Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC & Bar, MC

1/10th (Scottish) Battalion the King's (Liverpool Regiment)

Noel Chavasse

Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC & Bar, MC. (Liverpool Museum)

Born: 9th November 1884 at Oxford.

Died: 4th August 1917 at Brandhoek, Belgium.

Buried: Brandhoek New Military Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.

Education: Liverpool College, Liverpool; Magdalen College, Oxford; Trinity College, Oxford; and Magdalen College School, Oxford.

Sibling: Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Chavasse MC, Chaplain to the Forces.

A keen sportsman, Noel Chavasse ran for Oxford v Cambridge in the 100 yards and 440 yards in 1907 and 1908. In 1907 he dead-heated in the 100 yards with the Cambridge first string Kenneth Macleod. He also played lacrosse against Cambridge in 1905 and 1906. In the 1908 London Olympics Noel and his twin brother Christopher both competed in the 400 metres where they eliminated in the heats.

On 2nd June 19131 Noel Chavasse was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps [RAMC] as a Lieutenant and attached to the 10th Battalion, the King's (Liverpool Regiment). On the outbreak of the First World War he reported for duty and moved to Scotland with the Battalion for training as part of the West Lancashire Division. When those members of the Battalion unable to volunteer for overseas service were split from those who volunteered for overseas service he became one of the medical officers of the 1/10th Battalion (Liverpool Scottish).

The Liverpool Scottish was the seventh Territorial battalion to be dispatched to the Western Front and they sailed from Southampton on the SS Maiden on 1st November 1914. After completing its disembarkation at Le Havre on the morning of the 3rd the Battalion was assigned to the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division and moved into trenches in the vicinity of Kemmel, five miles south of Ypres. It was here that the 1/10th suffered its first fatality on 29th November 1914 when Captain Arthur Twentyman was killed while attempting to return to British lines.

The Battle of Bellewaarde was first major engagement in which the Liverpool Scottish took part. On 16th June 1915 near Hooge, which is about 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Ypres, the 9th Brigade supported by the 7th Brigade carried out a three-phased attack aimed at seizing the enemy's trenches on the south-western edge of Bellewaarde Lake. On a battlefield approximately ½ mile square, over 1,000 men died within a 12 hour period. There were many others wounded, some of who would die later of infection or complications. It was during this battle that Captain Noel Chavasse was awarded the Military Cross.2 Later that same year, on 30th November 1915, Captain Noel Chavasse was also Mentioned in Despatches.

In January 1916 the 55th (West Lancashire) Division was reformed near Abbeville and it was with this Division that the Liverpool Scottish moved to the Somme and entered the fighting at the end of July 1916. The Liverpool Scottish took over trenches from 18th (Service) Battalion, the King's (Liverpool Regiment) on 31st July 1916 in the vicinity of Montauban. After spending six days undertaking auxiliary duties under constant artillery fire in the vicinity of Bernafay and Trônes Woods, the Liverpool Scottish moved to Mansel Copse in preparation for an assault on Guillemont.

On 9th August 1916 the Liverpool Scottish was once again in action when it attacked at Guillemont. Of the 20 officers and about 600 other ranks of the Liverpool Scottish that took part in the battle; 74 were killed, 174 more were wounded and 32 were reported missing. Throughout this attack and during the following night Captain Chavasse worked tirelessly without care for his own safety tending the wounded, burying two of his fellow officers and collecting identity discs from the fallen. For his actions on 9th August 1916 Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, MC, MB, RAMC was awarded the Victoria Cross. His citation reads:3

"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 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 shell 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 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."

After the Battle of Guillemont the Liverpool Scottish was employed in a supporting role for the battles at Ginchy and Morval. Thereafter it was transferred to the quieter Ypres Sector where it remained until taking part in its next major battle, the Third Battle of Ypres.

On 31st July 1917, the Liverpool Scottish advanced against the enemy in the vicinity of Wieltje. The 166th Brigade experienced heavy resistance, taking heavy losses in and around the fortified farms. The battalion captured some of the German trenches where they remained until relieved on 3rd August 1917. It was during this period that Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC, MC, MB, RAMC was awarded his second Victoria Cross. His citation reads:4

"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 in 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."

This very gallant officer died of his wounds in Brandhoek and is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinge grave ref: III. B. 15. His headstone carries, uniquely, a representation of two Victoria Crosses.

1. The London Gazette, Issue: 28737, Page: 5061, dated: 15th July 1913.8
2. The London Gazette, Issue: 29438, Page: 577, dated: 11th January 1916.8
3. The London Gazette, Issue: 29802, Page: 10394, dated: 24th October 1916.8
4. The London Gazette, Issue: 30284, Page: 9531, dated: 14th September 1917.8

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Last updated: 16th December 2018