Professor Mark Harrison, Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine has given a lecture, ‘Part of the Family’—the Medical Officer on the Western Front, to commemorate Noel Chavasse.
Professor Harrison gave a fascinating insight into the development of the medical officer’s role during the Crimean and Boer wars, and explained how the role changed during the course of the First World War and discussed the various stages of medical care.
Noel Chavasse came up to Trinity in 1904 and graduated with a First in Medicine. He represented Great Britain at the Olympics of 1908 and in 1913 he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 he went to France and was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1916. He tried to improve the living conditions of men in the trenches and was critical of the conduct of the war. He received his first VC at the Battle of Guillemont for repeatedly venturing into No Man’s Land under heavy fire to rescue the wounded, although he himself was injured.
In 1917, at the 3rd Battle of Ypres, he worked desperately to save as many lives as possible, despite a serious head injury. Although suffering further wounds, he defied orders to withdraw and received fatal injuries when a shell hit the post. He was posthumously awarded a second VC, the only man to win the medal twice in the course of the First World War and only one of three ever to do so.
The lecture, the final lecture in the series Duty, Courage, Faith: The Chavasse Family in World War I, inaugurated by St Peter’s College, was attended by members of St Peter’s College and Chavasse family and was followed by a dinner in Hall.
Posted: 3 February 2017