A commemorative stone has been unveiled in memory of a Liverpool man who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions at the Battle of the Somme.
Gabriel Coury earned his honour, in action on 8 August 1916, near Arrow Head Copse when he was a second lieutenant in command of a half-company of pioneers attached to the 1/4th Battalion Kings Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment.
The 55th Division was ordered to attack the German-held village of Guillemont and during the action Lt Coury went out into the battlefield to rescue his wounded commanding officer and brought him back to the trenches despite being under heavy machine-gun fire.
His citation read “For most conspicuous braveryâ¦. By his fine example and utter contempt of danger he kept up the spirits of his men and completed his task under intense fire. ..he went out in front of the advanced position in broad daylight and in full view of the enemy found his Commanding Officer, and brought him back to the new advanced trench over ground swept by machine-gun fire. He not only carried out his original tasks and saved his Commanding Officer, but also assisted in rallying the attacking troops when they were shaken and in leading them forward.”
In a contemporary newspaper report one of his corporals described him as “the bravest officer I served under.”
On Monday 8 August, a Commemorative Paving Stone was unveiled in his honour at Sefton Park Palm House – a century to the day since he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Lancashire Infantry Museum brought Gabriel Coury’s VC medal to the ceremony.
The memorial stones are a national scheme run by the Department for Communities and Local Government which will see every World War One Victoria Cross recipient remembered.
The ceremony was attended by members of Gabriel Coury’s family,including his daughter Rita Shepherd, aged 92, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Roz Gladden, and military representatives.
Councillor Gladden said: “Gabriel Coury was a brave and fearless soldier and it is important that his contribution to World War 1 is remembered. ”
“The memorial stone will be a permanent reminder of the incredible contribution that he made to the war effort.”
This is the second memorial stone to be installed in Liverpool after Ernest Alexander VC was honoured in this way in 2014.A further six stones will be installed by 2018.
The Lord Mayor unveils the memorial stone
Gabriel Coury’s family look at memorial plaque
The Lord Mayor addresses the ceremony
Gabriel Coury’s VC
Gabriel Coury’s daughter Rita Shepherd and her niece Stephanie Noble
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Gabriel Coury biography
Gabriel was born on 13 June 1896 at 16 Croxteth Grove, Liverpool. The Coury family were cotton brokers and Coury & Co had an office based in the Albany Buildings in Old Hall Street (Cotton Exchange).He attended St. Francis Xavier’s School and from there he went to Hodder, a preparatory school of Stonyhurst College and then on to the College.
He joined the army as a private in the 6th (Service Battalion) Kings Liverpool Regiment at the start of World War 1. In April 1915 he was identified as having “officer” qualities and made a 2nd Lieutenant in The South Lancs Fusiliers (Prince of Wales Volunteers), and in the August was transferred to 4th (Territorial) Battalion of the South Lancs Fusiliers.
He was awarded his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace in November 1916 and was given a civic reception in Liverpool. He was also given the Freedom of the Cotton Exchange.
His actions at Arrow Head Copse also resulted him being made a full lieutenant and shortly afterwards transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He returned to operational flying over the Western Front in March 1917 and, after two serious crashes ended the war in the administration branch of the RAF.
He continued to work in the cotton industry until the outbreak of World War II, during which he served with an anti-aircraft unit. He ended the war with the rank of Major.
With the collapse of the cotton industry he opened a fish and chip shop in Brunswick Street but returned to the Cotton Exchange in 1954. He died on 23 February 1956 and was buried with full military honours at St Peter and Paul’s Church Crosby.