The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, is today (Saturday) marking the 100th anniversary of the first time a Victoria Cross was awarded to an Irish man serving in the British Army during the First World War, at a commemorative event at Glasnevin Cemetery. The Victoria Cross is the highest military honour for valour that can be awarded to the British armed forces.
A special paving stone is being presented by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in memory of Lt Maurice Dease, a Westmeath native who died at Mons on this day in 1914.
Announced in August 2013, the memorial stones initiative is part of the British commemorative programme to mark the centenary of the First World War.
Accepting the memorial stone from Lord Ahmad, Minister Humphreys said: ‘These stones will bring to mind the experience of a small number of individual soldiers of the First World War who were distinguished by their courage and actions. I believe that learning of their service and background will give modern generations an insight into the nature of the war. I hope that these stones will remind us not only of the bravery of the soldiers but of the tragedy of that terrible war’.
A total of 35 memorial stones will be provided by the British to be incorporated in a monument in Ireland. The first Victoria Cross commemorative paving stones are also being laid in Britain today.
Note to Editors:
More about Lt Maurice Dease:
Lt Maurice Dease was born 28 September 1889, in Coole, Co. Westmeath. He was awarded the first Victoria Cross of the First World War for his actions on the morning of Sunday 23 August 1914 in the line north of Mons, guarding the railway bridge over the canal at Nimy.
Under German attack, Dease had positioned his two machine-guns at the end of the bridge, which soon attracted heavy German fire. Every member of the guns' crews was either killed or wounded in the morning's action. Despite the risk to himself, he left cover on several occasions to clear his guns for action and direct their fire. Although wounded twice, he remained on the bridge until he eventually suffered a third, and mortal, wound. He is buried in Saint-Symphorien military cemetery, Mons, Belgium. His VC is in the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London.
Further information on Victoria Crosses:
A total of 628 Victoria Crosses were awarded during the First World War:
· 454 Victoria Crosses were awarded to UK-born recipients
· 173 were awarded to servicemen who fought for Britain, but were born overseas
· 1 person was awarded the Victoria Cross twice during the First World War