Saturday, August 23, 2014

The First VCs of The Great War: Lieutenant Maurice Dease and Private Frank Godley, 23rd August 1914

One hundred years ago today, on August 23rd 1914, the 4th battalion, Royal Fusiliers were ordered to defend the Nimy bridges, which were only a few kilometers from the main British force at Mons.

By 10:00 that morning the British positions around the bridges came under heavy German artillery fire which was then followed by direct assault by the 84th Infantry Regiment. 

In answer, the Royal Fusiliers caused heavy casualties amongst the Germans, who initially advanced in tightly-packed formations. Being shocked by the rapid fire of the Fusiliers, the Germans soon abandoned this costly tactic and began to advance in open order. As more German troops were thrown into the attack, the situation for the Royal Fusiliers became perilous in the extreme. Yet to withdraw while still in contact with the enemy would expose them to close-range enemy fire. Therefore it was vital that the battalion's machineguns, now under the command of Lieutenant Maurice Dease, hold back the Germans long enough for the rest of the men to withdraw.

Lieutenant Maurice Dease, the first posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross of the Great War.
By this time, however, virtually all the men of Dease's two sections had either been killed or wounded. So the young Lieutenant, along with Private Sidney Godley, took over a gun and kept the Germans at bay. Having been wounded several times, Lieutenant Dease was taken back to the dressing station where he later died of his wounds.

Dease and Godley depicted at the railway bridge near Nimy. Painting by David Rowlands
Meanwhile, Private Godley, himself wounded by numerous shell fragments and a bullet wound to the head, maintained fire from his machinegun. 

Sidney Godley, first Private soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War One.
Godley continued to hold his position for two hours, allowing the rest of the British force to fall back safely. Once out of ammunition, Godley, dismantled his gun, threw it into the canal and attempted to crawl away. Weak from his wounds he was eventually captured by the advancing Germans.

A contemporary rendition of the defence of the bridge at Nimy.
For their actions that day, both Dease and Goldley were awarded the Victoria Cross, the first of the war. Godley was informed of his award by his German captors while being held at a prisoner of war camp near Berlin. He was formally awarded the decoration by King George V on February 15th, 1919.

Drawing inspiration from this event I painted up a 28mm early war British Vickers crew sculpted by the talented Paul Hicks, sold by  Musketeer Miniatures. I've gone with my usual greyscale treatment with this trio. A great set, with very clean castings and exhibiting excellent animation in all the sculpts. 

The Vickers Crew along with some infantry support.
Next up is a new indulgence from across the pond and something else for the Spanish Civil War...