Two for the price of one for this week’s ABC Wednesday post in the two most decorated men in the British Army during the First World War – and neither of them were fighting men, but both had names beginning with the letter C.
As the only man to win the Victoria Cross twice in WWI, Captain Noel Chevasse is perhaps the better known of the two.
The younger of identical twins, Chevasse was born in 1884 in Oxford, the son of the Reverend Francis Chevasse, later to be the Bishop of Liverpool.
Chevasse graduated with first-class honours from Trinity College, Oxford, in 1907 and remained in that city to study medicine. He was also something of a sportsman and both he and his twin brother Christopher represented their country in the 400 metres at the 1908 Olympic Games.
He returned to Liverpool in 1909 and continued his medical training, passing his examination for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1910. He practiced at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin and the Royal Southern Hospital in Liverpool.
In 1913, Chevasse applied to join the Royal Army Medical Corps and was commissioned with the rank of lieutenant. He was promoted to captain in 1915 and was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry at Hooge in Belgium in June that year.
Chevasse was awarded his first Victoria Cross for his actions at Guillemont, France, in August 1916. The citation read:
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.
His second Victoria Cross was awarded in 1917 for his bravery at Wieltje, in Belgium. Part of the citation read:
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.
For my second post, see C is for William Coltman.