View Full Version : U.K. Noel Chavasse, Victoria Cross x2 WW1

08-01-2009, 03:07 PM
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration which is, or has been, awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and civilians under military command. It is usually presented to the recipient, or their next of kin, by the British monarch during an investiture held at Buckingham Palace, or by the Governor-General for awards made by other Commonwealth countries. It is the joint highest award for bravery in the United Kingdom with the George Cross, which is the equivalent honour for valour not in the face of the enemy.[2] However, the VC is higher in the order of wear and would be worn first by an individual who had been awarded both decorations (which has not so far occurred).[

On 9 August 1916, at Guillemont, France, during an attack, Captain Chavasse attended to the wounded all day, under heavy fire, frequently in the view of the enemy, and during the night he searched for wounded in front of the enemy's lines. Next day he took a stretcher-bearer and under heavy shell fire carried an urgent case 500 yards into safety, being wounded himself on the return journey. The same night, with 20 volunteers, he rescued 3 wounded men from a shell-hole 36 yards from the enemy's trenches, buried the bodies of 2 officers and collected many identity discs. Altogether he saved the lives of some 20 wounded men, besides the ordinary cases which passed through his hands. This award was published in the London Gazette on 26 October 1916.

During the period 31 July to 2 August 1917, at Wieltje, Belgium, Captain Chavasse, although severely wounded early in the action while carrying a wounded officer to the dressing station, refused to leave his post and not only continued to perform his duties, but in addition went out repeatedly under heavy fire and searched for and attended the wounded. During these searches, although practically without food, worn with fatigue and faint from his wound, he helped to carry in badly wounded men. He was instrumental in saving many wounded who would have undoubtedly died under the bad weather conditions. Captain Chavasse subsequently died of his wounds on 4 August 1917, near the town of Ypres. The bar to his second VC was published in the London Gazette on 14 September 1917.

08-01-2009, 03:08 PM
On 30th July 1916, The battalion was moved into the Somme battlefield near Mametz. The plan was for the battalion to be in reserve for an attack on Guillemont on 31st, but they were never used. The next week for the men was spent digging communication trenches. On 7th August, the battalion received orders to take part in an assault on Guillemont at 4:20am on the 8th. The battalion was part of 166th brigade and was again in reserve. The attack by 164th and 165th brigades was successful on the right but in the middle and left, it was held up. The Liverpool Irish in 164th Brigade appeared to be cut off near the railway station. The 166th were ordered to attack at 4:20am the following morning. The preparation for the attack didn't go well. The guides failed to turn up, and while waiting for fresh guides, they were caught in German shelling which caused casualties. Eventually the guides arrived but they only had the vaguest idea of the route. The battalion reached the jumping off trenches with only minutes to spare.

The attack was to be made past Trones Wood and Arrowhead Copse to capture the German front line trench and on into Guillemont. The attack started under a German bombardment of the trenches and no-mans-land. Heavy machine gun fire swept Death Valley and pinned down the attackers. In all four attempts were made by the battalion but all without success. The failed attack cost the Liverpool Scottish dear, out of a starting complement of twenty officers and about 600 men, five officers were killed, five were missing and seven wounded. Of the men, sixty nine were killed, twenty seven missing and 167 wounded. This attack was made over the same ground that 30th Division which incorporated 89th Brigade attacked on 30th July, 1916 with enormous casualties. 89th Brigade was manned with three Battalions of the Liverpool Pals. The Scottish must have known the men who lay so thickly on the ground over the ground they were attacking. What this did to their morale does not need any explaining.

During the action, Noel was wounded by two small shell splinters in his back, despite this, he performed the deeds that were to gain him his first VC. The evening of the attack saw Noel and a party of volunteers in no-mans-land helping bring in wounded men. He got as close 25 yards (23 metres) to the German front line where he found three men. This went on all night and throughout all this, a constant rain of snipers bullets and occasional bombing swept no-mans-land.

The battalion went back to a rest area at Valines west of Abbeville, Noel was granted sick leave to recover from his wound. He rejoined his battalion on 7th September near Delville Wood. Back in the thick of the fighting, he was again out rescuing men and treating those brought in to his Casualty Clearing Station. In early October Bishop Chavasse received a letter from Lord Derby which despite being "absolutely forbidden by War Office Rules" he informed the Bishop that "one of your sons in the RAMC attached to the Liverpool Territorials" had been forwarded to him and he "had the honour of forwarding his name to His Majesty for the bestowal of this magnificent Order (the V.C.) and I cannot tell you how pleased I was to do so". The Bishop wrote immediately to Noel who replied (with some scepticism) ".. till I see it in print I will not believe". He told no one else in the battalion.

The battalion moved from the Somme back to the Ypres Salient in the Weiltje sector, it was even more battered and grim than he remembered it. By this time, news started to reach the battalion of awards following the action at Guillemont. Two of Noel's stretcher bearers had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and two more the Military Medal then on 26th October, 1916 the London Gazette announced that Noel Godfrey Chavasse MC, RAMC had indeed been awarded the Victoria Cross. The Scottish received the news on 28th October and a celebration ensued, the officers held a dinner for Noel in a chateau at Elverdinghe. The citation in the London Gazette read:

During an attack he tended the wounded in the open all day, under heavy fire, frequently in view of the enemy. During the ensuing 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 fire, carried an urgent case for 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 trusty 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.

The reaction in Liverpool was ecstatic, the Bishop was feted and Noel was even included in a cigarette card series 'Victoria Cross Heroes' by Gallaghers. Noel was inundated by letters from all sorts of people and true to his character, he found time to reply to them all. Even Noel's sister May, a VAD at a hospital at Etaples found herself very much in demand.

Noel was transfered further back to a small hospital because he had got himself in trouble by criticising two spheres of the RAMC. His letters concerning the Field Ambulance and the treatment of venereal disease amongst the troops aroused a lot of ill feeling, even up to his Major General, but Noel insisted that what he had written was the truth and he refused to back down. Eventually the furore died down and by Christmas 1916, Noel was back with his beloved Scottish.

In February, 1917 Noel was granted 14 days leave, he went on 5th February to Buckingham Palace where he was one of seven men being invested. It is perhaps a sign of the times to note that he was only accompanied by four female relatives, all the male members of the family were in France. The medal was brought back to Liverpool by his cousin Marjorie for safe keeping in the Bishop's Palace. It was during this leave, he became engaged to his longtime sweetheart Gladys.

Noel returned to the Scottish and immediately found himself having to treat a condition, peculiar to kilted battalions in icy weather, frostbitten knees. The next few months were relatively quiet. On 9th April, Noel learned that his sister May, had been mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's despatches for her services at Etaples. Noel was delighted. On 20th June, The Scottish moved to Zudausques, a village west of St Omer where they had a long stay training for the forthcoming offensive. The youngest Chavasse brother Aidan was transfered to the 17th Kings, a "Pals" battalion where another brother Bernard was Medical Officer.

The Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele)

On 7th June, 1917, 19 mines were exploded under the German front line on the Messines ridge. This Battle of Messines was a necessary prelude to the offensive that was to become the Third Battle of Ypres as it cleared the southern edge of the salient. None of the family were involved although they undoubtly would have heard the explosions, however, the Chavasse family luck was now fast running out.

On the 1st July, at Observatory Ridge, about 5 miles from Ypres and a mile from Hooge, the 17th Kings were in the front line. Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse and 8 men were out on a raiding party when they met a German patrol, in the fighting Aidan was wounded. When the party returned, Aidan was missing. Bernard and some others went out to try and bring him back but he was never found. Aidan's name is among 55000 other names of men missing in the Ypres Salient on the Menin Gate at Ieper. Noel's twin Christopher in the mean time was awarded a MC, the Bishop wrote on 24th July to Noel to tell him the news, but Noel never received it and it is probable that he never knew of Christopher's achievement.

The offensive was scheduled to start on 25th July but due to several factors, it was delayed until 31st July. On 20th July, The Scottish moved away from their training camp and back to the familiar ground at Weiltje. The preliminary bombardment for the offensive had already started and the Germans replied by shelling the roads and communication trenches which caused 9 deaths in the battalion as they moved up to the front line. Mustard Gas and high explosive shelling caused a further 145 casualties in the next few days. On the 24th July, the battalion were relieved and they moved back to make good their losses. On the 29th July, they battalion moved forward to its assembly positions, ominously, the fine weather now broke and the rain, which was to turn the battlefield into the infamous quagmire, started. Noel, moved into the dugout at Weiltje. This was no simple scrape but an excavation large enough to hold several hundred men and deep enough to be safe from artillery. It even had its own generator to supply power for lighting and more importantly, water pumps.

The attack started at 3:50 am on 31st July. The Scottish were by this time already in open ground and made good progress towards their first objective and they pushed on towards the Steenbeek, a stream that crossed their route. As they crossed it, they were held up by uncut wire in front of them and by heavy machine gun fire from Capricorn Trench. One of the two tanks detailed to aid in the assault came up at 7am and despite being put out of action very quickly by three direct hits from a German field gun, it managed to break through the wire and by 7:45am all the battalion's objectives had been taken. Noel had moved his aid post forward with the attack and set it up in a captured German dug out at Setques Farm. The area was subjected to intensive German fire but he stayed put. The dugout was small and it served only as a patching up station before the wounded were sent further back Noel had been injured in the head by a shell splinter as he stood up and waved to indicate the position of his aid post. It is possible he suffered a fractured skull in this incident. After being dressed at the Weiltje dug out, Noel returned, despite advice to stay put, to his aid post. His stretcher bearers had been busy and Noel was very busy until sundown. As night fell Noel picked up his torch and went searching the wrecked landscape for survivors, it was raining again by this time.

Early the following day, Noel found himself a German captive who was a medic and the two of them worked hard to treat wounded men in the impossible conditions of mud, blood and water. Noel went to the door of the dugout to call in the next man when a shell flew past him and down the stairs, killing the man who was waiting to be carried away by the Field Ambulance. Details get very confused at this point, Noel may have received another wound but he carried on. The official history of the Liverpool Scottish has it that Noel was wounded twice more in the head. One stretcher bearer had been sent to the aid post to tell Noel to return. Despite intense pain, "The Doc refused to go and told us to take another man instead". There is no doubt that at about 3am in the morning of Thursday 2nd August, 1917, another shell entered the aid post, Noel was sitting in a chair trying to get some sleep. Everyone in the aid post was either killed or seriously wounded. Noel had received four or five wounds, the worst being a gaping abdominal wound from which he bled profusely. He managed to crawl up the stairs and out of the dug out and crawled along the (flooded, muddy) "road" until he stumbled across a dugout occupied by Lt. Charles Wray of the Loyal North Lancs Regiment who sent for help and later sent an account to his local paper.

Noel was sent to Casualty Clearing Station No. 32 at Brandhoek, which specialised in abdominal wounds. He was operated on immediately and after all the shell splinters had been removed he was patched up. He regained consciousness and he spoke to a Colonel Davidson who reported "He seems very weak but spoke cheerfully". It was not to be a happy ending however as Noel died peacefully at 1pm on Saturday 4th August, 1917. Three years to the day since the outbreak of the war. Bishop and Mrs Chavasse received the telegram informing them of the sad news on the morning of 9th August, the day after they had been informed that Bernard had been wounded in his knee

08-03-2009, 03:12 AM
Goddamn this man was truely a hero worthy of saint hood. god rest his soul.