Commemorations to honour
Captain Noel Chavasse
A Commemorative Paving Stone and a
centenary service will be held on Tuesday, 29 August 2017, as part of a series of events marking
the centenary of the death of Noel Chavasse, the only soldier to be awarded 2 Victoria Cross medals during World War
Noel Godfrey Chavasse was born in Oxford in 1884 and moved to the Bishop's
Palace, at 19 Abercomby Square, Liverpool, in 1900, when his father, the 'Right
Reverend Francis Chavasse,' took up the post of Bishop of Liverpool.
He attended Liverpool College where he excelled at sport and represented Great
Britain in the 400 metres at the Olympics in 1908, before becoming a doctor
serving as a medical officer with the British Army attached to the 1/10th
Battalion of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment, a kilted territorial battalion,
known as the Liverpool Scottish.
Despite not even being a frontline soldier, he was responsible for some of the
bravest and most unselfish acts of the entire four year conflict and became the
most decorated soldier of the war for his actions.
He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions in June 1915 at Hooge near
Ypres, where he continually went into no man's land for nearly 48 hours until he
was satisfied there were no more wounded needing treatment.
He was 1st awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in August 1916 at Guillemont in France on the Somme when he attended to the wounded all day under
heavy fire. He carried a critically injured man 500 yards to safety under heavy
shellfire and rescued 3 wounded men from a shell hole just 25 yards from
enemy trenches. It is estimated he saved the lives of some 20 seriously injured
men as well as treating countless others.
His 2nd Victoria Cross was awarded for his action in July and August 1917 in Wieltje, Belgium, when, despite being severely wounded in his skull, he refused
to leave his post and for two days not only continued to perform his duties, but
went out repeatedly under heavy fire to search for and attend to the wounded who
were lying out. He was instrumental in rescuing many who would otherwise have
undoubtedly succumbed under the bad weather conditions. On 2 August 2017, he was
finally taking a rest at his 1st aid post when it was struck by a shell, but
despite this he crawled for half a mile to get help for the others. He died on 4
August 2017, but not before dictating a letter to his fiancée Gladys in which he
explained he carried on working because:- "duty called and called me to
The citation for his Bar in the London Gazette reads:- "For most
conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in action (Wieltje,
Flanders).Though severely wounded early in the action whilst carrying a wounded
soldier to the Dressing Station, Captain 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."
To mark the 100 years since his death, a Commemorative Paving Stone is being
unveiled at Abercromby Square Gardens, on Tuesday, 29 August 2017, at 11am, attended by
his family, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, military
representatives from the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Duke of Lancashire
Regiment, the Liverpool Scottish Association and civic dignitaries.
It will be followed by a re-creation of his Memorial Service at Liverpool Parish
Church in the City Centre at 2pm, exactly 100 years since it originally took
place, which will include the original hymns he had chosen. His sword will also
be on display, the 1st time it has been seen in public for many years.
To bring the day's commemorations to a close, 208 (Liverpool) Field Hospital
will hold a Last Light Vigil, at 9pm, back in Abercromby Square Gardens.
Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Malcolm Kennedy, said:-
"Noel Chavasse was a courageous medical doctor whose selfless actions saved many
lives. He was completely devoted to his duty and in his own words as he lay
dying, he wrote:- 'Duty called and called me to obey.' Noel had been set
for a brilliant career in medicine; but instead he became 1 of the most
extraordinary soldiers Britain has ever seen, winning the Victoria Cross twice.
Liverpool is incredibly proud of him and this is why the City is honouring him
with this fitting ceremony. I am personally privileged to be able to attend and
unveil this stone in his honour. It will be a permanent reminder of the
incredible contribution that he made to the war effort and his role in making
sure that more soldiers weren't lost."
Thomas Aidan Chavasse; nephew to Noel Chavasse, Son of Bernard Chavasse (Noel's
brother), and oldest surviving relative of Noel said:- "On this centennial
anniversary, the Chavasse family are grateful to the City of Liverpool for
commemorating the courage and sacrifice of Noel Chavasse, and indeed all the
citizens of Liverpool who died in the Great War. Noel's life was
characterized by duty, service, and above all a deep sense of compassion and
care for both the citizens of Liverpool, and for his brothers in arms in the
Liverpool Scottish Regiment. This August, we both mourn and celebrate his
extraordinary life and death, and in particular his supreme acts of bravery and
courage in saving so many lives on the battlefield."
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend Paul Bayes, said:- "My
predecessor, Bishop Francis Chavasse, was devastated at the loss of his son, but
also knew the tremendous example that Noel had set for others.
Noel's heroism was in his care for others at the front, and his distinguished
service in the Medical Corps. After his first VC, Bishop Chavasse told his son,
'You have been known so far as the son of the Bishop of Liverpool:- I shall be
known henceforth as the father of Captain Chavasse.'
I am proud to honour Noel's memory exactly 100 years after the 1st memorial
service at Liverpool Parish Church using hymns which Noel himself had chosen.
Bishop Chavasse wrote that it was a service of praise, and we continue today to
give thanks and praise for the life of Noel Chavasse. We also remember with
pride and thanksgiving those who, like him, choose to serve and to risk their
lives in our Armed Forces today."
Separately, The King's Regiment are to hold a service at 1pm, on 4 August 2017, the
day he died, at the Liverpool Heroes Memorial in Abercomby Square.
The medals of Captain Noel Chavasse are on display at the Museum of Liverpool,
from 31 July 2017 to 5 January 2018, the 1st time this important medal group,
on loan from Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC, has gone on public display in Liverpool.
Also on display at the Museum of Liverpool, until 1 September 2017, are stained glass
windows, commissioned by the Chavasse family in memory of 'those who died' and
'those who gave their life' during World War 1.