Noel Chavasse letters, Apr 1916 - Jul 1916

Correspondence of Captain Noel Chavasse VC and Bar MC, Apr 1916 - Jul 1916

Introduction

These letters were sent by Noel Chavasse to his family from the beginning of April 1916 to the end of July 1916.

The letters are presented in the order assigned to them by the Imperial War Museum - some may be out of chronological order. Questions, corrections and enquiries about the use of images should be directed to archives@spc.ox.ac.uk

Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse           8 Apr 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say that he will be paying a brief and unexpected visit to England, since he has to go to London to receive his [Military] Cross. He hopes to be able to visit home on 23 April, but has to return to France the next day, and all depends on the trains to and from London. He would like to see Gladys and Aunt Frances, and makes various proposals about how this might be arranged. He explains that he is currently in rest billets after three weeks on the front. The men handled this well and the only problem was an outbreak of German Measles. The village he is in did get heavily shelled one day, however, and one shell went through the roof of his billet. He was busy while in the trenches and provides details of his daily routine. Sent from Dressing Station, Liverpool Scottish, B[ritish] E[xpeditionary] F[orce]

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse           23 Apr 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say he is sorry for not writing for a while. He should have been home today [see letter of 8 Apr], but his special leave was cancelled. He hopes that his parents have a good time visiting Hill Top. Mentions the weather has been bad of late, but today it is warm. He is staying in the same place for a fortnight, so is using the time to improve the dressing station, bath house and laundry. He describes the wash facilities and procedures he has instigated, which have meant that he has not had a case of ‘scalies’ since Jan 1915. Asks that they mention to Chris that [Rev] Coop is ill. Spink is doing well and holding many services, which Noel describes. The last Brigade Padre was [Noel] Mellish, who Noel sees has just been awarded the Victoria Cross. The battalion is now back to full strength, which makes everything easier. Mentions that he and his men are helping to make improvements to the recreation room. Talks of his need for a break. Has been with a regiment now for 18 months and gets tired more easily. He receives letters from Gladys, which confirm her love for him. Sent from Liverpool Scottish, Dressing Station, B[ritish] E[xpeditionary] F[orce]

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse            3 May 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to let them know that he thinks he will be on leave on 10 May. He will be glad of the rest, although he feels much better than he did a month ago. He outlines his schedule while in England, and asks Marjorie [Chavasse] to make arrangements so that he might see Gladys. He has asked Chris [Chavasse] if he might get leave at the same time. Mentions that he feels that Chris is gloomy and fed up, despite the fact that he is doing fine work. Describes his activities and in particular the workings of his laundry and bath facilities. He also describes his billet and the drinking depot, both of which are supported by funds in the memory of Captain Leslie Dunn and Captain [Bryden] McKinnell, who was his great friend. Sent from Dressing Station, Liverpool Scottish, B[ritish] E[xpeditionary] F[orce]

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James Chavasse                           19 May 1916

Noel writes to his father to let him know that he has returned safely to his battalion. The journey over was a good one. He does not expect to be back in London until around 21 June. He asks for advice as to a will and to whom his money should be left: Gladys, Chris or [his nephew] Aylmer. Sent from Liverpool Scottish, B[ritish] E[xpeditionary] F[orce]

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse             6 Jun 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to assure them that he is well. Mentions that he can hear the distant rumble of guns firing on the Germans, who everyone feels are now beaten. He and his men may move forward at any time. Talks about his sick parade and bath house. There have been two sad deaths of late. The first was a man who had survived the Boer War and was at Mons. He was killed while playing around with a dud shell. The other was a young corporal who died of Scarlet Fever. He was fond of him and will write to his family. Asks that his father stop sending him the Daily Post, as well as the British Medical Journal, since the Librarian of the Liverpool Medical Institution has offered to send him copies of the Lancet. Talks about his fears as to what will happen after the war. He read the service last Sunday to his s[tretcher] b[earers] and the sick in his billet. He is surprised how many men enjoyed it, but feels it gives them a sense that the most important things never change. He hopes that his mother is better.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse             11 Jun 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to let him now that he is currently in Boulogne. He is sorry he did not have the opportunity to come to Liverpool [during his recent trip back to England], but had a wonderful time nonetheless. He feels wistful sometimes thinking about it, but will be glad to be back with his men. Describes his arrival in London, where he was greeted by his cousin Hetty and [brother] Chris, who had come up to see him. Chris looks well, but he seems unsatisfied, despite the wonderful work he is doing. On Tuesday he went to receive his [Military] Cross [at Buckingham Palace]. He describes the ceremony and the words spoken to him by the King. Mentions how on his return to France he saw Marshal Joffre, his staff and a group of French dignitaries, including the War Minister and the Prince of Monaco. Gives his impression of Joffre, whom he believes to be a great man. He is sorry to be leaving Gladys behind, and for the first time finds himself praying for his own safety. Sent from Officers’ Club, Boulogne-sur-Mer

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse           23 Jun 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say that he was glad to get father's letter yesterday. Noel has little to do at the moment and there is a general feeling the Germans are beaten. He hears that Aunt Frances has offered them use of her New Forest cottage, which he suggests they take advantage of. He is back in the trenches now, having previously been in a camp behind lines. Describes a horse show that he saw during his time at the camp and offers his thoughts on the sort of people who are thriving in the war. Mentions that he has a long line of trench to look after, and describes the work he and his men carry out, especially in the clearing up of rubbish, which not all battalions dispose of properly. Talks of the recreation room and canteen that he has set up, which is frequented by troops from all over, not just those of the battalion. Urges his mother to take care of herself.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse              12 Jul 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say that he hopes they are, respectively, better and less busy. He is writing while currently away from the line, but will be back up tonight. Thinks he may be near Aidan, but will be nowhere near Bernard, who is probably very busy dealing with all the casualties suffered by the Pals. The spot he is in is quiet and he believes that where they are heading will also be quiet. Recounts the sad story of a new recruit who accidentally discharged his rifle, killing one and wounding others. Mentions the graveyard in the last sector. Says that the Germans are now being hard pushed and feels that the war has turned a corner.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse            23 Jul 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say that he has had a letter from Aunt Mary [Maude] to say that [his cousin] Louis [Edward Joseph Maude] is missing. Remarks on what a terrible blow this must be and how lucky his family is. Mentions that he is now on the move and that he has marched about 34 miles in four days. It has been hard work for him and his men. Mentions that he has been in the same village now for two days. Took Holy Communion today. He can do little for his men at the moment and has had to close his canteen. He has heard that Aidan [Chavasse] is near Amiens [?] but does not know where Chris is.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse            30 Jul 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say that he has been moving about of late and is now on the other side of a hill to Bernard [Chavasse]. They have been moved up closer to the front and are currently waiting for orders. They have been doing lots of marching, but he has not lost one man to bad feet. Expects the coming days to be busy and prays that he does his duty, but does not feel the same as he did 18 months ago and is sick to see so many men die. He is well rested, however, and took Communion earlier this morning. Hopes that mother is better.

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