Pictured above is the grave of John O’Neill VC MM at Hoylake Cemetery, Trinity Road.
The photograph was taken exactly six years ago in 2005 when the Chairman of the Leinster Regiment Association laid a commemorative wreath on the grave. The Association was instrumental in recommemorating the resting place of Sgt John O’Neill on 31st October 2004.
About Sgt. John O’Neill VC, MM
On the 13 and 14 October 1918 toward the end of the Great War, as part of the 29th Division of the IInd Corps the 2 Battalion Leinster Regiment were fighting in the Ledeghem sector near Courtrai (Kortrijk) in Belgium. The Leinster Regiment were the advance troops of the 88th Brigade. On the morning of the 14th Sgt. O’Neill received news that his brother, a member of the 36th Ulster Division who was also fighting on the right of the Leinsters, had been killed in action. At the start of the days artillery barrage, presumably to avenge his brother, Sgt. O’Neill charged ahead of the barrage and led the Leinster attack being the first man in many enemy strongholds. In the village of Staceghem he teamed up with another sergeant from the 4/Worcester Regiment and between them commenced to clear several houses of enemy combatants.
John O’Neill was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V in Buckingham Palace on the 2nd August 1919.
John O’Neill was born in Airdrie, Lanark and enlisted in to the Leinster Regiment at the age of 17. Within four years he had been honoured with the Military Medal, the Victoria Cross, Médaille Militaire , and the Légion d’Honneur. He also served in the RAF as an Armourer Sergeant when he served alongside Lawrence of Arabia and in the Pioneer Corps as Lieutenant O’Neill during WW2 (1941) defending Liverpool’s docklands from air attack.
John O’Neill died of heart attack on the 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)
On the 13th February 1962, John O’Neill’s Victoria Cross medal group was placed into the care of B.A. Seaby, a numismatic (definition) company, for sale in their forthcoming auction. On the same day a gang of thieves parked a van outside the motor showrooms on the ground floor of Seaby’s premises. They forced the showroom door to reach another door giving access to the coin dealer’s offices. The gang then carried oxy-acetylene apparatus hidden in rolls of linoleum into the building and spent the next ten hours burning open three safes.
Coins and medals valued at £30,000 were stolen, including the medals and decorations awarded to General Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, after whom the Queensland capital is named, and the WWI Victoria Cross medal group awarded to Sergeant John O’Neill, 2nd Bn, Leinster Regiment. They are valued at £2,750 and £535 respectively.
An immediate reward of £2,000 was offered by Tyler & Co, city assessors, and warnings were circulated by the International Association of Professional Numismatics to markets in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France. To date, no sighting of John O’Neill’s Victoria Cross has been made.