Military Medal : Trooper T O'Leary, 4 Light Horse Regiment, AIF

Place Middle East: Ottoman Empire, Palestine, Beersheba
Accession Number REL43757.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Military Medal (Geo V). Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

History / Summary

Thomas O'Leary was born was born at Maryborough, Queensland in 1883. He was working as station hand near Winton, Queensland when he enlisted in the AIF on 7 January 1915.

After initial training he was assigned to 11 Light Horse Regiment as a trooper with the service number 1018, and embarked with the 4th Reinforcements aboard HMAT Hymettus (A1) at Brisbane on 17 September 1915.

O'Leary was transferred through several light horse regiments over the course of 1916, all posted around the Suez Canal Zone. His service record indicates that he did not readily adapt to the discipline of military life. On a number of occasions throughout his service he was charged with offences such as insubordination, drunkenness and being absent without leave.

In March 1917 O'Leary transferred to 4 Light Horse Regiment, and received the new service number of 1018a. His new unit was engaged in rear area security duties in the Suez Canal Zone. In October, O'Leary moved with the regiment into the Sinai desert at the rear of the allied advance into this region.

On 31 October, O'Leary and Trooper A E Healey were ground scouts for 4 Light Horse Regiment during the charge at Beersheba, and were required to gallop 70 to 80 yards (approximately 70 metres) ahead of their squadron during the charge. Both men were awarded the Military Medal (MM) for their actions during this battle. The recommendation for O'Leary's MM reads: 'For special gallantry as ground scout during attack on Beersheba 31.10.17. He galloped well in advance of the attacking squadron and rounded up and held 30 prisoners single handed until arrival of dismounted party. He then galloped forward and assisted in the capture of a field gun.'

About 90 minutes later, O'Leary was found by one of his officers in a side street, seated on this field gun. Six Turkish gunners and drivers were taking turns holding his horse. He explained to his officer that he had made the Turks move the gun into this side street to prevent it being claimed as a trophy by any other regiment.

O'Leary remained with his unit for the remainder of the war, but ill health saw him hospitalised several times throughout 1918, which eventually prompted his return to Australia in February 1919.