mrs Evelyn Thomas, who thought her father J.J. O’Meara, had served at Gallipoli. If eligible she would like it sent to her at 10 Melbourne Avenue, Umina Beach, NSW. A pro-forma reply was forwarded on November 22, 1968 stating he was not eligible as he had not served at Gallipoli.

© Donna Baldey 2009