Unveiling of Commemorative Paving Stone – Lance-Corporal Michael O’Leary VC, Irish Guards 1st February 2015.
On Sunday 1st February, the 100th Anniversary of his conspicuous bravery, a Commemorative Paving Stone was unveiled at the Cross of Sacrifice in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, honouring Lance-Corporal Michael O’Leary VC, Irish Guards.
Hosted by the Glasnevin Trust, the Paving Stone was unveiled by its Chairman Mr John Green accompanied by Mr Ian Roberston – President of the Irish Guards Association. The Irish Guards Association provided a Colour Party.
Additional photographs of the ceremony can be seen on the Trust’s Web Site Flicker channel.
The Military Heritage of Ireland Trust CLG was represented at the ceremony by its Chairman, Brigadier-General Paul Pakenham (Retd). The attendance also included Dr Michael Mansergh TD, Representatives of the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Major-General David O’Morchoe (Retd) CB CBE – President, Royal British Legion also a Trust Director, Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Martin (Retd) – Chairman Royal British Legion, Lieutenant-Colonel Sean Cosden – US Defence Attaché, Mr Kevin Myers, and representatives of the Irish Guards Association, ONET and IUNVA.
The London Gazette – 16 February 1915
No. 3556 Lance-Corporal Michael O’Leary, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards: For conspicuous bravery at Cuinchy on the 1st February, 1915. When forming one of the storming party which advanced against the enemy’s barricades he rushed to the front and himself killed five Germans who were holding the first barricade, after which he attacked a second barricade, about 60 yards further on, which he captured, after killing three of the enemy and making prisoners of two more. Lance-Corporal O’Leary thus practically captured the enemy’s position by himself and prevented the attacking party from being fired upon.
Michael O’Leary was born in 1890 in Macroom, County Cork. At the age of 16, he enlisted in the Royal Navy and later served with the Irish Guards Regiment. In 1913, he joined the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and was commended for bravery. In August 1914, he received permission to leave Canada in order to enlist in the British Army and joined his Regiment in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force.
Having been mentioned in dispatches, he was promoted Lance Corporal in January 1915 and subsequently promoted Sergeant on 4 February. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Connaught Rangers, and served with its 5th Battalion in the Balkans campaign.
With the advent of the Second World War, he served as a Captain in the Middlesex Regiment, deployed to France but had to return to England on account of a recurrence of malaria which he picked up in the Balkans. Having served with the Pioneer Corps, he was discharged with the rank of Major. Major O’Leary VC died in 1961 and is buried at Mill Hill Cemetery, London.
As part of the Decade of Centenaries, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, with the support of the Irish Government, have commissioned paving stones for all 24 recipients of the Victoria Cross during the First World War who were born in the Republic of Ireland. The memorial programme associated with the Paving Stones envisages that a commemoration will take place on the anniversary of the historic action for which each VC was awarded. At this stage of the process, it is envisaged that the 24 Paving Stones will eventually be part of a unified permanent display at a suitable location, and that it is likely that replica stones could be made available for local communities of the place of birth of the recipient, (costs accruing to the local community).
On 23 August 2014, the first paving stone was presented to Minster Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in Glasnevin Cemetery on the 100th Anniversary of the death of Lieutenant Maurice Dease, 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, of Coole County Westmeath.
Manning a machine gun, Lieutenant Dease was killed in action during action in Mons. Lt Dease’s Paving Stone remains on display in the Prospect Gallery at Glasnevin as part of the First World War Exhibition.