Westmeath soldier who won Victoria Cross in 1914 remembered

Dease received honour for his bravery in maintaining his post despite being wounded

More than a century after he became the first winner of the Victoria Cross in the first World War, Lieut Maurice Dease was remembered in his home village of Coole, Co Westmeath.

A memorial cross and plaque were unveiled in the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception beside a headstone marking his ancestors.

The family has been in this part of Westmeath since the 13th century.

The Royal British Legion, the Irish Army, An Garda and representatives from the British embassy and Westmeath County Council were among those who attended the service 102 years to the day after Dease was killed at the Battle of Mons on August 23rd, 1914.


Dease received his Victoria Cross posthumously for his bravery in maintaining his machine gun post despite being wounded five times. His first day in combat was his last.

The plaque was unveiled by two people separated by almost 90 years – second World War veteran Ivor Fogg and three-year-old Lodhi Bland.

Fogg, who served in the Royal Navy, has lived in Mullingar for the past 55 years. Lodhi is the daughter of Peter Bland, a relative of Dease, who bought back the family home at Turbotston and has since restored it. Lodhi is the 28th generation of Deases from the area.

A Mass was said for Dease in the church which has many echoes of his family’s past.

A stained-glass window is dedicated to this old Catholic gentry family as is a brass plaque which remembers Thomas Dease, the Catholic bishop of Meath during the Cromwellian conquest.


Dease was not only the first Victoria Cross winner of the Great War, but the first of 33 men from the Castlepollard parish to die in the first World War. They too were remembered at Tuesday’s service.

Even 100 years on, that conflict provokes raw emotions.

Fr Oliver Skelly made an emotional address in which he said it was right to honour the war dead, but also to reflect on the kind of world we were bequeathing to our children.

The midlands branch of the Royal British Legion organised the unveiling ceremony.

Co-ordinator Michael Duffy said the day was not just about Dease, but the 800 men from Westmeath killed in the first World War.

The ones who returned alive received a “cold and critical acceptance and a lifetime of discrimination” in the post-Rising Ireland, he recalled.

“Perhaps this ceremony will provide an impetus in healing wounds, and the sacrifices of so many men 100 years ago will be understood.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times