Maurice Dease

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Maurice Dease
Maurice James Dease.jpg
Born28 September 1889
Coole, County Westmeath, Ireland
Died23 August 1914 (aged 24)
Mons, Belgium
BuriedSt Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service1910 - 1914
UnitThe Royal Fusiliers
Battles/warsGreat War
AwardsVictoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Victoria Cross

Maurice James Dease VC (28 September 1889 – 23 August 1914) was a British Army officer during the First World War. He was one of the first British officer battle casualties of the war and the first posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross in the war.[1]


Nimy railway bridge; the memorial plaque can be seen on the face of the abutment

Dease was born on 28 September 1889 in Gaulstown, Coole, County Westmeath, Ireland to Edmund Fitzlaurence and Katherine Murray Dease.[1] 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 awarded the VC for his actions on 23 August 1914, at Mons, Belgium.[2]

Nimy Bridge was being defended by a single company of the 4th 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.

Though two or three times badly wounded he continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on 23rd Aug., until all his men were shot. He died of his wounds.

— London Gazette, 16 November 1914[3]

Dease won the first Victoria Cross to be awarded in the Great War and he received it on the first day of the first significant British encounter in that war.

When Lieutenant Dease had been mortally wounded, Private Sidney Godley offered to defend the Railway Bridge while the rest of the section retreated and was also awarded the VC.[4] He was taken prisoner of war.

H. C. O'Neill wrote this account in The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War.

“The machine gun crews were constantly being knocked out. So cramped was their position that when a man was hit he had to be removed before another could take his place. The approach from the trench was across the open, and whenever a gun stopped Lieutenant Maurice Dease... went up to see what was wrong. To do this once called for no ordinary courage. To repeat it several times could only be done with real heroism. Dease was badly wounded on these journeys, but insisted on remaining at duty as long as one of his crew could fire. The third wound proved fatal, and a well deserved VC was awarded him posthumously. By this time both guns had ceased firing, and all the crew had been knocked out. In response to an inquiry whether anyone else knew how to operate the guns Private Godley came forward. He cleared the emplacement under heavy fire and brought the gun into action. But he had not been firing long before the gun was hit and put completely out of action. The water jackets of both guns were riddled with bullets, so that they were no longer of any use. Godley himself was badly wounded and later fell into the hands of the Germans. [5]

Dease is buried at St Symphorien Military Cemetery, 2 kilometres east of Mons, in Belgium.[1] He is remembered with a plaque under the Nimy Railway Bridge, Mons and in Westminster Cathedral. His name is on the Wayside Cross in Woodchester, Stroud, Gloucestershire, on a cross at Exton, Rutland[6][7] and on a plaque installed in St Martin's Church, Culmullen, County Meath, Ireland.[8] His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London.[9] Victoria Cross holders are being honoured with commemorative paving stones;[10] Dease’s was the first to be unveiled on 23 August 2014 at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.[11]

He was portrayed in the BBC Three series Our World War (2014) by Dominic Thorburn.


  1. ^ a b c "Casualty details—Dease, Maurice James". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
  2. ^ Profile,; accessed 30 September 2014.
  3. ^ "No. 28976". The London Gazette. 13 November 1914. pp. 9373–9374.
  4. ^ "No. 28985". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 November 1914. p. 9957. Original citation
  5. ^ Mons, August 1914; 4th Royal Fusiliers - Nimy Bridge
  6. ^ "Exton and Whitwell War Memorial, Exton". Rutland Remembers. 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  7. ^ "Exton and Whitwell War Memorial" Grantham Journal Saturday 7 October 1922, page 11; Dease was a nephew of Charles Noel, 3rd Earl of Gainsborough
  8. ^ Irish war memorials
  9. ^ Daily Express
  10. ^ Victoria Cross commemorative paving stones
  11. ^ "First WWI Victoria Cross winner to get memorial in Glasnevin" Irish Times 22 August 2014


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