A commemorative paving stone is to be unveiled in memory of Cyril Gourley who was awarded the Victoria Cross during World War One whilst serving with the 276th West Lancashire Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.
He was born on 19th January 1893 at 6 Victoria Park in Wavertree before moving with his family to West Kirby in 1899 when he was six years old.
Cyril was educated at Calday Grange Grammar School and graduated from Liverpool University in 1913 with a degree in Commercial Science. He then went on to work for the Alfred Holt Shipping Line, who owned the Ocean Steamship Company, known throughout the world as the Blue Funnel Line, before joining the Territorial Army in 1914.
Sgt Cyril Gourley had previously been awarded the Military Medal in September 1917 for conspicuous gallantry in putting out a fire near an ammunition dump, however the action for which he received the Victoria Cross was on 30th November 1917 at Little Priel Farm, east of Epehy, France, during the Battle of Cambrai.
Cyril was only 24 years old, and a Sergeant in the ‘D’ Battery of the 276th West Lancashire Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, and was in command of a section of howitzers during an enemy advance.
When the award of his Victoria Cross was announced in the London Gazette on 13th February 1918, the citation read:
For most conspicuous bravery when in command of a section of howitzers.
Though the enemy advanced in force, getting within 400 yards in front, between 300 and 400 yards to one flank and with snipers in rear, Sgt. Gourley managed to keep one gun in action practically throughout the day.
‘Though frequently driven off he always returned, carrying ammunition, laying and firing the gun himself, taking first one and then another of the detachment to assist him.
When the enemy advanced he pulled his gun out of the pit and engaged a machine gun at 500 yards, knocking it out with a direct hit.
All day he held the enemy in check, firing with open sights on enemy parties in full view at 300 to 800 yards, and thereby saved his guns, which were withdrawn at nightfall. He had previously been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry
(London Gazette, No. 68/886).
On 5th January 1918, Cyril Gourley was given a commission as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery and he remained with the 55th Division until its disbandment in 1919. He was then appointed as a Captain in 1919, and proceeded home for demobilization with 276th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, in June 1919.
Post-war, Cyril worked for Lever Brothers, travelling widely to open up new business for the company and in 1925, he moved to Hill Close, School Lane, West Kirby. His house was later renamed Gourley Grange and the Lane was also renamed Gourley’s Lane in his honour. During the Second World War, Gourley was a Firewatcher in Liverpool and then in 1952 he moved to Haslemere, Surrey. He never married and died on 31st January 1982 in Haslemere and was buried in Grange Cemetery, West Kirby.
The Cyril Edward Gourley VC Scholarship is awarded in his honour by Liverpool University to undergraduates from Calday Grange Grammar School, West Kirby Grammar School or the Hoylake and West Kirby area. His VC medal is held at the Royal Artillery Regiment Museum.
The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In 2014, the UK government launched a campaign to recognise the First World War centenary commemorations and honour those men awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) during the First World War.
On Thursday 30th November 2017, a commemorative paving stone will be unveiled in his honour at Liverpool Parish Church, following the earlier unveiling of a plaque at his graveside at Grange Cemetery in West Kirby.
In attendance will be the Rector of Liverpool, Liverpool’s Lord Mayor, army reservists serving with Liverpool-based 208 (3rd West Lancashire) Battery, 103rd (Lancashire Artillery Volunteers) Regiment Royal Artillery, the unit directly descended from the unit with whom Sgt Gourley served. Both events will also be attended by Sgt Gourley’s nephew, Colin Gourley, who has travelled from Australia, and staff from Calday Grange Grammar School Combined Cadet Force.
The Lord Mayor, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, said: “Cyril Gourley was a courageous soldier whose selfless actions saved many lives. He was completely devoted to his duty and Liverpool is incredibly proud of him and this is why the City is honouring him with this fitting ceremony. I am personally privileged to be able to unveil this stone in his honour.”
“The stone will be a permanent reminder of the incredible contribution that he made to the war effort and his role in making sure that more soldiers weren’t lost.
“Exactly 100 years ago, Cyril fought for the freedom and peace that we all enjoy today. Therefore, we should reflect and give thanks to Cyril and others who gave so much for their country and our liberty.”
Both events will also be attended by Sgt Gourley’s nephew, Colin Gourley, who has travelled from Australia, representatives of Wirral and Liverpool councils and cadets and staff from Calday Grange Grammar School Combined Cadet Force.
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Edwards RA, Commanding Officer 103rd (Lancashire Artillery Volunteers) Regiment Royal Artillery, said: “Along with Wirral and Liverpool Councils, who have enabled this commemoration, the Regiment is honoured to mark this act of valour and recognise all those who have served and still serve in the British Army. We are even more proud to do so with Sgt Gourley’s nephew, Mr Colin Gourley.”