Noel Chavasse | the man behind the medals

Wednesday 26 July 2017

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC & Bar, MC. He is one of only three people to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice, and is the name behind one of the Help for Heroes Recovery Centres.

Heroic Chavasse

The British Medical Doctor, Olympic athlete and British Army Officer died on August 4, 1917, during the Passchendaele offensive. He was 32. Captain Chavasse received serious head injuries during the battle, but refused to be evacuated. Instead he continued into no man’s land to tend to the wounded.

Despite being injured Captain Chavasse saved the lives of an estimated 20 seriously wounded men while under heavy gunfire. A few days later, while resting, his trench was hit by a shell. Mortally wounded, the Captain crawled half a mile to try and help others. He was eventually evacuated but died of his wounds two days later.

Leaving a legacy

Captain Chavasse’s great-great niece, Anna Sinfield, has explored her uncle’s story in detail during the past year. She has read archived letters that describe his legendary efforts, as well as speaking to experts. She is humbled by the honour bestowed upon Captain Chavasse.

She said: “It is great to see so many people and organisations paying respect to Noel's legacy, including the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester. It feels very apt to have a centre dedicated to the care of those who served, named after a man who was totally dedicated to his fellow soldiers wellbeing. Whilst I cannot claim any credit for his extraordinary story, I do feel lucky to be able to keep the story alive and not forgotten”.

Noel Chavasse was the most highly decorated British Officer of the First World War and had previously displayed courageous acts of bravery during the Battle of the Somme. When the time came to build the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester, it was widely agreed that it should bear his name, not only to acknowledge his sacrifice but to those who fell during the Great War.

Facilities at Chavasse House

Chavasse VC House supports our wounded and their loved ones. With an adaptive gym, an award winning reflective garden (Hope on the Horizon), a Support Hub made up of multiple charities and other organisations, psychological well-being suite, en-suite bedrooms, family rooms and a creative studio, the Centre has been specially designed to offer the very best recovery environment.

Steve Schollar, Help for Heroes’ Head of Recovery Services East, said: “No matter when someone served, Help for Heroes gives them the support they need to put them back on the road to recovery In recent years we have supported individuals aged from 18 to 90 years, focusing on the five key areas of Medical, Mind, Body, Spirit and Family, the specialist teams here create the conditions for our heroes and their families to recover and move forward with their lives. I’m proud to say that Help for Heroes and Chavasse VC House continue to play a major part in the Nation’s commitment to our veterans”.

He continued: “It’s a common misconception that Help for Heroes is no longer relevant as the Iraq and Afghan conflicts are perceived to be over. Unfortunately, the day-to-day physical and psychological battles continue for many serving personnel, veterans and their families, and not only for those who served in those most recent conflicts. Physical and mental wounds remain with someone throughout their life and often only emerge years after the trauma. Help for Heroes will continue to play a significant role in meeting that national obligation”.

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