Noel Chavasse

Noel Chavasse VC and Bar  Capt Noel Chavasse

Capt Noel Chavasse was the Medical Officer of the 10th (Liverpool & Scottish) Battalion, The Kings (Liverpool) Regt and the only man to win the Victoria Cross twice during the Great War.

On July 30th 1916 his battalion moved onto the Somme near Mametz held in reserve, On August 8th they assaulted Guillemont moving past Trones Wood and Arrowhead Copse onto the village under heavy artillery bombardment. Machine guns pinned down the attacking force and after four attempts the attack was abandoned. Five officers were killed, five missing and seven wounded. Sixty nine ranks were killed, twenty seven were missing and 167 missing.

Chavasse was wounded by shell splinters in his back but despite this he went with a party of volunteers into no-mans land to recover wounded men getting within metres of the German lines. All night he was under sniper fire and artillery bombardment. Two of the volunteers received DSMs and two others the Military Medal. This earned Chavasse his first VC.

The citation 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 trusted volunteers rescuing 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 ordinbary cases which passed through his hands. His courage and self sacrifice were beyond praise"

On the 31st July 1917 his unit was now in the mud of Ypres. An assault was made on the Messines Ridge and as troops moved forward Chavasse moved his aid post forward and set up in a captured German dugout at Setques Farm. Constantly under fire he was wounded in the head by a shell splinter. After receiving treatment he scoured the battlefield in the mud and the rain looking for wounded.

The following day while working on wounded in the dugout a shell landed a direct hit. Chavasse was wounded a total of five times, twice in the head and a gaping stomach wound. He was removed to Brandhoek Casualty Station where he died on August 4th.

The citation for his second VC read:

"Though severely wounded early in the action whilst carrying a wounded soldier to the dressing station 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 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 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"

He is buried at Brandhoek military cemetery.