Battle of the Somme alumnus honoured in Liverpool

The memorial to Gabriel Coury is unveiled in Sefton Park, Liverpool. Credit: Christian Smith
The memorial to Gabriel Coury is unveiled in Sefton Park, Liverpool. Credit: Christian Smith

A First World War Jesuit alumnus has been honoured in Liverpool, 100 years after being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Gabriel Coury was born on 13 June 1896 in Liverpool to an Armenian father and French mother. He was taught by the Jesuits at St Francis Xavier’s College in Liverpool and subsequently at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire (1907 to 1913). On leaving Stonyhurst, he worked as an apprentice in a cotton brokerage and when the war broke out in 1914, he volunteered to join Kitchener's New Army.

Coury served as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, The South Lancashire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's Volunteers) in France. He was promoted to a full lieutenant after being awarded a VC “for most conspicuous bravery” on 8 August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme near Arrow Head Copse, France. His deeds are cited as follows:

During an advance he was in command of two platoons ordered to dig a communication trench from the firing line to the position won. By his fine example and utter contempt of danger he kept up the spirits of his men and completed his task under intense fire. Later, after his battalion had suffered severe casualties and the Commanding Officer had been wounded, 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.

‘A brave and fearless soldier’Stonyhurst alumnus Gabriel Coury VC

Three months after receiving the VC, Lieutenant Coury was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps as a flying officer, transferring to the Royal Air Force when it was established in April 1918. By the time the First World War ended, he had achieved the rank of captain and returned to his old firm as a cotton broker. However, on the outbreak of the Second World War, Coury joined the Royal Army Service Corps and participated in the Normandy Landings.

The Victoria Cross awarded to Gabriel Coury is on display at the Queen's Lancashire Regiment Museum at Fulwood Barracks in Preston, Lancashire. He is honoured in a memorial at his former school, St Francis Xavier College, Liverpool, currently sited on Beaconsfield Road, Liverpool. This week, a memorial to him was unveiled at Sefton Park in Liverpool.  

Gabriel Coury died in 1956 and was buried with full military honours at St Peter and Paul's Church in Crosby. Unveiling the memorial in Sefton Park, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Roz Gladden, said: "Gabriel Coury was a brave and fearless soldier and it is important that his contribution to World War One is remembered."

The memorial stone is part of a government scheme that will see every Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War remembered.