The surname Chavasse may be more common in the Midlands, but it’s well-known in Liverpool because of the courage and heroism of double VC holder Captain Noel Chavasse.
It is 100 years since the dedicated doctor attached to the Liverpool Scottish lost his life while tending the wounded at Passchendaele.
But what might not be as well-known is where Noel’s sense of duty and sacrifice emanated from – his family.
Now the Chavasse clan has become the focus of a new exhibition opening at Liverpool Cathedral this week, the latest in an annual series of displays marking the centenary of the First World War.
Celebrating the Chavasse family does just that – from the Rt Rev Francis Chavasse, who was the Bishop of Liverpool from 1900-23, and his wife Edith, to Noel’s twin brother Christopher and other siblings.
The exhibition has taken a year to put together, with cathedral archivist Val Jackson and the education team researching the family with the assistance of collections from Chavasse papers at St Peter’s in Oxford to records and ephemera held at the Imperial War Museum, the House of Lords, and here in Liverpool by organisations like the Liverpool Scottish regimental museum and 208 Field Hospital.
Val says: “It’s the story of a great family, not just a story of Noel. Although he is a kind of figurehead, I think the rest of the family have to be recognised as well.”
Noel Chavasse’s brother Christopher, later the Bishop of Rochester, was – like his twin – an Olympic runner, and then an army chaplain in the First World War who was awarded the Military Cross and Croix de Guerre.
Their brother Dr Bernard Chavasse, who practised in Rodney Street after the war, was medical officer with the Liverpool Pals and he too was awarded the MC.
Youngest bother Aidan was fatally wounded while protecting the rear of a patrol in No Man’s Land in July 1917, and despite heroic efforts of Bernard to locate him, he was never found.
Noel Chavasse was an army doctor with the Liverpool Scottish
And even the three Chavasse sisters, Dorothea and twins May and Marjorie - who both lived to be centenarians, played their part, with the twins becoming nurses and May being mentioned in despatches.
The exhibition in the Memorial Chapel is being accompanied by a drama on September 15-16 titled Brothers in Arms, telling the story of Noel and Christopher Chavasse, and an In Conversation on September 18.
Celebrating the Chavasse Family runs from September 12 to October 18 and is free. More from the website HERE.
Image top © St Peter's Oxford . Image of Bishop Francis Chavasse © National Archives