Richard Valentine Williams
Geoffrey Cather VC (1890 - 1916):
Lieutenant Cather was the fourth soldier of the Ulster Division to earn the Victoria Cross on 1 July 1916, the worst day for casualties in the history of the British Army, not least for the Ulster troops with their central role in the Battle of the Somme.
Geoffrey St George Shillington Cather, though born in London, was of a well-known and distinguished Ulster family through his mother, from Portadown, County Armagh; the Shillington family, prominent in that town, is commemorated by the Shillington Bridge. Cather enlisted early in the war, in 1914, in the 19th Royal Fusiliers, and was subsequently commissioned in the Royal Irish Fusiliers. On 1 July 1916, the British attack on German positions at Beaumont Hamel, a village fortified by the Germans, was little short of disastrous and there were many casualties, wounded soldiers lying in No Man’s Land unable to move themselves. Cather was one of those who, after the day’s assault moves had ceased, sought to recover their wounded comrades.
His VC citation read:
“For most conspicuous bravery. From 7 p.m. till midnight he searched 'No Man's Land', and brought in three wounded men. Next morning at 8 a.m. he continued his search, brought in another wounded man, and gave water to others, arranging for their rescue later. Finally, at 10.30 a.m., he took out water to another man, and was proceeding further on when he was himself killed. All this was carried out in full view of the enemy, and under direct machine gun fire and intermittent artillery fire. He set a splendid example of courage and self sacrifice.”
The award of his VC was gazetted (published in the London Gazette) on 9 September 1916 and the medal itself was presented to his Cather’s parents by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 31 March 1917.
|Born:||11 October 1890|
|Died:||1 July 1916|
Richard Doherty & David Truesdale: Irish Winners of the Victoria Cross (Dublin, 2000); John Keegan: The First World War (London, 1998); David Stevenson: 1914-1918: The History of the First World War (Penguin Books, 2004); www.craigavonhistoricalsociety.org.uk
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