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In this Centenary year of the ending of the First World War, we remember two of our former students who were awarded the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system.

Noel george
Noel Godfrey Chavasse (left) and George Allan Maling (right)

Noel Godfrey Chavasse (9 November 1884 – 4 August 1917) studied Physiology at Oxford from 1904 – 1909, where he joined the University’s Officers’ Training Corps Medical Unit, before graduating with a first class degree. He went on to take his post-graduate in Medicine at Liverpool University, before returning to Oxford to research blood plasma at Radcliffe Infirmary. He went on to work as house physician and house surgeon at the Royal Southern Hospital in Liverpool, specialising in Orthopaedics, before being commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps in June 1913. He was attached to 10th Battalion King’s Regiment as its Medical Officer. He is the only soldier in the First World War to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice, and one of three soldiers to ever have been awarded the VC and Bar. He was first awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He died on August 4 1917, during the Passchendaele offensive, at 32 years old. He sustained serious head injuries during the battle, but refused to be evacuated. Instead he remained to tend to the wounds of his comrades and saved the lives of an estimated 20 seriously injured men while under heavy gunfire. For these actions he was awarded his second Victoria Cross.

General Lord Dannatt spoke of Noel’s “selfless commitment” last week on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

 

George Allan Maling (6 October 1888 – 9 July 1929) studied in the Physiology Laboratory at Oxford from 1909 – 1911 as part of his Natural Sciences degree, which he graduated with honours. He continued his studies at St Thomas’ Hospital before being commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant in January 1915, attached to 12th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. He was sent to France in July and during the Battle of Loos offensive on 25 September 2015, he worked tirelessly for more than 24 hours to treat over 300 wounded men under heavy shell fire. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions. He continued to serve at the Military Hospital Grantham before returning to the front in 1917 to join 34th Field Ambulance in the 11th Division until the end of the war. After relinquishing his commission in 1919, he became resident medical officer at Victoria Hospital for Children in Chelsea, later outpatients’ surgeon at St John’s Hospital in Lewisham, before going into partnership practising in South London.