Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Remembering a Veteran:
Captain Noel Chavasse, V.C. and Bar
Medical Corps, Liverpool Scottish

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Captain Chavasse, Victoria Cross, His Grave

Noel Chavasse was one of identical twins, his brother being called Christopher. They were born on 9 November 1884 in Oxford. They moved with their family a few years later, when their father was made Anglican bishop of Liverpool. The twins were both very good at sports — so good that when they were at university they represented Great Britain in the 400 meters at the 1908 Olympic Games.

Noel trained to become a doctor and when war broke out in 1914 served with the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the Liverpool Scottish Regiment. Very soon he was sent to France.

Noel's first Victoria Cross was for action on the Somme in 1916. His regiment was in action at a place called Guillemont. Many were killed or wounded. Here is an account of the actions that earned him a Victoria Cross:

He tended the wounded in the open all day, under heavy fire, often in view of the enemy. The next night he searched for wounded in front of the enemy's lines for four hours. Next day, with a stretcher-bearer, he carried an urgent case for 500 yards, under heavy fire, into safety and was wounded in the side by a shell splinter. The same night he 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, as well as taking care of his other patients.

His second Victoria Cross was earned in 1917. The regiment was fighting at Passchendaele, in the mud and the constant driving rain that made conditions horrendous beyond belief.

Though severely wounded himself whilst rescuing an injured soldier, he 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 left on the battlefield. During these searches, although practically without food during this period, exhausted and in severe pain, he helped to carry badly wounded men over heavy and difficult ground. By his extraordinary energy and inspiring example he rescued many wounded who would have otherwise undoubtedly died in the bad weather conditions.

A short time later he died from his own wounds. His second Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously. Noel Chavasse is buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Brandhoek New Military Cemetery. His headstone shows his two Victoria Crosses and the inscription chosen by his father:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends

Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission


  1. His twin brother Christopher served as an Army Chaplain and was awarded the Military Cross.

  2. Only three men have won two VC's. Chavasse was the only one to win two in WW1.

  3. May God bless him and his story put to the forefront of any teaching of military history, he is a true son of Liverpool and should be celebrated and remembered, maybe our local polititians should be reminded of his efforts before putting thier own interests first.

  4. I had the fortune of visiting the grave of Capt Chavasse VC on a visit to the Battlefields. I wanted to know more about this brave man and read Ann Clayton Book Chavasse Double VC . I recommended it.

  5. His twin brother, Christopher Maude Chavasse OBE (Mil), M.C, was Bishop of Rochester during the second world war (he served as bishop 1940-1960) as their father, Francis, was Bishop of Liverpool during the first world war (he served as bishop 1900-1923).
    Another brother was awarded the MC; another brother was lost on the battlefield and commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres. Bishop Christopher's son named Noel after his uncle was awarded the MC in the second world war.