Magdalen College School and The Great War
DAVID BEBBINGTON | Pen and Sword Books
Noel Chavasse VC and Bar
(b. 1884; d. 1917)

Noel Chavasse A short summary of the Noel Chavasse biography from 'Mister Brownrigg's Boys': Noel Chavasse, christened Noel Godfrey Chavasse, was born in Oxford in 1884. He lived at 36 New Inn Hall Street, Oxford for the first five years of his life until moving to Wycliffe Hall, when his father Francis Chavasse became Principal of the Evangelical Theological College in 1889. Noel Chavasse had six siblings. Noel and his twin brother Christopher Chavasse both became day boys at Magdalen College School in 1896. Noel Chavasse's life has been thoroughly and accurately recorded in the highly acclaimed biography 'Chavasse Double VC' by Anne Clayton. I would strongly advise anyone interested in his story, the RAMC or the First World War to read it. 'Mister Brownrigg's Boys' supplements this biography by giving a detailed insight into Noel Chavasse's experiences at his beloved Magdalen College School and summarises his war years punctuated by the response from the school to the news of his exploits and the ordeals of their decorated 'Old Boys' on the western front. While at Magdalen College School Noel and Christopher Chavasse participated in as much of the physical activities they could, both excelling at running. Noel would eventually go on to study Natural Sciences at Oxford, eventually converting to study medicine. In March 1900 Noel Chavasse and his twin Christopher, then both fifteen, were devastated to be told by their father that they were moving from Oxford as he had accepted the offer to become Bishop of Liverpool. They moved to Liverpool College to complete their schooling, but by 1904 both Noel and Christopher Chavasse returned to Oxford taking places at Trinity College. Both Noel and Christopher Chavasse returned to Magdalen College School on Sports Day and for Commemoration for many years after they had left MCS. Competing in the Old Boys race until 1912, these 'reunions' seem to have been a highlight of their calendar. Both Noel and Christopher also kept in touch with the school during the war years. In 1908 both Noel Chavasse (and Christopher) competed in the Olympic Games held in London, taking part in but not qualifying from the heats of the 400 metres event. In January 1909 both Noel and his younger brother Bernard joined the Oxford University Officer Training Corps, with Noel in the Medical Unit. In June 1908 the Oxford University OTC, then more than 700 strong, marched from St Aldate's, passing Chavasse's old school on the High Street and at the Plain, up to Headington Hill Park to be reviewed. In July 1909 Noel Chavasse finally left Oxford to complete his medical training at Liverpool University. In October 1912 Noel gained his first medical appointment, at the Royal Southern Hospital in Liverpool. In 1913 Noel Chavasse accepted the post of Junior Medical Officer of the RAMC, attached to the 10th (Scottish) Battalion, The King's (Liverpool Regiment), a Territorial Force. Noel Chavasse went on to become one of the most famous medics in military history, becoming the only person to win two Victoria Crosses during The First World War. Noel Chavasse died on 4 August 1917, aged thirty-two, after being badly wounded a few days earlier during the Third Battle of Ypres. On 14 September for his gallantry at the Third Battle of Ypres the Bar to Noel Chavasse's Victoria Cross was announced in the London Gazette: 'Though severely wounded early in the action whilst carrying a wounded soldier to the dressing station, he 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 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.' In the Magdalen College School magazine, The Lily, for that new academic year, November 1917, it was announced that Noel Chavasse had been killed in action. The report ends 'Sic itur ad astra' (This is the way to the stars).