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Former Stonyhurst pupil may be ignored in First World War centenary
PLANS to omit the winner of the first posthumous Victoria Cross in the First World War from centenary commemorations have been criticised by the headmaster of his former college.
Maurice Dease, a lieutenant in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, studied at Stonyhurst College before joining the army.
Under current plans, Lieutenant Dease would not be eligible for a commemorative paving stone to be placed in his home town because he was born in Coole, County Westmeath in Ireland.
Twenty eight commemorative stones will be unveiled next year to honour those who won medals in 1914 and others will be laid in every year up to 2018.
Lieutenant Dease, who was born in 1889, attended Stonyhurst College from 1903 to 1907, having previously studied in London, and died during the Battle of Mons on August 23 1914, aged 24.
Andrew Johnson, headmaster at Stonyhurst College, said: “We are very proud of our seven Victoria Cross winners at the college and it’s not right that Maurice Dease would not be commemorated in the right way alongside everyone else.
“He fought and died for this country and won recognition from the army for his actions so he should be remembered in the proper way.
“He sacrificed as much as other Victoria Cross winners and it would not be right if the first winner of a VC in the First World War was not honoured with the others.
“I will be writing to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles about this issue and I hope that it will be resolved soon.”
After Stonyhurst, Dease was educated at the Army Department of Wimbledon College before attending the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.
He is remembered with a plaque on Nimy Bridge, Mons and in Westminster Cathedral. His name is on the Wayside Cross in Woodchester, Stroud, Gloucestershire and his medal is displayed at the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London.
He is buried in St Symphorium Military Cemetery, Belgium.
The Bravery of Lieutenant Maurice Dease
- Lieutenant Maurice Dease had been looking forward to a glittering military career - but was killed just 20 days after the outbreak of the First World War.
- He was awarded his VC after he continued to man his machine gun post after every other member of his section had been killed or wounded during the Battle of Mons.
- Only after being wounded for a fifth time was Lt Dease evacuated to the battalion aid station, where he died.
- The ‘aviary boy’, so named due to his great love of birds, had signed up to the Army straight out of school and joined the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.
- His regiment saw some of the heaviest fighting during the Battle of Mons, the first major battle of the Great War.
- The battle, which took place on August 24 1914 in Belgium, was fought three weeks after the British declared war.
- At Mons, the Allies attempted to hold the line of the Mons-Condé Canal against the advancing German First Army.
- But they were forced to retreat due to the German’s greater strength and the retreat of the French Fifth Army.
- He won his VC alongside private Sidney Godley, 25, at the Nimy Bridge, and both are credited as being the first of the war to received the honour.
- The War Office cited the reasons for awarding him the VC on November 16 1914 as: “Though two or three times badly wounded he continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on August 23 until all his men were shot. He died of his wounds.”
- The battle saw 1,638 casualties on the British side and around 5,000 Germans.
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