Noel Chavasse letters, Jan 1916 - Mar 1916

Correspondence of Captain Noel Chavasse VC and Bar MC, Jan 1916 - Mar 1916

Introduction

These letters were sent by Noel Chavasse to his family from the beginning of January 1916 to the end of March 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        4 Jan 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to tell them that his battalion is in the midst of a big move that will see them help form another Division. He does not know what other battalions will be a part of this, but thinks it might be a Lancastrian Division, which means he may get to meet the ‘Pals’. This will mean he and his men will get at least a month out of the trenches, which have been hard on them of late. They are all now back from the line, and have returned to find parcels and good food waiting for them. Company dinners have been held, which Noel describes. At one he was asked to give a speech. He is sorry to hear of the death of Archdeacon Madden. The weather is currently quite mild. Mentions he is four weeks away from being able to put in for leave, which he intends to do. He has spent a very pleasant Christmas and New Year and reassures his parents that we will be quite ‘comfy’ over the next month. Sent from Headquarters, Liverpool Scottish, B[ritish] E[xpeditionary] F[orce]

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

Noel writes to his mother and father to let them know that he is currently in a little village, largely deserted, about 100 miles from Paris. The men have been settling down and keeping the place tidy, although there has been an outbreak of bronchitis which he is fighting successfully. The men have also set up a bath house, where they are inspected for lice. Noel has also established a canteen and lending library, and has also set up two long tables at which the men can play games and write letters. In the evening, each man can come and get a free cup of cocoa. They are part of a new Lancastrian Division, of which [Rev J O] Coop is the Division Chaplain. Noel thinks that Christopher [Chavasse] has been invited to join the same Division, but has declined as he does not wish to be under Coop. Noel is currently losing a great many s[tretcher] b[earers], who after 14 months hard work have been reassigned to richly deserved ‘soft jobs’, such as the Division band. Their replacements are keen but difficult to lick into shape. He hopes to get leave in a fortnight and will write to Christopher to see if he can get it at the same time. Sent from Liverpool Scottish, Headquarters

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse          5 Mar 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father on a quiet Sunday evening after a terrible month of hardships, which tomorrow will come to an end with ten days rest. The weather has been bad and the trenches filled with water. It then became extremely cold and snowed. The battalion have come out of it, but at one point he thought it might break, especially since he was forced to vacate his dressing station, which he had got well set up, for another brigade. But thanks to his carpenters he is now in a three-roomed house in which the men can get dry and treated for any ailments. He also has a sick billet and laundry about half a mile away, which is manned by stretcher bearers, where the men can also have a hot bath. Noel has a barber and chiropodist with him, as well as a man responsible for checking the men’s kilts for lice. There was supposed to be a service today led by Spink, the new Chaplain, but a bombardment meant it was cancelled. Noel must give up his dressing station and everything else to another battalion tomorrow. Sent from Dressing Station, Liverpool Scottish, B[ritish] E[xpeditionary] F[orce]

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Letter from Noel Chavasse to Christopher Chavasse                  27 Mar 1916

Noel writes to his brother to say he is sure that he is upset about the death of [their cousin] Arthur [Chavasse]. He feels terrible, but recognises that the blow is much greater to their Aunt Frances and Arthur’s siblings. Noel says that he hopes Chris is able to visit them and tells him that when he does he will get a surprise and must ask Gladys [Chavasse] what the secret is. [They are engaged.] Noel writes of his delight at this and explains that the parents have sent their blessing. He teases Chris that he has beaten him as far as marriage is concerned, despite Chris’ 20-minute head start [Chris was born before Noel by 20 minutes]. He explains that he is in another part of the line at the moment. He hopes that Chris is doing well and asks whether he is Division Chaplain yet. If Chris should get to see Gladys he asks that he send her his love. 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       28 Mar 1916

Noel writes to his mother and father to say he is sorry he missed writing last Sunday. He is back in the trenches again, but the weather is much improved, which has improved the men's mood. Noel describes his present situation and the means by which the men are organised. He has his dressing station and canteen in a long empty cottage with a barn, which he describes. There is also a bath and a laundry nearby, the workings of which he describes and of which he is very fond. He describes spotting Germans through a telescope and includes a little drawing to illustrate what he is talking about. He received Holy Communion last Sunday along with most of his men. The stretcher bearers are new, but they are extremely nice and he is proud of them. Sent from Liverpool Scottish, Dressing Station

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