Noel Chavasse commemorated

The centenary of the death of Captain Noel Chavasse, one of Trinity’s most celebrated members, falls on Friday, 4 August 2017 and is to be marked with the issuing of a commemorative £5 coin by the Royal Mint. Noel Chavasse is one of only three men ever to have won the Victoria Cross twice, and the only one to have done so in the same war.

Noel Chavasse came up to Trinity in 1904 and graduated with a First in Physiology. Specialising in surgery, he completed his medical training in Oxford and in Liverpool, where his father was the Anglican Bishop. Alongside his twin brother Christopher, Noel represented Great Britain in the 400 yards at the London Olympics of 1908. In 1913 he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was attached to 10th (territorial) Battalion of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment), the Liverpool Scottish.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 his regiment went first to France and then to Flanders. Noel was awarded his first decoration, the Military Cross, for his work saving the lives of wounded men at Hooge in November 1915. The following year he was promoted to the rank of Captain, although he never rose any higher, perhaps because his constant attempts to improve the living conditions of men in the trenches brought him in conflict with the military authorities. On 9 August 1916 Noel won the VC at Guillemont where he repeatedly ventured into No Man’s Land under heavy fire to rescue the wounded, although he himself was injured.

In 1917, in the opening days of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, Noel again worked desperately to save as many lives as possible, despite suffering a head injury on 31 July. He was wounded again on the following day, he defied orders to withdraw and on 2 August 1917 he received a fatal abdominal injury when a shell hit the first aid post where he was stationed. Noel managed to drag himself through the fetid mud of the battlefield to a casualty clearing station where he was operated on. He regained consciousness and spoke cheerfully of the future, but his condition deteriorated as an inevitable infection took hold. He died at 1 pm on 4 August, the third anniversary of the outbreak of War, and was buried at Brandhoek military cemetery. His second VC was gazetted on 14 September.

The sculpture of Captain Noel Chavasse, V.C. and Bar by Tom Murphy, a scale replica of the original, on display in Liverpool. It was given to Trinity by Old Members and Friends of the college.

Posted: 4 August 2017

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