In my blog on Monday, marking the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, I mentioned that Noel Chavasse had received a second Victoria Cross award, for his actions in the first days of the Battle.
Noel Chavasse is a well known local War hero and I often find myself saying that he was awarded for bravery, but don’t always have the opportunity to give the actual details of what he did:
Noel was an experienced Medical Officer, having been with the Liverpool Scottish Battalion from their initial arrival at the Western Front in November 1914. His first Gallantry Award was a Military Cross, for actions at Hooge in 1915. Long after the rest of his battalion had been relieved, he and his stretcher-bearers had stayed in the Front line to make sure that all of their wounded had been treated and brought in from no-mans-land. He reasoned that the closer his team was to the fighting, the sooner they could help those in need.
In the summer of 1916, he again moved forward with the Liverpool Scottish as they went into battle, this time at Guillemont, on the Somme. Although wounded himself, he and his team again worked tirelessly to treat and retrieve as many wounded as possible. He also collected the ID tags of those who had died, to notify families of their fate. For these actions at Guillemont he was awarded his first Victoria Cross, which he collected from King George V, in February 1917, at Buckingham Palace.
Five months later, on 31 July, he was again in the midst of the battle, this time at the Third Battle of Ypres. The Liverpool Scottish occupied trenches close to the town of Wieltje. Their objective was to push east into the enemy trenches that formed a salient around the town of Ypres. They made good progress and by the afternoon, had captured and consolidated the German Front line. Noel set up his aid post in a captured German dug-out.
On the first day of the battle he’d suffered a head wound, but opted to remain at his post. It is thought that he was wounded again on the second day. On 2 August, after more than 48 hours of continuous work with little chance to rest, Noel was in the dug-out, when it took a direct hit from an enemy shell. All of the men inside were either killed or badly wounded. Noel had several wounds. He was bleeding heavily from his stomach, but made his way back from the Front line in search of help.
His last days were spent in Casualty Clearing Station No32, close to Brandhoek, where he died at 1pm on 4 August. His second Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously, this time presented privately to Noel’s father, Francis Chavasse, Bishop of Liverpool.
Noel’s medal group has recently returned to Liverpool and is on public display in the city for the first time until January 2018.
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