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Home - UK Medals - Gallantry - Victoria Cross - VC & Bar Recipients - The Chavasse Family

Introduction

Francis James and Edith Jane Chavasse had seven children: Dorothea, Christopher Maude, Noel Godfrey, Edith Marjorie, Mary Laeta, Francis Bernard and Aidan Chavasse.

Francis James Chavasse

Born 27 September 1846 in Sutton Coldfield. Eldest son of the surgeon Thomas Chavasse and his second wife Miriam Sarah nee Wyld. In 1870, ordained by the Bishop of Manchester, and appointed to St. Paul’s, Preston. In 1873 appointed vicar of St John’s Upper Holloway. In 1878 moved back to Oxford as rector of St. Peter-le-Bailey. In 1889 he was appointed principal of the evangelical theological college Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. In 1900 appointed as the second Bishop of Liverpool. Played a large part in the commissioning and early phases of construction of Liverpool Cathedral. Resigned in 1923, and retired to Oxford, where he was elected an honorary fellow of Corpus Christi. Died on 11 March 1928, age 81. Buried in the precinct of Liverpool Cathedral. Has a memorial in the choir aisle, behind the bishop’s throne.

Edith Jane Maude

Born Edith Jane Maude, youngest daughter of the late Canon Maude, vicar of Chirk. Married Francis James Chavasse (when he was rector of St. Peter-le-Bailey, Oxford) at Overton, near Wrexham in 1881. It was at Overton that her mother wrote the hymn “Thine for ever, God of love”. Interested in the Mothers’ Union, and president of the Diocesan branch during her time in Liverpool. Died in her sleep at Garsington Rectory, Oxford on 3 July 1927, age 76. The first person to be buried in the precinct of Liverpool Cathedral.

Dorothea Chavasse

Baptised on 18 March 1883 at St. Peter le Bailey, Oxford. Married George Foster Carter (clerk in holy orders) on 6 October 1908. The following report appeared in The Londonderry Sentinel (Saturday morning 10 October 1908):

The wedding took place on Tuesday at the Cathedral Church, Liverpool, of Miss Dorothea Chavasse, daughter of the Bishop of Liverpool, and Rev. George Foster Carter, rector of St. Aldgate, Oxford, and examining chaplain to the Bishop Of Liverpool.

The officiating clergy were the Bishop of Liverpool, the Bishop of Durham, the Bishop of Jarrow, the Rev. Mr. Maude (the bride's uncle), the Rector of Liverpool, and the Rev. G.J. Howson.

The bride, who was given away by her uncle, Sir Thomas Chavasse, wore a soft white satin gown in Empire style, with pearl trimmings, and her great-grand-mother's wedding veil of old lace. Her ornaments were a pearl and peridot pendant presented by the Bishop of Manchester and Mrs. Knox. Her bouquet consisted of white lilies, white heather and orange blossom. She was attended by eight bridesmaids, the Misses Edith Marjorie and May Chavasse (sisters of the bride), Miss Gwendoline Chavasse, Miss Elsie Squires, and Miss Cicely Maude (cousins of the bride), Miss Muriel Drake (cousin of the bridegroom), Miss Ethel Knox (daughter of the Bishop of Manchester), and Miss Nancy Caton (daughter of the Lord Mayor of Liverpool). The Rev. F.W. Eddison was best man.

A reception was afterwards held at the Bishop's Palace. The honeymoon will be spent in Italy.

Dorothea Foster-Carter worked throughout the First World War organising comforts for the troops. Died on 14 November 1935, at St. Peter's Vicarage, Hereford. The following report appeared in The Times newspaper, dated 15 November 1935:

Mrs. Dorothea Foster-Carter was found dead in bed yesterday by her husband, the Rev. G. Foster-Carter, vicar of St. Peter's, Hereford. She was a daughter of the late Dr. Chavasse, Bishop of Liverpool. She took a great interest in the affairs of the parish, in spite of the fact that she was an invalid and had to use a bath-chair. She leaves three children.

The Reverend George Foster-Carter, of Woodstock Road, Oxford, died on 5 May 1966.

Christopher Maude Chavasse

Christopher Maude Chavasse, Noel's identical twin brother also born on on 9 November 1884, entered the church and in 1913 became Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of Liverpool. On the outbreak of World War One, Christopher Chavasse volunteered and was serving as an Army Chaplain by the end of August 1914.  In 1918 Christopher Chavasse became Deputy Assistant General 9th Corps, when he was wounded and awarded the Military Cross and the French Croix de Guerre for gallantry. Entitled to the 1914 Star with clasp, British War and Victory medals. Married Beatrice Cropper Willink on 15 July 1919. After leaving the Army, Christopher Chavasse continued in the church, eventually becoming Bishop of Rochester. Christopher Chavasse died on 10 March 1962.

Edith Marjorie Chavasse

Baptised on 26 September 1886, at St. Peter le Bailey, Oxford. Non-identical twin sister of Mary Laeta Chavasse. Died on 27 July 1987 in Windsor.

Mary Laeta Chavasse

Baptised on 26 September 1886, at St. Peter le Bailey, Oxford. Non-identical twin sister of Edith Marjorie Chavasse. In March 1915, Mary Chavasse became a lady helper to the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) with the Liverpool Merchants Mobile Hospital; located in France. For her work at this hospital from 1915 until the end of the war, Mary Chavasse was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal with MID oakleaf (London Gazette 29 May 1917 page 5323). Resided in Vicarage Way, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. Died on 26 February 1989.

Francis Bernard Chavasse

Francis Bernard Chavasse was born on 2 December 1889, and was educated at Liverpool College and Oxford's Balliol College. As with Noel, Francis Chavasse wanted to pursue a medical career. After graduating in Natural Sciences from Oxford, Francis entered Liverpool University. After qualifying, Francis joined the RAMC and served in Egypt and Gallipoli before entering the France and Flanders theatre in 1916 to served as Medical Officer (MO) to the 17th (Pals) Battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment, where he was also awarded the Military Cross. Also entitled to 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals.

The Liverpool Echo, dated Monday 13 August 1917, contained the following report:

Among the officers reported wounded is Captain Francis Bernard Chavasse, RAMC, third son of the Bishop of Liverpool. The wound is fortunately not serious. Captain Chavasse met with his injury whilst engaged upon an act of merciful duty, for he was at the time collecting the wounded from the battlefield. He has been about one year in France, previous to which he served in Egypt. This officer, it will be remembered, made several gallant attempts to bring in his wounded brother, Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse, who, it is thought is now a prisoner.

[Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse's remains were never identified, and he is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.]

After World War One, in 1923, Francis married Anita Reeves-Thomas. Francis continued his medical career, becoming a notable eye surgeon. Lived in Rodney Street, and Princes Park Mansions, Liverpool.

Dr. Chavasse wrote several publications: "Action of Adrenalin on Veins" (with Dr. Gunn, Royal Society 1913), "Blood Groups in Infants & their Mothers" (Lancet 1923), "Arteriosclerosis & the fundus oculi" (Lancet 1924), "Orthotopic trial lenses & frames" (British Journal of Ophthalmology 1924) and "Instantaneous stereoscopic colour photography" (British Journal of Ophthalmology 1925).

On 5 July 1942, Francis Chavasse was killed when he lost control of his car and crashed at Burton Dassett, Warwickshire. The following account was published in the "Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser & Leamington Gazette" on 11 July 1941.

A Harley Street doctor, Dr. Francis Bernard Chavasse, third son of a former Bishop of Liverpool, was killed on Saturday evening when his car overturned on the Warwick-Banbury road near Gatdon. An RAF apprentice, who had obtained a lift in the car at Banbury, had a remarkable escape, for he was thrown clear on to the grass verge and was unhurt.

At the inquest, held at the "New Inn", Gaydon. on Tuesday, the Coroner (Mr. E.F. Hadow) said it appeared that Dr. Chavasse had been travelling at an excessive speed. The bend at which the car overturned was only a slight one.

The Rev. George Foster Carter, of St. Andrews, Oxford, brother-in-law of Dr. Chavasse, said that his relative was 51 years of age, and was a medical practitioner at 39 Rodney Street, Liverpool. He also had a consulting room in Harley Street, London, which he visited at weekends. He had driven a car several years, and could be said to be an experienced driver.

Aircraft Apprentice Harold Norman Chell said that at 9.20pm on Saturday he was in Banbury, and obtained a lift from a motorist travelling towards Birmingham. The car was a four-seater Ford 10. Witness was in the car for about ten miles, during which the driver was travelling very fast. They went down a steep hill, and the car began swinging. When they were climbing the other side they were travelling at about 50 miles per hour.

At the top of the hill there was a slight bend to the left, and the car went right across the road on to the off-side grass verge, and continued for a considerable distance. The driver swung the steering wheel to the left, and the car turned over. It came to rest with its wheels in the air, and witness was thrown clear onto the near-side grass verge. He jumped up almost at once, but was unable to get Dr. Chavasse clear. His head was wedged between the steering wheel and the dashboard. Shortly afterwards a doctor arrived, who told him Dr. Chavasse was dead. There was no reason why he should have swerved across the road, apart from the excessive speed at which they were travelling. The doctor had appeared quite normal.

The Rev G.F. Carter said that Dr. Chavasse probably wanted to get home to Liverpool, and was therefore in a hurry. Witness had since heard that he had called at an Oxford school to his small son there. Dr. Chavasse had been to a play at the school, had taken his son out to supper, and had returned to the school at 8.45pm

Dr. C.J.L Wells, of Kineton, said that he arrived on the scene of the accident about a quarter of an hour afterwards, and found that Dr. Chavasse had a broken neck and a fracture of the skull. Death had been instantaneous. There were heavy skid marks on the road at that point.

Mr. Hadow returned a verdict of "Accidental Death" and expressed sympathy with the relatives. "He was a good man" he added, "but one cannot escape the fact that he was going too fast."

The following tribute was made by Dr. Charles J. Macalister (an old friend), and appeared in the Liverpool Daily Post on 15 July 1941:

Death is a great awakener of memories in the living, and the passing of Bernard Chavasse has aroused many recollections. The very house in which he lived, worked and his book has associations with the history of ophthalmology and a speciality, for in it dwelt and practised Edgar Browne (the son of "Phiz") who, like other early specialists, began his career as a general practitioner.

As a youth, certain psychological characteristics presaged those of later years in that he was serious minded and possessed of a thoughtfulness of purpose which led to his giving methodical and concentrated attention to whatsoever work or play he might have in hand. When writing his book or engaged on any professional subject which might be interesting him, at a given time, it was quite difficult to get him away from it until it was completed; in fact, whatsoever, he undertook to do he did with his might. The same trait dominated his play which, after his school days, mainly consisted in sailing, and this probably accounted for his holidaymaking at Abersoch, where he had a place of residence.

Many incidents illustrative of his methodical ways of doing things might be quoted; they were in evidence domestically and professionally. Two examples fell to his lot during the First World War. The first of these was when he made an unsuccessful attempt to discover his missing younger brother Aidan in July 1917, which involved a search associated with danger over No Man's Land. The second incident was his investigation of the circumstances in which his brother Noel died of wounds on 4 August 1917. His Father [Francis James Chavasse] of beloved memory, sent me a copy of Bernard's letter, dated 8 August 1917, which gave a lucid account of the whole incident. It ended up with the words: "With all the sorrow of it one does feel very proud of him. He was behaving very gallantly when, already wounded, and he never lost his courage during his last hours. This is not the snuffing out of a beloved nonentity, but the death of a man of valour who was also a man of God."

In his memorial address at the Church of St. Peter-le-Bailey, Oxford, the Dean of Liverpool (Dr. F.W. Dwelly) related an incident throwing light of the religious aspects of Chavasse's life, and there is ample evidence that he was, like other members of his family, a valiant man who will be remembered by people representing every section of the community, including those to whom he ministered in the hospital with unbounded skill and kindness.

Aidan Chavasse

Aidan Chavasse was born in 1892, and was educated at Liverpool College and Oxford's Corpus Christi College, where he represented the college in athletics and rugby.

Upon the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Aidan Chavasse left Oxford (before graduating) and enlisted into the 11th Battalion The King's Liverpool Regiment. Following the 11th Battalion's redesignation as a pioneer battalion, Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse transferred to the 17th Battalion in February 1917.

On 3 July 1917, Aidan Chavasse led a reconnaissance patrol into No man's-land, which encountered heavier than expected enemy patrols. Lieutenant Chavasse was observed protecting the rear of the patrol as it retreated back to its own trenches, during which he was wounded in the thigh. Attempts to reach Lieutenant Chavasse failed, and attracted enemy fire on to the position. Further attempts failed to find any remains of Aidan Chavasse.

The Daily Mirror, dated 12 July 1917, contained photographs of Noel and Aidan Chavasse and stated that it was Captain Noel Chavasse that made several attempts to locate his brother Aidan. I believe the confusion was caused by there being two Captain Chavasses in the RAMC: Noel Godfrey and Francis Bernard Chavasse.

However, in the following report (reproduced below) from The Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury, dated Thursday 12 July 1917, it was Captain Francis Bernard Chavasse (brother of Noel and Aidan) that organised attempts to locate Aidan.

Details are now to hand of the escapade in which Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse, the Bishop of Liverpool's youngest son, is believed to have been taken prisoner by the Germans. They reveal a story of great heroism on the part of the young Lieutenant's brother, Captain Francis Bernard Chavasse, who made five expeditions into "No Man's Land" in an attempt at rescue. The brothers were attached to The King's (Liverpool) Regiment, the missing one as an infantry officer, and Francis Bernard Chavasse as a RAMC officer. The account received by the Bishop of the adventure is that on Tuesday night last, Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse was in charge of a small patrol party who had succeeded in making its way into the enemy's wire entanglements, when they were surprised and attacked by a German patrol party. Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse was shot, and all attempts of his own men to get him back to their own lines failed. An officer who attempted to secure a stretcher was killed. Lieutenant Chavasse refused to allow any of the men to remain behind with him, but ordered them to all to make their way back to their own trenches.

Later that night, Captain Chavasse called for volunteers and organised a rescue party. Only two of this party succeeded in reaching the wounded man, who, by shouts, directed the party to where he was lying. Captain Chavasse, unfortunately, was not one of the two who succeeded in reaching the Lieutenant, and in the absence of more assistance it was found impossible to bring the wounded man in. The two men, however, were able to administer first aid, and reported that Lieutenant Chavasse was keeping up his spirits, and had managed to bomb away the Germans who had endeavoured to capture him.

Nothing more could be done until Wednesday night, when Captain Chavasse again organised and conducted a party into "No Man's Land". This time there were no shouts from the wounded man, and when they arrived at the spot where he had been lying the previous night they found he was not there. All their searching was in vain, and a similar result met Captain Chavasse's next search, which he carried out by himself later that same night. Search parties again, under the wounded man's brother, ventured forth twice more on Thursday night, but met with no greater success.

Although in all Captain Chavasse had made five journeys into "No Man's Land", he miraculously escaped being hit, in spite of the fact that the Germans knew that attempts at rescue were being made, and were repeatedly raking the area with shot.

From the accounts of the search it can only be assumed that the Germans had come forth some time between Tuesday night and the Wednesday night and taken Lieutenant Chavasse captive. The heroism of Captain Chavasse was shared by a corporal, who volunteered to form one of the search party each time they ventured across the danger zone.

On the evening that Lieutenant Chavasse was shot his brother, Captain Chavasse, was timed to begin a visit home on a few days leave. He remained to conduct these searches for his brother, and only when it was realised nothing further could be done did he come home. At present he is in London, where is also the Bishop.

All the fours sons of the Bishop of Liverpool are serving with the forces. Major Christopher Chavasse is a divisional chaplain; Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, VC, is with the Scottish RAMC; Captain Francis Bernard, as stated, is in the RAMC of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment, the youngest son being Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse.

Lieutenant Chavasse, aged 26 years' old, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, panels 4 and 6. Awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory medals.

Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse

Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse (King's Liverpool Regt) on the Menin Gate Memorial (Stephen Stratford 2011).

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