Gerald Robert O’Sullivan VC (Irish: Gearóid Roibeard Ó Súilleabháin), Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, dies on August 21, 1915, at Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli, Ottoman Turkey.
O’Sullivan is born in Frankfield, Douglas, County Cork, on November 8, 1888. His father is a career soldier in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Known as ‘Jerry’, he is educated at Wimbledon College from which he graduates in 1906. He desires a career in the British Army and attends the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Commissioned into the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1909, O’Sullivan spends much of the next three years serving in China with his unit, 2nd Battalion. From 1912, the battalion is based in British India but on the outbreak of World War I is brought back to England.
The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers form part of 29th Division, intended for service in the Gallipoli campaign. Now a captain in the 1st Battalion, O’Sullivan commands a company during the landing at X Beach on the Gallipoli peninsula on April 25, 1915, and acquits himself well during the early stages of the fighting. On June 18, 1915, the Turks mount an attack on positions adjacent to those of O’Sullivan’s company, forcing the troops manning the defenses to abandon it. He leads his company in a counterattack to reclaim the lost position which exchanges hands several times during the next few hours. The commanding officer in the area, Brigadier General W. R. Marshall, eventually directs O’Sullivan to lead a party of Inniskilling and South Wales Borderers soldiers to capture the position which is achieved at dawn the following day.
Two weeks later, O’Sullivan is involved in a further action near Krithia, and this results in his recommendation for the Victoria Cross (VC). The citation, published in The London Gazette on September 1, 1915, reads as follows:
“For most conspicuous bravery during operations south-west of Krithia on the Gallipoli Peninsula. On the night of 1st–2nd July, 1915, when it was essential that a portion of a trench which had been lost should be regained, Captain O’Sullivan, although not belonging to the troops at this point volunteered to lead a party of bomb throwers to effect the recapture. He advanced in the open under a very heavy fire and in order to throw his bombs with greater effect, got up on the parapet, where he was completely exposed to the fire of the enemy occupying the trench. He was finally wounded, but not before his inspiring example had led his party to make further efforts, which resulted in the recapture of the trench. On the night of 18th–19th June, 1915, Captain O’Sullivan had saved a critical situation in the same locality by his personal gallantry and good leading.”
The wounds O’Sullivan receives in the action of July 1-2 necessitates his evacuation to Egypt for medical treatment but he quickly recovers and returns to his unit on August 11, 1915. The 29th Division is now at Suvla Bay and preparing for a new offensive. The Inniskillings are tasked with the capture of a feature known as Hill 70 or Scimitar Hill. During this battle, on August 21, 1915, he leads a charge of 50 men to the hilltop but is killed.
O’Sullivan has no known grave and is remembered on the Helles Memorial to the Missing. His VC is delivered to his mother who lives in Dorchester, and his name also appears on the memorial there.