Lieutenant M J Dease VC

Maurice James Dease was born on 28 September 1889 in Gaulstown, Coole, County Westmeath, Ireland to Edmund F. and Katherine M. Dease. He was educated at Stonyhurst College and the Army Department of Wimbledon College before attending the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was 24 years old, and a lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers, and was posthumously awarded the VC for his actions on 23 August 1914, at Mons, Belgium.

Nimy Bridge was being defended by a single company of Royal Fusiliers and a machine-gun section with Dease in command. The gun fire was intense, and the casualties very heavy, but the lieutenant went on firing in spite of his wounds, until he was hit for the fifth time and was carried away to a place of safety. He died of his wounds. Private Sidney Godley took over from him on the gun and also won the VC.

Dease was the first Victoria Cross to be awarded in WW1, and he also won it on the first day of the first significant British encounter in that war. He is buried at St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium. He is remembered with a plaque under the Nimy Railroad Bridge, Mons, also in Westminster Cathedral, and on the Wayside Cross in Woodchester, Stroud, Gloucestershire. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London.

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by Stephen Luscombe