b. 08/11/1888 Frankfield, County Cork, Ireland. d. 21/08/1915 Suvla, Gallipoli, Turkey.
Gerald Robert O’Sullivan (1888-1915) was born at Frankfield, near Douglas, County Cork, on 8th November 1888, the son of Lieutenant Colonel George Lidwell O’Sullivan and his wife Charlotte nee Hiddingh. His father had served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and his mother was of South African descent.
“Jerry” O’Sullivan spent much of his childhood in Dublin. Intended for a naval career, he was privately educated at Greenwich (1901-1903), Wimbledon College (1904-1906) and Southsea (1906). He insisted however, on joining the school’s Army department. He got a reputation at school as being rebellious and a little controversial. Leaving school in 1906, he pursued his military ambitions. He attended RMC Sandhurst, and was commissioned into the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 9th May 1909. He joined the 2nd Battalion in Dublin, and later that year embarked for Tientsin, China. He spent the next three years in China, turbulent times including the Revolution in 1911, before being transferred with his battalion to Secunderabad, in Central India.
Brought back to England shortly after the outbreak of war in August 1914, the 1st Inniskillings helped form the 29th Division, destined for operations in the Dardanelles. O’Sullivan was serving as a company commander when his battalion landed at X Beach on 25th April 1915. He came through the early fighting unscathed and with his reputation enhanced. After the action on 18th June in which O’Sullivan had distinguished himself, the Inniskillings played a key role in the Battle of Gully Ravine.
On 1st July/2nd July 1915 south-west of Krithia, Gallipoli, Turkey, Captain O'Sullivan volunteered to lead a party of bomb throwers to recapture a vital trench. He advanced in the open under very heavy fire and in order to throw his bombs with greater effect, got up on the parapet, completely exposed to the enemy occupying the position. He was finally wounded, but his example led his men to make further efforts which resulted in the recapture of the trench.
Later that day, O’Sullivan was recommended for the Victoria Cross by Major General de Lisle.
Shortly after the action, O’Sullivan was evacuated to Egypt. O’Sullivan made a rapid recovery from his wounds and reported back to his Battalion on 11th August, having been away less than six weeks. His return coincided with the 29th Division’s move to Suvla Bay, in readiness for the big push aimed at regaining the initiative in the northern sector. As part of the general offensive planned on 21st August, the sorely depleted Inniskillings were given the task of seizing Hill 70, otherwise known as Scimitar Hill.
On that day, he led his company through a hurricane of fire onto the crest of Hill 70, only to be forced back by artillery fire. They made one more attempt to take the position, and of the group only one wounded sergeant made it back. For a while, it was unclear what had happened to O’Sullivan. It was reported that he had been killed in the assault and his now posthumous VC was announced in the London Gazette on 1st September 1915. His body was not recovered from Hill 70, and his name is now on the Helles Memorial. His Victoria Cross was sent by registered post to his mother on 26th September 1916 at her home at Rowan House, Dorchester. The medal is now part of the Ashcroft Collection and displayed in the Imperial War Museum. The whereabouts of his campaign medals are not known.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE - ON HELLES MEMORIAL, GALLIPOLI. PANEL 97-101.
Gerald O'Sullivan's VC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).
Sacred Church, Sherborne, Dorset
Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Thomas Stewart)