A SPECIAL day of commemorations will be held in Liverpool on Tuesday 29 August to honour Captain Noel Chavasse – the only soldier to be awarded two Victoria Cross medals during World War One.
Despite not even being a frontline soldier, he was responsible for some of the bravest and most unselfish acts of the entire four year conflict and became one of the most decorated soldier of the war for his actions.
To mark the 100 years since his second Victoria Cross (Bar), a Commemorative Paving Stone is being unveiled at Abercromby Square Gardens at 11am, attended by his family, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, military representatives from the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Duke of Lancashire Regiment, the Liverpool Scottish and civic dignitaries.
It will be followed by a re-creation of his Memorial Service at Liverpool Parish Church in the city centre at 2pm, exactly 100 years since it originally took place, which will include the original hymns he had chosen. His sword will also be on display – the first time it has been seen in public for many years.
To bring the day’s commemorations to a close, 208 (Liverpool) Field Hospital will hold a Last Light Vigil at 9pm in Abercromby Square Gardens.
Noel Godfrey Chavasse was born in Oxford in 1884 and moved to the Bishop’s Palace at 19 Abercomby Square in Liverpool in 1900 when his father, the Right Reverend Francis Chavasse, took up the post of Bishop of Liverpool.
He attended Liverpool College where he excelled at sport and represented Great Britain in the 400 metres at the Olympics in 1908, before becoming a doctor serving as a medical officer with the British Army attached to the 1/10th Battalion of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, a kilted territorial battalion known as The Liverpool Scottish.
He was awarded the Military Cross (MC) for his actions in June 1915 at Hooge near Ypres, where he continually went into no man’s land for nearly 48 hours until he was satisfied there were no more wounded needing treatment.
He was first awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in August 1916 at Guillemont in France on the Somme when he attended to the wounded all day under heavy fire. He carried a critically injured man 500 yards to safety under heavy shellfire and rescued three wounded men from a shell-hole just 25 yards from enemy trenches. It is estimated he saved the lives of some 20 seriously injured men as well as treating countless others.
His second Victoria Cross was awarded for his action in July and August 1917 in Wieltje, Belgium, when, despite being severely wounded in his skull, he refused to leave his post and for two days not only continued to perform his duties, but went out repeatedly under heavy fire to search for and attend to the wounded who were lying out. He was instrumental in rescuing many who would otherwise have undoubtedly succumbed under the bad weather conditions. On August 2nd, he was finally taking a rest at his first-aid post when it was struck by a shell, but despite this he crawled for half a mile to get help for the others. He died on 4 August, but not before dictating a letter to his fiancée Gladys in which he explained he carried on working because “duty called and called me to obey”.
Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Malcolm Kennedy, said: “Noel Chavasse was a courageous medical doctor whose selfless actions saved many lives. He was completely devoted to his duty and in his own words as he lay dying, he wrote “Duty called and called me to obey”.
“Noel had been set for a brilliant career in medicine – but instead he became one of the most extraordinary soldiers Britain has ever seen, winning the Victoria Cross twice.
“Liverpool is incredibly proud of him and this is why the city is honouring him with this fitting ceremony.”
Noel Chavasse’s medals are on display at the Museum of Liverpool until 5 January 2018 – the first time this important medal group, on loan from Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC, has gone on public display in Liverpool.
Also on display at the Museum of Liverpool until 1 September are stained glass windows, commissioned by the Chavasse family in memory of ‘those who died’ and ‘those who gave their life’ during World War One.