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Victoria Cross recipientMichael O’Leary

The Victoria Cross (VC), instituted in 1856 by Queen Victoria, is the Commonwealth’s premier military decoration for gallantry. It is awarded in recognition of the most exceptional bravery displayed in the presence of the enemy, although in rare instances the decoration has been given to mark other courageous acts.


Mr. Mike Hurley, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Ireland and Supt. Mike McDonell of the OPP (former RCMP) unveil the plaque for Cst. O’Leary

Michael O’Leary

Michael O’Leary was born in Ireland in 1890. At age twenty he joined the Irish Guards, a unit of the British Army, where he served for the next three years. While on duty with the Guards he decided to join Canada’s Royal North West Mounted Police. He wrote the force from Ireland and by August 1913, had resigned from the Army and was training in Regina.

His first posting was Battleford, where he remained until May 1914, when he was transferred back to Depot Division in Regina. In September of that year, O’Leary was granted free discharge to re-join the British Army.

After the First World War O’Leary stayed in Britain for a few years. He returned to Canada in 1921 and joined the Ontario Provincial Police. Two years later he left the OPP for a job with the Michigan Central Railroad Company’s Ontario operations. In the early 1930s, he returned to England, where he was employed by a prominent hotel in London’s fashionable West End.

At the start of the Second World War Michael O’Leary re­joined the British Army, where he served as a Captain with the Royal Pioneer Corps. Mr. O’Leary died in London, England in 1961.

On the 1st of February, 1915, at Cuinchy, France, Lance Corporal Michael O’Leary, assisting in the organization of a storming party, turned and rushed the opposing front. He went on to capture a second position about sixty yards ahead, gaining considerable territory and preventing the enemy forces from firing on his own advancing troops. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross within two weeks of the action.


Michael O’LearyMajor George Randolph Pearkes  |  Arthur Herbert Lindsey Richardson