The Victoria Cross takes precedence over all other medals for bravery. For over a hundred years out of all the millions of men who have served in the British and Commonwealth military services. The Victoria Cross was only awarded 1356 times, three of which were awarded twice to three men.
The first to receive the Victoria Cross twice was Arthur Martin- Leake, who was at Standen near Ware, Hertfordshire. He was educated at Westminster School and went on to study Medicine at University College Hospital. After his qualification he joined the Imperial Yeomanry. Later he joined the South African Constabulary as a Surgeon Captain attached to the 5th Field Ambulance. He won his first Victoria Cross at the age of 27 during the second Boer War on the 8th February 1902 at Vlakfontein. During all the fighting at Vlakfontein on the 8th February 1902. Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake went out to a badly wounded man to give him aid under a hail of heavy fire from about 40 Boers at 100 yards range. Not content with this he then went on to give assistance to a wounded officer, and, whilst trying to place him in a safe and comfortable position. He himself was shot three times, but although in considerable pain he stayed with the injured men until relieved. Martin-Leake while convalescing from his wounds he qualified as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in1903.
On the outbreak of World War I he returned to service, as a lieutenant with the 5th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, on the Western Front. It was here on the Western Front that he won his second VC, at the 40 years of age. The Citation reads Lieutenant Arthur Martin Leake, Royal Army Medical Corps, who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 13th May, 1902, is granted a Clasp for conspicuous bravery in the present campaign. For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty throughout the campaign, especially during the period 29th October to 8th November, 1914, near Zonnebeke, in rescuing, whilst exposed to constant fire, a large number of the wounded who were lying close to the enemy’s trenches. He was promoted captain in March 1915and major in November of the same year. In April 1917 he took command of 46th Field Ambulance at the rank of lieutenant Colonel. He retired from the army after the war and resumed his company employment in India until he retired back to England in1937. During the Second World War he commanded an ARP post
He died, aged 79, at High Cross, Hertfordshire on the 22nd June 1953, and was cremated with his remains buried in St John’s Church, High Cross. He is commemorated with a plaque and a tree at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. What a very brave man
The second double Victoria Cross winner was Noel Godfrey Chavasse, born in Oxford on the 9th November 1884. He was the younger Identical twin of the Rev Francis Chevasse who later became the Bishop of Liverpool. Noel was educated at Magdalen College School in Oxford then went on to Trinity College Oxford where he graduated with first class honours and stayed on at Oxford to study medicine. In 1912 Noel Chavasse passed his final exams and became a qualified surgeon working in Liverpool. In 1913 he applied and was accepted in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant. One year later the First World War had broken out and he was attached to the 1/10th (Scottish Battalion) of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment) At Hooge in Belgium in June 1915, Captain Noel Chavasse was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. At Guillemont in France on the 9th and 10th of August He received the Victoria Cross for tending wounded soldiers in the open all day under heavy fire from the German lines. Although wounded in the side by a splinter from a shell, he still carried on helping and carrying wounded men back to safety. Sometimes these brave deeds were just 25 yards from the enemy trenches. The bar to his Victoria Cross came at Wieljte, in Belgium during the period 31st July to the 2nd August 1917 1907 for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Although severely wounded Captain Chavasse continued to perform his duties and went out repeatedly to tend wounded soldiers. Many of these soldiers would have died of their wounds in the bad weather conditions if it hadn’t have been for the brave actions of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse. Later in the day he was so exhausted and badly wounded, that he died in a medical dressing station. It is strange that the doctor tending to Captain Chavasse when he died was Martin Leake the other double VC winner. Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinge Belgium. One can only visualize what a brave man he was.
The third and last man awarded a double Victoria Cross was Charles Upham, born at 32 Gloucester Street in Central Christchurch on 21 September 1908. He was educated in private schools before going to Canterbury Agricultural College (now known as Lincoln University) where he earned a diploma in agriculture in 1930. At the age of 30 when war loomed in September 1939 Charles Upham Upham enlisted in the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force and was posted to the 20th Canterbury-Otago Battalion, which was part of the New Zealand Division Despite the fact that he already had five years experience in New Zealand’s Territorial Army, in which he held the rank of sergeant, he signed on as a private. He was promoted to Lance Corporal but at first declined a place in an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU). In December, he was promoted to Sergeant and a week later sailed for Egypt for further training. In July 1940, he was finally persuaded to join an OCTU. In March 1941 Charles Upham no a 2nd Lieutenant left with his battalion to Greece then withdrawn to Crete it was here at Crete that he gained his first Victoria Cross.
German paratroopers were dropped on the Maleme airfield and after a desperate situation of close fighting they took the airfield. During this fighting Upham led his platoon and soon silenced an enemy machine gun post. A cottage nearby taken over by the Germans fired a stream of bullets at Upham. He made use of the scanty cover and lobbed two hand grenades through the window and the German guns went quiet after the explosions. Lt Upham and his platoon attacked another machine gun post and again Upham from 30 yards lobbed two grenades into the machine gun nest scoring a direct hit. During the next 48 hours of non-stop fighting against the enemy, Upham was blown up by a mortar shell, shot in the foot and wounded in his shoulder. Despite these wounds Upham fought on. The following day he saw a neighbouring company in danger of being cut off by the advancing Germans. He single handedly fought through to them and escorted them back to safety. Later that day two enemy machine gunners were causing trouble, Upham twisted and fell to the ground. The Germans with machine pistols at the ready and certain that he was dead. How wrong they were Upham shot them dead at close range with his rifle. With his wounds, fever and fatigue which had drained his strength Charles Upham was evacuated back to Egypt on a British Destroyer where he spent time in hospital. It was here that Lt. Charles Upham learned he had been awarded his first Victoria Cross.
A year after Charles Upham was evacuated to Egypt; he was promoted to a Captain and sent with his battalion for operations against the Axis forces in the Western Desert. During operations with his company, they were involved in the attack on El Ruweisat Ridge on the night of 14th-15th July, 1942. In spite of being twice wounded, when crossing open ground swept by enemy fire to inspect his forward sections guarding the British mine-fields and again being wounded when he completely destroyed an entire truck load of German soldiers with hand grenades. Captain Upham insisted on remaining with his men to take part in the final assault. During the opening stages of the attack on the ridge Captain Upham’s company formed part of the reserve battalion, but, when communications with the forward troops broke down, he was instructed to send up an officer to report on the progress of the attack. Captain Upham went out himself armed with a Spandau gun, after several sharp encounters with enemy machine gun posts he succeeded in bringing back vital information needed. Just before dawn the rest of the New Zealand reserve battalion was ordered forward, but just before reaching their objective they came under heavy fire from strongly defended machine gun posts and tanks. Captain Upham saw the seriousness of the situation and without hesitation led his Company in a determined attack on the two nearest strongpoints on the left flank of the sector. His voice could be heard above the din of battle cheering on his men and, in spite of the fierce resistance of the enemy and the heavy casualties on both sides, the objective was captured.
Captain Upham, during the engagement, himself destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades and although he was shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and had his arm broken, he went on again to a forward position and brought back some of his men who had become isolated. He continued to dominate the situation until his men had beaten off a violent enemy counter-attack and consolidated the vital position which they had won under his inspiring leadership. Exhausted by pain from his wounds and weak from loss of blood, Captain Upham was then removed to the Regimental Aid Post Not content in what he had endured, immediately after his wound had been dressed, he returned to his men, staying with them all day long under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire. He was again severely wounded and being now unable to move. He was finally captured by the enemy when his gallant company now reduced to only six survivors was overrun by superior enemy forces. Captain Charles Upham, for his actions over the two days was awarded a bar to his Victoria Cross. During his captivity he attempted to escape on numerous occasions before being sent to the notorious Colditz Castle where he remained until the liberation. After the war he returned to New Zealand and became a successful farmer. When poor health forced him to retire in 1992 he went to live in Christchurch. He died in Canterbury on 22 November 1994 and his burial service in Christchurch Cathedral was conducted with full military honours and was buried in the graveyard of St Paul’s Church Papanui. Again, here was another very brave man who had total disregard for his own life, to help others