Only three soldiers have been award the Victoria Cross medal twice: Arthur Martin-Leake, Noel Chavasse and Charles Hazlitt Upham.
Arthur Martin-Leake was born in Standen, Hertfordshire, on 4 April 1874. Surgeon Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Martin-Leake was a member of the South African Constabulary then Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the 5th Field Ambulance.
On 8 February 1902, at Vlakfontein, South Africa, Surgeon Captain Martin-Leake went out into the firing line to dress a wounded man under very heavy enemy fire only 100 yards away. He then attended a badly wounded officer and while doing so was shot himself. He only gave up when thoroughly exhausted and then refused water until other wounded men had been served. This award was published in the London Gazette on 13 May 1902.
During the period 29 October to 8 November 1914 near Zonnebeke, Belgium, Lieutenant Martin-Leake showed most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in rescuing, whilst exposed to constant fire, a large number of the wounded who were lying close to the enemy’s trenches. The bar to his second VC was published in the London Gazette on 18 February 1915.
During World War Two, Arthur Martin-Leake commanded a mobile ARP unit. Arthur Martin-Leake died in Ware, Hertfordshire, on 22 June 1953. He is buried in St. John’s Church High Cross in Hertfordshire.
NOEL GODREY CHAVASSE
Noel Godfrey Chavasse was born in Oxford on 9 November 1884, one of seven children to the Bishop of Liverpool Francis James and Edith Jane Chavasse. Noel Chavasse was educated at Magdalen College School, Liverpool College and Trinity College Oxford, from where he graduated with distinction. A ‘blue’ in rugby and lacrosse, Noel and his twin brother Christopher took part in the 400 metre race at the 1908 London Olympics; they failed to make the final of the event. In 1912, Noel Chavasse completed his medical studies and became a Resident Medical Officer at Liverpool’s Royal Southern Hospital. He volunteered for the Territorial Force, becoming a Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) officer attached to the Liverpool Scottish (1/10th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment.)
On 9 August 1916, at Guillemont, France, during an attack, Captain Chavasse attended to the wounded all day, under heavy fire, frequently in the view of the enemy, and during the night he searched for wounded in front of the enemy’s lines. Next day he took a stretcher-bearer and under heavy shell fire carried an urgent case 500 yards into safety, being wounded himself on the return journey. The same night, with 20 volunteers, he rescued 3 wounded men from a shell-hole 36 yards from the enemy’s trenches, buried the bodies of 2 officers and collected many identity discs. Altogether he saved the lives of some 20 wounded men, besides the ordinary cases which passed through his hands. This award was published in the London Gazette on 26 October 1916.
During the period 31 July to 2 August 1917, at Wieltje, Belgium, Captain Chavasse, although severely wounded early in the action while carrying a wounded officer to the dressing station, refused to leave his post and not only continued to perform his duties, but in addition went out repeatedly under heavy fire and searched for and attended the wounded. During these searches, although practically without food, worn with fatigue and faint from his wound, he helped to carry in badly wounded men. He was instrumental in saving many wounded who would have undoubtedly died under the bad weather conditions. Captain Chavasse subsequently died of his wounds on 4 August 1917, near the town of Ypres. The bar to his second VC was published in the London Gazette on 14 September 1917.
Captain Chavasse is buried in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Plot III, Row B, Grave 15.
Captain Chavasse’s Victoria Cross and Bar, together with his other medals, are on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum.
Noel Chavasse’s brothers and sisters all served in World War One.
Christopher Maude Chavasse
Christopher Maude Chavasse, Noel’s twin brother also born on on 9 November 1884, entered the church and in 1913 became Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of Liverpool. On the outbreak of World War One, Christopher Chavasse volunteered and was serving as an Army Chaplain by the end of August 1914. In 1918 Christopher Chavasse became Deputy Assistant General 9th Corps, when he was wounded and awarded the Military Cross and the French Croix de Guerre for gallantry. He married in 1919, having five children. After leaving the Army, Christopher Chavasse continued in the church, eventually becoming Bishop of Rochester. Christopher Chavasse died in 1961, at the age of 77.
Francis Bernard Chavasse
Francis Bernard Chavasse was born on 2 December 1889, and was educated at Liverpool College and Oxford’s Balliol College. As with Noel, Francis Chavasse wanted to pursue a medical career. After graduating in Natural Sciences from Oxford, Francis entered Liverpool University. After qualifying, Francis joined the RAMC and served in Egypt and Gallipoli before entering the France and Flanders theatre in 1916 to served as Medical Officer (MO) to the 17th (Pals) Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment, where he was also awarded the Military Cross. After World War One, in 1923, Francis married Anita Reeves-Thomas and they had 3 children. Francis continued his medical career, becoming a notable eye surgeon. He died in 1941.
Aidan Chavasse was born in 1892, and was educated at Liverpool College and Oxford’s Corpus Christi College, where he represented the college in athletics and rugby.
Upon the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Aidan Chavasse left Oxford (before graduating) and enlisted into the 11th Battalion The King’s Liverpool Regiment. Following the 11th Battalion’s redesignation as a pioneer battalion, Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse transferred to the 17th Battalion in February 1917.
On 3 July 1917, Aidan Chavasse led a reconnaissance patrol into No man’s-land, which encountered heavier than expected enemy patrols. Lieutenant Chavasse was observed protecting the rear of the patrol as it retreated back to its own trenches, during which he was wounded in the thigh. Attempts to reach Lieutenant Chavasse failed, and attracted enemy fire on to the position. Further attempts failed to find any remains of Aidan Chavasse.
Lieutenant Chavasse, aged 26 years’ old, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, panels 4 and 6.
Dorethea, Edith & Mary Chavasse
The eldest sister, Dorethea Chavasse, worked throughout the war organising comforts for the troops.
Edith Marjorie and Mary Laefa (who were twins) both became voluntary nurses.
In March 1915, Mary Chavasse became a lady helper to the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) with the Liverpool Merchants Mobile Hospital; located in France. For her work at this hospital from 1915 until the end of the war, Mary Chavasse was ‘Mentioned-in-despatches’.
CHARLES HAZLITT UPHAM
Charles Hazlitt Upham was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 21 September 1908. He was a 2nd Lieutenant (later Captain) in the 20th Battalion, 2nd N.Z.E.F (The Canterbury Regiment).
Between 22 and 30 May 1941 in Crete, Greece, 2nd Lieutenant Upham displayed outstanding leadership and courage in the very close quarter fighting. He was blown up by one mortar shell and badly wounded by another. He was also wounded in the foot, but in spite of his wounds and a severe attack of dysentery, he refused to go to hospital. He carried a wounded man back to safety when his company was forced to retire on 22 May 1941 and on 30 May 1941 he beat off an attack at Sphankia, 22 Germans falling to his short range fire. This award was published in the London Gazette on 14 October 1941.
On 14-15 July 1942 at El Ruweisat Ridge, Western Desert, Captain Upham, in spite of being twice wounded, insisted on remaining with his men. Just before dawn he led his company in a determined attack, capturing the objective after fierce fighting; he himself destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles with hand grenades. Although his arm had been broken by a machine-gun bullet, he continued to dominate the situation and when at last, weak from loss of blood, he had his wounds dressed, he immediately returned to his men, remaining with them until he was again severely wounded and unable to move. After being captured, Lieutenant Upham spent the rest of the war as a POW in Colditz Castle. The bar to his second VC was published in the London Gazette on 26 September 1945.
Charles Upham died in New Zealand in November 1994, aged 86.