Lest We Forget.
Mickey O’Rourke was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest medal for valour given out by the British Empire, for his role at the Battle for Hill 70 during the First World War. After the war he worked as a longshoreman and spent many years in the Downtown Eastside struggling with poverty and various health problems, including addiction and what’s known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He died in 1957 at the age of 83. Below is the official account of his heroism from the London Gazette:
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during prolonged operations.
For three days and nights Pte. O’Rourke, who is a stretcher-bearer, worked unceasingly in bringing the wounded into safety, dressing them, and getting them food and water.
During the whole of this period the area in which he worked was subjected to very severe shelling and swept by heavy machine gun and rifle fire. On several occasions he was knocked down and partially buried by enemy shells. Seeing a comrade who had been blinded stumbling around ahead of our trench, in full view of the enemy who were sniping him, Pte. O’Rourke jumped out of his trench and brought the man back, being himself heavily sniped at while doing so. Again he went forward about 50 yards in front of our barrage under very heavy and accurate fire from enemy machine guns and snipers, and brought in a comrade. On a subsequent occasion, when the line of advanced posts was retired to the line to be consolidated, he went forward under very heavy enemy fire of every description and brought back a wounded man who had been left behind.
He showed throughout an absolute disregard for his own safety, going wherever there were wounded to succour, and his magnificent courage and devotion in continuing his rescue work, in spite of exhaustion and the incessant heavy enemy fire of every description, inspired all ranks and undoubtedly saved many lives.
For more on O’Rourke, see “King of the Waterfront” at Past Tense.