A simple cross, right? a simple wooden cross. I went to my son's college at Oxford yesterday, a parent lunch. In the Chapel, there was a drinks reception and I was just wandering around doing my usual church investigation. And that's where I spotted this.
so what's the story? This cross was the first wooden cross erected on the grave of Noel Godfrey Chavasse. His father, Rev Francis Chavasse, founded St. Peter's College where my son studies.
Here's the gentleman concerned and his story is amazing. The master of the college alluded to him and then it was so fascinating that I went looking for more details. The man was an olympian. He got a first from Trinity College Oxford. Became a doctor. Joined the Army and then went over to France during World War 1. He won the Military Cross. Then was promoted. And then was mentioned in Dispatches. And then two citations follow when he became the only double VC winner in the war.
Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, M.C., M.B., Royal Army Medical Corps.For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty.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 shell 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 twenty volunteers, rescued 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 ordinary cases which passed through his hands. His courage and self-sacrifice, were beyond praise.
this was on 9th August 1916. Then next year around the same time..
War Office, September, 1917.
His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of a Bar to the Victoria Cross to Capt. Noel Godfrey Chavasse, V.C., M.C., late R.A.M.C., attd. L'pool R.
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in action.
Though severely wounded early in the action whilst carrying a wounded soldier to the Dressing Station, Capt. 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.
The other two double VC winners ever were related to him. The first one, Lt. Col. Arthur Martin Leake actually treated Chavasse for his wounds. The second double VC winner in WW2, Captain Charles Upham, was related to Chavasse by marriage. He was engaged to Frances Gladys Ryland Chavasse, one of his cousins who was also mentioned in dispatches in 1945 at Monte Cassino.
I am simply dumb-struck at the man and the connections thereof. Can you believe it? this chap, got a first at oxford, then studied medicine, then showed bravery of a level that you cannot imagine (and not that of anger, but of mercy and healing which I believe is of a higher level than just shooting) and then the most incredible coincidences.
most extraordinary story. You can read his letters here. The letter show him as a most humble man..and then his courage! I am totally amazed and humbled.