Michael James O'Rourke

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Michael James O'Rourke
Michael James O'Rourke.jpg
Born(1878-03-19)March 19, 1878
County Limerick, Ireland
DiedDecember 6, 1957(1957-12-06) (aged 79)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Allegiance Canada
Service/branchCanadian Expeditionary Force
Battles/warsWorld War I

Michael James O'Rourke VC, MM (March 19, 1878 – December 6, 1957), was an Irish-Canadian soldier and dockworker. O'Rourke was a 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.

Early life[edit]

Born in Limerick, Ireland, O'Rourke immigrated to Canada. Prior to World War I, he served in the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Canadian Militia.[1]


He was 39 years old, and a Private in the 7th (1st British Columbia) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

During the period 15/17 August 1917 at Hill 70 near Lens, France, Private O'Rourke, who was a stretcher-bearer, worked unceasingly for three days and nights bringing in the wounded, dressing their wounds and getting them food and water. During the whole of this period the area in which he worked was swept by heavy machine-gun and rifle fire and on several occasions he was knocked down and partially buried by enemy shells. His courage and devotion in carrying out his rescue work in spite of exhaustion and incessant heavy fire inspired all ranks and undoubtedly saved many lives.[2]

Additional Information[edit]

After the war, O'Rourke eked out a meagre existence on skid road in Vancouver, British Columbia, surviving on a disability pension of 10 dollars per month and casual work on the docks. During a longshoremen's strike in 1935, he headed a protest march of about 1,000 strikers, wearing his medals and carrying the Union Flag. The marchers attempted to pass a police line guarding the waterfront and were attacked with clubs and tear gas in what came to be known as the Battle of Ballantyne Pier.

He died on 6 December 1957 in Vancouver and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.[3]


  1. ^ "Our Mickey":The Story of Private James O’Rourke, VC.MM* (CEF), 1879-1957 Archived 2002-06-27 at the Wayback Machine by Michael Kevin Dooley, from Labour/Le Travail 47 (Spring 2001)]
  2. ^ "No. 30372". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 November 1917. p. 11569.
  3. ^ "Graves of VC Recipients Located in Canada". Knight's Canadian Info Collection. Retrieved 2009-06-22.

Further reading[edit]

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