Noel Chavasse letters, Aug 1916 - Oct 1916

Correspondence of Captain Noel Chavasse VC and Bar MC, Aug 1916 - Oct 1916

Introduction

These letters were sent by Noel Chavasse to his family from the beginning of August 1916 to the end of October 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           7 Aug 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say that he has been in the trenches for a week, but not at the front line. Last night they were given orders to move out and he describes what happened. Today has been quiet and the Divisional band came to play, which was enjoyed by all. Mentions he is suffering from tooth pain after a fellow officer failed to remove it properly. He feels he was particularly lazy last week. His staff, however, are excellent. He is hoping to hear news of [his cousin] Lewis [see letter of 23 Jul 1916] and mentions that he has not been able to see Bernard yet. Reports that a college friend, [T.G.] Brocklebank, has been killed and recounts the circumstances.

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

Noel writes to his mother and father to say that they should not worry if they hear news he is wounded. It is only a scratch.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse         14 Aug 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to tell them that his battalion has had a rough time of it of late. The men charged three times, but failed to break through. Casualties were not as bad as he expected, however. Describes his work collecting the wounded and ID discs from No Man's Land. It was during this that he was hit by shell fragments in the back, which necessitated a tetanus injection. He is fine, but he has been ordered to remain at the dressing station, which has annoyed him greatly. He tried to sneak out to rescue a wounded officer, but was caught and reprimanded. He feels it is not right for him to send men into danger rather than lead them, and believes that his presence helps reassure the men in the trenches.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse          28 Aug 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to let them know that he has arrived back in France safely [after a period of leave]. Describes his return journey by sleeper train from Preston and ferry journey from Folkestone. Is feeling fit and much less tired, and is ready to work again. Sent from British Officers' Club

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse           7 Sep 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to let them know that he is now back at the front. Describes his return journey there, which was beset by rain and delays. He is now on the side of a hill, where the men have made themselves comfortable. The surroundings are most interesting and give him confidence that the British efforts are now paying off. Mentions that he had to attend an enquiry regarding a report he had written that had upset some of his colleagues. Moved two days ago into reserve trenches and is now in German ones. He has a good dressing station, the men are well, and he believes this time in the line will soon be at an end. Mentions that the heavy fighting is at an end and that the Germans in front of them are badly beaten. Reports that some draftees have arrived and that they are good men.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse            19 Sep 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to let them know that he is back in the trenches again. The Germans have not given them much trouble, but the weather has been atrocious and the men, who are only wearing fighting kilts, are soaked through. Also feels that they will soon be back at rest camp. Hopes that mother is better. It is still raining but says the men are singing and that in many ways they put the officers to shame.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse          26 Sep 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say that he is back at the line for a week of trenches. The Germans are thoroughly beaten and surrendering in droves, so he hopes they will push on from here soon. Recounts story of a R[oyal] E[ngineer] who was hit by a ‘whizz bang’ [light shell] and whose arm he amputated. Mentions that he and his men have been lucky in their last times at the line, since they have only had to consolidate their position rather than charge. The weather has been very bad, however. Recounts how he and a corporal sank to their knees in mud while dressing a case, and how one man was buried alive by a slip in the trench wall. His two brothers had been killed earlier in the war and his mother had committed suicide in grief. Now only a sister remains. Mentions that he has been resting these last two days after his ankle became inflamed, probably from a tear caused when getting out of the mud.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse          16 Oct 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to thank them for the good news [about being awarded the Victoria Cross], but will not believe it until he sees it in print. Mentions that he hopes to get home around Christmas. Describes his current situation and the set up for feeding the men. He has had ten days in the trenches and will soon have ten in reserve. Mentions that he is trying to get good washing places for them and is training his stretcher bearers, who have been decorated with two D[istinguished] C[onduct] M[edals] and two Military Medals, to combat trench foot. Yesterday he inspected and treated the men’s feet and in the afternoon took Holy Communion with a number of other men. Urges them not to worry about him and wishes his father many happy returns.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James Chavasse                  18 Oct 1916

Noel writes to his father with more details about the death of  a certain Private Jackson, who was killed during a charge at Guillemont.

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Dorothea Chavasse                 25 Oct 1916

Noel writes to his sister to congratulate her on the birth of her daughter and to say (jokingly) that he hopes she will treat her brother [Aylmer] with more reverence than Noel’s younger sisters treated him. Noel also jokes about the baby’s name, and expresses mock surprise that she was not named ‘Tanks’ in honour of another new arrival. [The first deployment of tanks had taken place at Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916].

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