Thursday, October 27, 2016

HERALDRY: St. Peter's College and the Chavasse Arms

Arms of St Peter's College.
Blazon: Per pale Vert and Argent dexter two Keys in saltire Or surmounted by a triple towered Castle of the second masoned Sable sinister a Cross Gules surmounted by a Mitre of the third between four Martlets Sable the whole within a bordure Or. 

Authority: St. Peter's Hall was granted arms the year it was founded, on 19 Dec 1929. In 1947 St. Peter's Hall was given the full privileges of a College as a "New Foundation" and the name has been St Peter’s College since 1961.

Meaning: The St Peter's shield incorporates devices representing: (1) On the right (green) half as seen from the perspective of the shield-holder are the arms of the church of St Peter-le-Bailey, i.e., the crossed keys of St Peter and the superimposed bailey or castle fortification. (2) On the left half, the four birds around the English St George's red cross and the bishop's miter signify the arms of the founder Bishop Francis James Chavasse,

History: St Peter’s College was founded as St Peter's Hall in 1929 by Bishop Francis James Chavasse (1846-1928) and his son Christopher Maude Chavasse (1884-1962), later bishop of Rochester. Bishop Francis Chavasse's dreamed of a new Oxford hall that would seek out eligible young men from poor circumstances. It was realized the year after the Bishop's death. Bishop Chavasse's son Christopher became the first Master of St Peter's. Christopher Chavasse was awarded the Military Cross in World War I.
Noel Chavasse.

Christopher's twin brother Noel Chavasse won the only Victoria Cross with bar in World War I. Noel Chavasse has been described as the "Oxford's greatest military hero in the 20th century" by David Horan, author of Oxford: A Cultural and Literary Companion.

Noel and his twin brother Francis matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford in 1904 or 1905 and competed in sports (rugby and athletics) for the University; both ran for Britain in the Olympics. The 1920 Oxford University Roll of Service included the names of 820 Trinity men who served in the Great War. Of them, 153 or nearly one-fifth, died while serving their country.

Here are the names of the four Chavasse men, two of whom were killed in action in World War I:

Capt Noel Chavasse was in the medical corps, treating injured soldiers, and for his bravery in August 1916 in Guillemot, Noel was awarded his first Victoria Cross, the highest military honor. He won a second VC in a battle in Belgium that killed him in 1917. He is the only soldier in World War I who won the VC a second time ("with Bar"). He is also only one of three soldiers ever to have won the VC with bar and the only Oxford alumnus. He is buried in Belgium.

Christopher Chavasse was an Army chaplain wounded at Cambrai in 1917, and, as mentioned, was awarded the MC.

Capt Francis Bernard Chavasse, also a medic with the RAMC, was wounded at Hooge and was awarded the MC. Francis became the first Master of St Peter's in 1929 and co-founder with his father of St. Peter's Hall (later College), Oxford.

Lt Aidan Chavasse, the youngest brother, also served with the 11th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool regiment, renowned as volunteering for dangerous missions and was judged by his Brigade-Major to be the bravest man under his command. He was wounded on a mission to inspect German wire near Sanctuary Wood in July 17. He sent his patrol back to safety and took cover in a shell-hole. His body was never found.

In total, the Chavasse boys were awarded 21 medals for their actions during WWI. Their two sisters, Marjorie and May, served as volunteer nurses at soldiers’ hospitals.

Memorials, 2016-2017

Several centennial events celebrate the bravery of the Chavasse family, and Noel in particular, along with an exhibition at the west end of the St Peter's College Chapel:

May 2016. General Sir Nicholas Houghton, then Chief of the Defence Staff, and a St Peter’s alumnus and Honorary Fellow, spoke about Noel Chavasse.

Oct. 13, 2016.  Award-winning broadcaster and author Jeremy Paxman delivered the second Chavasse memorial lecture at the Sheldonian Theatre before an audience of hundreds, including descendants of the Chavasse family. He spoke on "World War I: The War to End War", reminding his audience of the daily horrors of trench warfare and the sequence of events that led to it. He answered questions from the Master, Mark Damazer CBE, and members of the audience.

Memorial to Noel Chavasse at Trinity
College. Photo by JT Marlin.
Oct. 23, 2016. A ceremony at St Peter's College Chapel commemorated Noel Chavasse's two Victoria Crosses. The Chapel, originally the church of St Peter-le-Bailey, was where the twins were both baptized. The service was conducted by the chaplains of St Peter’s and Trinity and the two chapel choirs combined to number about 40 producing what is reported as "a glorious sound". The service concluded with the famous quatrain of Laurence Binyon (Trinity 1888) from his poem, “They shall not grow old” set to music by 13-year-old Zachary Roberts.

Feb. 2, 2017. A Trinity College lecture to commemorate Noel Chavasse will be delivered by Professor Mark Harrison, Professor of the History of Medicine, Director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine. His topic was "Part of the Family–the Medical Officer on the Western Front." A bronze of Noel Chavasse showing him dragging a wounded soldier from no-man’s land is located outside the library entrance. A bust of Chavasse is inside the library and a portrait of Chavasse in the Chavasse Suite on Staircase 16.

Sources: David Horan, Oxford: A Cultural and Literary Companion. Websites of St Peter's and Trinity College. Ian Senior, Trinity College Newsletter.

Other Posts on the Arms of Oxford Colleges and PPHs: In Alphabetical Order . 
Chavasse Coat of Arms . Original Article in Oxford Today . Heraldry as Branding . Heraldry as Fun .  Coat of Arms vs. Crest . Sinister Questions . Visit to the College of Arms . Windsor Herald Talks to New Yorkers . Shaming of Harvard Law Shield :: Rapid Expansion of Oxford's Colleges and Halls . Oxford Stars . HERALDRY SUPERLINK . Harris Manchester College . Linacre College . St Catherine's . St Cross College . St Edmund Hall . St Peter's College . Trinity College :: Regent's Park College . St Benet's Hall . 

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