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The First World War – Victoria Cross (VC) winners at Mons

Five men received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valour, for conspicuous acts of bravery during the Battle of Mons.

Lieutenant Maurice James Dease

Lieutenant Maurice Dease of the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers was in command of the Battalion’s two machine guns that were defending the crossing at Nimy Bridge. The machine guns were prime targets for the German artillery and his position came under heavy fire. Lieutenant Dease refused to leave his machine gun section. He remained to oversee their operation or man the guns himself.

His citation states that despite being badly wounded two or three times he “continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on the 23 August until all his men were shot”.

The Victoria Cross was posthumously awarded to the 24 year old Lieutenant Dease, as he subsequently died of his wounds. Originally from Ireland, Lieutenant Dease is buried in St. Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium which lies just east of Mons.

Private Sidney Frank Godley

The first Victoria Cross awarded to a private in World War One went to Private Sidney Godley of the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers.

At Nimy Bridge after Lieutenant Dease had been fatally wounded, Private Godley volunteered to man the machine gun and cover the retreat of the remaining Royal Fusiliers. Despite being under heavy fire and having been wounded Godley’s citation states that he managed to hold the bridge for two hours. When he ran out of ammunition he broke up the machine gun and threw it in the canal to prevent it falling into the hands of the Germans.

Although Private Godley had received a bullet wound to the head, he survived and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner. Originally from East Grinstead, Sidney Godley died aged 67years on the 29 June 1957 and is buried in Loughton, Essex.

Lance-Corporal Charles Alfred Jarvis

Lance-Corporal Jarvis of the 57th Field Company of the Royal Engineers was tasked with demolishing one of the bridges that crossed the Mons-Conde canal at Jemappes.

Jarvis worked for one and a half hours setting charges and preparing the bridge for demolition despite being in full view of the enemy and under heavy fire. For this act of “great gallantry” and for successfully firing the charges and demolishing the bridge, Lance-Corporal Jarvis was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Lance-Corporal Jarvis survived the war. He died in Dundee at the age of 67 years on 19 November 1948.

Corporal Charles Ernest Garforth

Corporal Garforth of the 15th (The Kings) Hussars was recommended for the Victoria Cross for three acts of gallantry.

On the 23 August near Harmignies, Garforth’s cavalry troop was held up by a wire fence. Despite being under heavy machine-gun fire Garforth volunteered to cut the wire which allowed his squadron to escape. Corporal Garforth was also nominated for carrying a man to safety at Dammartin during the retreat from Mons.

On 3rd September under Maxim fire, Garforth “extricated a Sergeant whose horse had been shot and by opening fire for three minutes enabled the Sergeant to get away safely.”

Garforth was captured by the Germans on 13 October 1914 and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner, although he did make several escape attempts. Each time he was recaptured at the Dutch border. He was repatriated to England in November 1918 and was invested with the Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace the following month.

Originally from Willesden Green, Charles Garforth died age 81 years in July 1973 at Beeston, Nottinghamshire.

Captain Theodore Wright

Captain Wright of the 57th Field Company of Royal Engineers was awarded the Victoria Cross for two acts of gallantry.

On the 23 August, Wright was tasked with supervising the destruction of eight of the bridges over the Mons-Conde canal. At Jemappes under heavy fire Captain Wright managed to reach the bridge where Lance-Corporal Jarvis was setting charges. He succeeded in helping Jarvis connect up the leads and demolish the bridge. Despite having received a shrapnel wound to the head Captain Wright continued to try and set charges and destroy the bridges.

At Vailly on the 14 September 1914 Captain Wright “assisted the passage of the 5th Cavalry Brigade over the pontoon bridge and was mortally wounded whilst assisting wounded men into shelter.” An officer of the Scots Greys later wrote that “no man earned a better Victoria Cross”.

Captain Theodore Wright was born in Brighton in May 1883. He was killed in action at the age of 31 years and is buried in Vailly British Cemetery, France.