• Lt Maurice Dease
Combined Cadet Force | Posted 18.09.2014

World War One commemoration

On 5th September a Commemoration Service was held at St Symphorien military cemetery, to honour those who died at the Battle of Mons, the opening engagement of 1914. Lieutenant Maurice Dease, who was educated at Stonyhurst, was awarded the first Victoria Cross of the First World War for his extreme bravery. He is buried at St Symphorien.

Stonyhurst was represented at the service by Junior Under Officer Kate Bell (Rhetoric), who laid wreaths on behalf of Stonyhurst at the Cross of Remembrance at St. Symphorien cemetery and at the grave of Lt. Dease. Members of the Dease family were also in attendance, including Major Maurice French, his great nephew. The Reverend Canon Christopher Tuckwell of Westminster Abbey conducted services at Nimy Bridge , where the battle had been fought, and at the cemetery.

Kate was introduced to the Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Brigadier David Paterson, to Major French and to Brigadier Bill Aldridge, who is based at SHAPE in Mons.

On 22nd August, just 18 days after Britain had declared war, Lieutenant Dease led his men to Belgium. The Royal Fusiliers marched through the city of Mons to the canal at Nimy. A high railway bridge ran across the canal and Dease set up his two Maxim machineguns on this bridge, not knowing when the enemy would appear, or from which direction. Soon after sunrise on 23rd August the Germans approached the railway bridge, regrouping when some were shot, to appear in lines from different angles.
Despite being wounded in the leg and neck, Dease climbed out of his command trench and took over the machinegun of a dead soldier. When the second gun jammed he crawled down the embankment to get it working, climbed back and carried on firing.
The citation for his VC reads: “Though two or three times badly wounded he continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on 23rd August until all his men were shot. He died of his wounds.”