The only British serviceman to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice during the First World War is to be honoured by the Royal Mint on a commemorative coin.
Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, a doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps, saved the lives of at least 20 soldiers while tending to the wounded under heavy enemy fire during the battle of The Somme in 1916.
He was subsequently awarded Britain’s highest military honour, and a year later was back in the thick of the action at the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly known as Passchendaele.
The Doctor has a genius for picking out those men who were near a breakdown
There, on August 2 1917, the 32-year-old was gravely wounded by artillery fire, but continued caring for casualties until he was eventually taken to a clearing station, where he died two days later.
Chavasse was posthumously awarded a Bar to his Victoria Cross.
Separately, he had already won a Military Cross for bravery in action.
His unique achievement is now being celebrated in a series of special sets of coins being produced by the Royal Mint to marking 100 years since key events in the First World War.
A one-off five pound coin depicts the medic caring for a fallen soldier on the battlefield, with a likeness of his face in the background. “The Royal Mint has a long association with the military, having made medals for military campaigns since 1815,” said Anne Jessopp, the organisation’s Director of Consumer Business.
"We will have made Captain Noel Chavasse’s Military Cross, for example, so we are honoured this year to be reflecting on his bravery, and the other poignant First World War themes from 1917, 100 years on.”
Commissioned in 1913, Lieutenant Chavasse quickly proved himself to be an officer deeply concerned for the welfare of his men, noted for his sympathetic attitude towards cases of shell shock and self-inflicted wounds.
A regimental historian later wrote: “The Doctor has a genius for picking out those men who were near a breakdown, either in nerve or general health, but not yet so run down as to be hospital cases.
“Rather than send them to the trenches where their collapse sooner or later was inevitable, he kept them at his aid post as light-duty men, where in comparative comfort they had a chance to rest and recover.”
Chavasse, the younger of twin brothers, was born in Oxford in 1884, his father a cleric who later became Bishop of Liverpool.
He was educated at Liverpool College School and when onto read Philosophy at Trinity College, Oxford where he gained a first and was a talented sportsman, earning blues for athletics and lacrosse.
After qualifying as a doctor in 1912 Chavasse became house physician at the Royal Southern Hospital, Liverpool, and the following year he was appointed house surgeon.
Upon joining the RAMC he was attached to the 10th Battalion King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.
His first honour, the MC, followed an action at Hooge in 1915 where Chavasse went back into no man’s land repeatedly over 48 hours until he was satisfied there were no more wounded he could help.
Memories and artifacts from the conflict are also being commemorated by the Royal Mail, in a series of images featured stamps issued to mark the centenary of each year of the war.
A life-saving Bible and a shattered poppy are among the depictions in the fourth and latest set of stamps.