The Chavasse Family in World War I
Few British families are so intimately linked with the courage and sacrifice of the First World War as that of Francis James Chavasse and his wife, Edith. Five of their seven children served with distinction on the front lines, and between them they were awarded 21 medals for their actions, including the only double Victoria Cross of the entire conflict.
Between May 2016 and February 2017, St Peter's hosted a wide range of events to honour this service as part of the series Duty, Courage, Faith: the Chavasse Family in World War I. These events included a number of memorial lectures, two unveilings, an exhibition and an Evensong, all of which sought to commemorate the remarkable role played during the Great War by the Chavasse family, who later founded St Peter's.
The events began in May 2016 with the inaugural Chavasse lecture delivered by St Peter's alumnus and Honorary Fellow, General Sir Nicholas Houghton GCB CBE ADC Gen, then Chief of the Defence Staff. This was followed a few months later by the unveiling of a commemorative paving slab in honour of Captain Noel Chavasse, who was the only person to win the Victoria Cross twice during the conflict, and is one of only three people ever to receive the award more than once. The paving slab, which sits outside the college chapel, in which Noel was baptised, was unveiled by the Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire and by members of the current Chavasse family.
October saw the renowned journalist and broadcaster, Jeremy Paxman, pack out the Sheldonian Theatre for the second Chavasse lecture, which was quickly followed by a special Chavasse Evensong marking the publication on 24 October 1916 of the full citation for Noel Chavasse's first Victoria Cross.
The chapel was also the stage throughout Michaelmas 2016 for a special exhibition relating to the Chavasse family in World War I, which was eventually visited by close to 3,000 people from all over the UK, and beyond. It also played host in November to the Rt Revd Sir James Jones, former bishop of Liverpool (1998-2013), who not only delivered the third Chavasse lecture, but also unveiled the permanent display of the Chavasse family medals, which includes 21 decorations awarded during the Great War.
The series was brought to a close in February 2017 with a lecture by Prof Mark Harrison, Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, which was hosted by Trinity College, where both Noel Chavasse and his brother, Christopher, had been students.