Visited Nimy Bridge where the railway line crosses the Canal. This is the spot where Lt Maurice Dease of the 4th Bn Royal Fusiliers earned the Victoria Cross, the first to be awarded (posthumously) during WWI.
Dease was of Anglo Irish stock. His parents came from Coole Co. Westmeath but at the time of his death, one month after the start of the war in August 1914, were resident in Culmullen Co. Meath. A plaque has been erected at St Martin’s Church there to commemorate him.
Dease was like many of his Irish contemporaries sent to a boarding school in England. He attended the Jesuit run Stonyhurst College then moved to another Jesuit linked educational establishment, the Army Department of Wimbledon College in London. His name is on the beautiful wooden panelled war memorial at the back of the Chapel in the school, which I used to pass frequently when going to Mass there. However in the four years I attended up to ‘O’ level, I never once heard his name mentioned or commemorated individually on Remembrance Sunday, when our scout troop (one of the largest Catholic ones in England) used to parade there.
I was therefore pleased to get the opportunity to visit the site of his heroic action and subsequent death as well as his grave in the CWGC cemetery at St Symphorien. Rest in Peace., Respect. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.
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.
A commemorative paving stone for Dease was the first in a series to be unveiled at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin in August 2014 on the centenary of his death.