Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, VC and Bar, MC, Royal Army Medical Corps, attached 1/10th Battalion The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) was the only man to win two Victoria Crosses in the Great War.
Noel Chavasse was the son of The Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Liverpool and his wife Edith.
Noel was born on 9 November 1884 at Oxford, the younger of identical twin brothers.
Noel was educated at Magdalene College School. He moved with the family to Liverpool when his father became Bishop of Liverpool.
Noel and his twin Christopher went to Liverpool College and then Trinity College Oxford. Noel qualified as a doctor in 1912 and became House Surgeon at the Royal Southern Hospital in Liverpool. He also joined the territorial force – The 10th Battalion The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment (Liverpool Scottish).
On 2nd August 1914 he went on the annual camp with his battalion and on the outbreak of war he volunteered for active service as a Doctor . The Territorial Force was essentially a home service force and the men had to volunteer for overseas service.
His Twin Christopher was also accepted into the Army Chaplain’s Department.
The Liverpool Scottish embarked for France on 1st November 1914.
Noel was awarded his first Victoria Cross for tending wounded whilst under fire on 9/10th August 1916 at Guillemont on the Somme. He saved the lives of at least 20 men during these two days.
His award was Gazetted on 26th October 1916.
Noel was awarded a bar to his Victoria Cross for his actions on 2nd August 1917 near Wieltje.
He was brought Mortally wounded to CCS (Casualty Clearing Station) No 32. He was operated on here but died from his wounds on 4th August 1917.
His second award was Gazetted on 14th September 1917.
Extracts from ‘The London Gazette’ dated 26th October 1916 and 14th September 1917.
26th October 1916 – ‘For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. During an attack he tended the wounded in the open all day, under heavy fire, frequently in view of the enemy. During the ensuring night he searched for wounded on the ground in front of the enemy’s lines for four hours. Next day he took one stretcher-bearer to the advanced trenches, and under heavy shell fire carried an urgent case 500 yards into safety, being wounded in the side by a shell splinter during the journey. The same night he took up a party of twenty volunteers, rescued three wounded men from a shell hole twenty-five yards from the enemy’s trench, buried the bodies of two officers, and collected many identity discs, although fired on by bombs and machine guns. Altogether he saved the lives of some twenty badly wounded men, besides the ordinary cases which passed through his hands. His courage and self-sacrifice were beyond praise.’
14th September 1917 – ‘For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty, when in action. Though severely wounded early in the action whilst carrying a wounded soldier to the Dressing Station, Capt. Chavasse refused to leave his post, and for two days not only continued to perform his duties, but in addition went out repeatedly under heavy fire to search for and attend to the wounded who were lying out. During these searches, although practically without food during this period, worn with fatigue and faint with his wound, he assisted to carry a number of badly wounded men, over heavy and difficult ground. By his extraordinary energy and inspiring example, he was instrumental in rescuing many wounded who would have otherwise undoubtedly succumbed under the bad weather conditions. This devoted and gallant officer, subsequently died of his wounds’
So Noel Chavasse died, aged 32 years. ‘No Greater Love’
Brandhoek New Military CWGC Cemetery –
Noel is buried in grave III. B. 15. The grave is close to the Great Cross. Close by is the grave of Private C.A. Rudd who was Noel’s servant and died on 10 August 1917.
Noel’s medals are held at the Imperial War Museum. Interestingly on 1st August 1917 another RAMC man won a Victoria Cross – Capt. H Ackroyd, VC, RAMC. He was also killed ten days later on 11th August 1917. His special memorial (No.6) is in Birr Cross Roads Cemetery. His medals are held at the RAMC museum.