Reverend Edward Noel Mellish, a Chaplain in the Army Chaplains Department, was attached to the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers in Ypres Salient in 1916 and it was with them during the first three days of the 'Action of the St Eloi Craters' that he performed the act of valour for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the first member of the army chaplaincy to win the VC, gazetted on 20th April 1916. He was 35 years old.
On three consecutive days, the 27 to 29 March 1916, during the heavy fighting at St. Eloi, Belgium, he went to and fro continuously between the original trenches and the captured enemy trenches, attending to and rescuing wounded men. The first day, from an area swept by machine-gun fire, he rescued 10 severely wounded men. Although his battalion was relieved on the second day, he returned and rescued 12 more of the wounded. Taking charge of a group of volunteers, on the third day, he again returned to the trenches in order to rescue the remaining wounded. This excellent work was done voluntarily and was far outside the sphere of his normal duties.
Edward Noel Mellish was born on 24 December 1880 at Oakleigh Park, Barnet, North London. He was the son of Edward and Mary Mellish. He went on to be educated at Saffron Walden Grammar School and from there became a member of the Artists Rifles. In 1900 he began serving with Baden-Powell's police against the Boers in South Africa. On the outbreak of the First World War he offered his services to the chaplaincy and served from May 1915 until February 1919. Just a few months after this his brother Second Lieutenant Richard Coppin Mellish was killed in action whilst serving with the 1st Middlesex Regiment at the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915.
Before WW1 he was assistant curate of St Paul's Church in Deptford. He returned to Deptford on leave and was feted by the local council. A crowd outside the Town Hall cheered the local hero and Pathe filmed the occasion. He also returned to St Paul's church to deliver a special sermon for children - he was so popular with Deptford's children that they named a social club he had founded for them (in a former pub) in his honour: Noel Club.
In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross. He married Elizabeth Wallace Molesworth in St Paul's, Deptford. In 1919 he was appointed to St Mark's, Lewisham. He later became vicar of Wangford-cum-Henham and Reydon, in Suffolk, and from 1828 at St Mary's, Great Dunmow, Essex. His last parish was Baltonsborough, Somerset. He died in Somerset on 8th July 1962 at the age of 81.
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