Saturday 4 August 1917 We Lost 729
Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC & bar MC (Royal Army Medical Corps attached London Regiment) is killed in action at age 32. He is the second of identical twins sons of the Reverend Francis James Chavase Bishop of Liverpool and one of only three double Victoria Cross winners in the history of the award. His younger brother Adrian was killed in action last month. He and his twin brother represented England in the 1908 Olympics where they ran the 400 metres. Noel finished second in his heat while Christopher finished third neither time being fast enough to advance. In early 1913 he applied for and was accepted by the Royal Army Medical Corps and he was attached to the Liverpool Scottish as surgeon-lieutenant. Captain Francis Chavasse (Sikh Pioneers) Noel’s cousin was killed in Aden in June 1915. Another cousin Lieutenant Arthur Chavasse, also a doctor, died of pneumonia in March 1916. In the Battle of the Somme another of his cousins Second Lieutenant Louis Edward Joseph Maude (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) was killed near Ovilliers.
Chavasse was first awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 9th August 1916, at Guillemont when he attended to the wounded all day under heavy fire. 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. The 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.
Chavasse’s second award was made during the period 31st July to today at Wieltje, Belgium. Though severely wounded early in the action while 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, he was instrumental in rescuing many wounded who would have otherwise undoubtedly succumbed under the bad weather conditions. At about 03:00 today a shell enters the aid post, he is sitting in a chair trying to get some sleep. Everyone in the aid post is either killed or seriously wounded. Chavasse received four or five wounds, the worst being a gaping abdominal wound from which he bleeds profusely. He manages to crawl up the stairs and out of the dugout and crawls along the flooded, muddy road until he stumbles across a dugout occupied by an officer of the Loyal North Lancs Regiment who sends for help. He is sent to Casualty Clearing Station No. 32 at Brandhoek, which specialises in abdominal wounds. He is operated on immediately and after all the shell splinters have been removed he is patched up and he regains consciousness for a short period of time but dies later today.
The merchantman S S Cairnstrath (Master F W Thompson) is torpedoed and sunk by UC-71 in the Bay of Biscay 6 miles south southwest from Ile du Pilier with the loss of twenty-two including the master, also killed is Ordinary Seaman Andrew Bell age 17 who has three brothers who will be killed in the Great War.
S S Countess of Mar (Master George MacD Dobbie) is torpedoed and sunk off Bayonne by U-61. Among the twenty lost is the ship’s Master and Deck Hand Charles Thomas Withey (Royal Naval Reserve) who is lost at age 26. His brother was killed last April.
Today’s losses include:
- Noel Godfrey Chavasse
- One of only three double Victoria Cross winners
- The son of a member of the clergy
- A 1908 Olympian
- A man whose family will lose another son and three of their cousins
- The son of a Baronet
- A Great War Poet
- Multiple families that will lose two, three and four sons in the Great War
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Second Lieutenant Godfrey Vassal George Augustus Webster (Grenadier Guards) is killed. He is the son of the late Major ‘Sir’ Augustus Webster the 8th
- Second Lieutenant Ernest Denny (London Regiment attached King’s Royal Rifle Corps) is killed in action at age 29. He is one of the Great War Poets and author of “Lest I No More Come Back” and “The Last Adventure”.
- Battery Sergeant Major George Cowper (Royal Garrison Artillery) dies of wounds at age 32. His two brothers have been killed previously.
- Private Richard Walters (Sherwood Foresters) is killed in action. His brother was killed in July 1915.
- Rifleman Richard Clive Strachey (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) is killed at age 21. His brother was killed in May 1915.
- Private Raymond Frederick Smith (North Lancashire Regiment) is killed at age 19. His brother was killed 3 days before.
- Private Alfred G Austin (West Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 19. His two brothers were killed in 1915.
- Private John Clayton (Royal West Kent Regiment) is killed at age 41. He is the last of four brothers who are killed in the Great War.