Liverpool Life Stories: Alice Blacklock and the Chavasses

Left: Nursing Sister Alice Blacklock, who died in Mesopotamia in 1916. Right: Captain Noel Chavasse, who won the VC twice. Images © IWM.

Left: Nursing Sister Alice Blacklock, who died in Mesopotamia in 1916. Right: Captain Noel Chavasse, who won the VC twice. Images © IWM.

Alice Blacklock: nursing in Mesopotamia

Nursing Sister Alice Blacklock is one of 20 names on the memorial in Liverpool Cathedral to Liverpool Nurses. She was in her late twenties when the war began, and died in 1916 in Mesopotamia (now Iraq).

She is buried in Basra. IWM has a portrait photograph of her in her uniform in its collections (above left). The full photograph is accompanied by a typed caption which tells us that Alice died of illness rather than a war injury.

Noel Chavasse: double VC winner

Noel Chavasse was the only man in the First World War to win the Victoria Cross twice, and one of only three people to do so in the VC’s history.

Whilst serving as a doctor and officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1916, Captain Chavasse won the VC for tending the wounded during an attack “in the open all day, under heavy fire, frequently in view of the enemy. “

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Then, in 1917, whilst “severely wounded […] carrying a wounded soldier to the Dressing Station”, he “refused to leave his post, and for two days […] went out repeatedly under heavy fire to search for and attend to the wounded.”

“During these searches, although practically without food during this period, worn with fatigue and faint with his wound, he assisted to carry in a number of badly wounded men, over heavy and difficult ground.”

The second award was, sadly, posthumous, as Noel’s wounds were fatal.

The Chavasse family

Noel was an identical twin and one of several children. The family were jointly active in the war effort.

  •  Major Christopher Chavasse, Noel’s twin brother. A clergyman who was Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of Liverpool when the war broke out, Francis volunteered and served as an army chaplain. He was also a keen sportsman whose speed at lacrosse and rugby had earned him the nickname “the Flying Curate”.  He won the Military Cross and the French Croix de Guerre for gallantry. In postwar life he became Bishop of Rochester.
  •  Lieutenant Francis Chavasse,  also a doctor, served in Egypt and Gallipoli before being posted to France in 1916. He was Medical Officer to the 17th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment, one of the “Pals’ Battalions”.
  • Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse was 26 in July 1917. He led a patrol into No Man’s Land, and came under heavier fire than expected. He was seen protecting his men as they retreated, but became separated from them after being wounded in the thigh. His body was never found.
  • Noel’s sister Mary Chavasse joined the war effort in March 1915. Mary worked at the Liverpool Merchants Mobile Hospital in Etaples, France. This hospital was set up and staffed by volunteers from Liverpool. It had been funded by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and was also known as “No.6 Hospital British Red Cross”. She worked there from 1915 until the end of the war and was mentioned in despatches in 1917. 

Chavasse Family Community page has been set up on Lives of the First World War to group their Life Stories together.

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