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Noel Chavasse letters, Jan 1917 - Apr 1917
Correspondence of Captain Noel Chavasse VC and Bar MC, Jan 1917 - Apr 1917
These letters were sent by Noel Chavasse to his family from the beginning of January 1917 to the end of April 1917.
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 email@example.com
Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse 10 Jan 1917
Noel writes to his mother and father to say he is sorry for not writing sooner. He has been busy with work, but will soon be back from the front for a month’s rest, during which time he hopes to take leave. Wonders if Chris [Chavasse] will be able to join him. Mentions he is glad to be back with his battalion, and provides more details of the course on sanitation he had to take [see letter of 19 Dec 1916], during he which he gave his frank opinion on matters. He was asked to put his comments into a report, which is now in the hands of his Divisional General, who is displeased. Asks his father if he has heard any more about coming out to France.
Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse 6 Feb 1917
Noel writes to his mother and father to let them know that he has returned safely [from leave] to France, along with a fox terrier, whom he hopes will help with the rat problem in the trenches. Describes the presentation ceremony for his Victoria Cross [at Buckingham Palace]. Says that he enjoyed his leave a great deal, and hopes that his mother is taking care of herself. Sent from Hotel Folkestone, Boulogne-sur-Mer
Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse 25 Feb 1917
Noel writes to his mother and father to let them know that he is about to go back from the front for a rest of ten days. His time in the trenches was quiet, but he returned to find many of his men suffering from frost-bitten knees. [Noel's battalion was a kilted one.] Mentions that the Corps Commander praised his drying-rooms and sick billet as the best he had seen, and describes the work of improving the cellars in which the men take shelter. Describes the hot drink canteen he has established, which serves cocoa from 16.00 to 4.00. Mentions that he has heard from Christopher [Chavasse].
Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse 14 Mar 1917
Noel writes to his mother and father to apologise for not writing for a while, but he, and the whole battalion, have been extremely busy of late. Describes the extent to which the men of the battalion are being pushed, and worries that they are close to cracking up. Recognises that the constant work is of military necessary, but is still concerned that the higher-ups are so aloof as to not really understand what pressure they are putting the battalions under. Doctors can fight against germs and conditions, but orders are another thing all together. His sick billet is nevertheless doing good work, and he has been able to make the men comfortable and has an excellent set of stretcher bearers at the moment. He was glad to hear of Chris [Chavasse] and expects to see his name in the next Honours List.
Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse 27 Mar 1917
Noel writes to his mother and father to let them know that he will back in rest camp for ten days.
Postscript dated 1 April: He is now back in camp behind the line, but is not that busy as 200 men have been left at the front. He is therefore concentrating on the sick men, who are getting better, with the battalion as a whole now fitter than it has been for a while. Mentions that he was feeling sick recently, but spent a day in bed and now feels much better for it. The weather is also improving and the birds are often singing, which gives him immense pleasure. Supposes that the war must be getting to an end now. Mentions that he went to church in camp and went for a service on what he thought was Good Friday, only to find he had got the date wrong. Says that all is going well for the men right now, and that a whist drive and concert are being organised for them. Ponders how long he has now been at war, but says that he has enjoyed nearly every day of it, and will especially miss the social side when it is all over.
Letter from Noel Chavasse to Francis James and Edith Chavasse 16 Apr 1917
Noel writes to his mother and father while waiting for his battalion to be relieved. Mentions that he was in the same place for Easter two years ago, but this time he was not able to receive Easter Communion as it clashed with a sick parade. Mentions that the last time at the front was bad in terms of weather and that there were no casualties, except on the last night. The battalion has now been in reserve for four days and is not being worked so hard, which he hopes is a sign the higher-ups have realised that exhausted men do not make good soldiers. Had a visit two days ago by the Corps Sanitary Officer, who remarked how excellent the battalion’s sanitary section was. There is also a new chaplain, Rev H E Maddox, who is a good man whom the men like. Comments on the work of chaplains. Sent from In the field