By Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector’sson
14th July, 2022
On the night of 14th–15th July, 1942, during the First Battle of El-Alamein, this brave New Zealand man achieved amazing feats of heroism in his fight against the German enemy. He won a Bar to his first V.C. which means he won a second V.C.
You read about it here. I will summarise and make my observations using the article, text in italics from this unless otherwise stated.
He had already won a V.C. in Crete for his extraordinary courage there, a real inspiration to the troops under his command and the battalion as a whole.
He was born in Christchurch New Zealand and
From an early age he was a quiet and unusually determined boy, and on more than one occasion he intervened to defend schoolmates who were being bullied.
He was a sheep farmer, manager and valuer.
Second World War
He fought with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF) having had 5 years’ experience with the Territorial Army. He had become a sergeant there but decided to enlist with the 2NZEF as a private. He eventually trained to be an officer.
In March 1941, Upham’s battalion left for Greece and then withdrew to Crete, and it was here that he was wounded in the action, from 22 to 30 May 1941, that gained him his first VC. When informed of the award, his first response was “It’s meant for the men.”
“It’s meant for the men” is very telling. He did what he did for those to whom he was responsible as much as anything else.
Bar to VC
When the recommendation was made for a second VC, the King remarked to Major-General Howard Kippenberger that a bar to the cross would be “very unusual indeed” and enquired firmly, “Does he deserve it?” Kippenberger replied, “In my respectful opinion, sir, Upham won the VC several times over.”
Only two other men won the Bar, a second V.C.
With this award, Upham became the third man to be awarded a Bar to the VC. The previous recipients were Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Martin-Leake and Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, both doctors serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Martin-Leake received his VC for rescuing wounded under fire in the Second Boer War, and the Bar for similar actions in the First World War. Chavasse was similarly decorated for two such actions in the First World War, subsequently dying of wounds received during his second action. Neither of these men were combatants, so Upham remains the only fighting soldier to have been decorated with the VC and Bar.
Prisoner of war
Upham refused on principle to escape from the hospital, but was branded “dangerous” after several later escape attempts.
On another occasion, he tried to escape a camp by climbing its fences in broad daylight. He became entangled in barbed wire when he fell down between the two fences. When a guard pointed a pistol at his head and threatened to shoot, Upham calmly ignored him and lit a cigarette. This scene was photographed by the Germans as “evidence” and later reprinted in a biography, Kenneth Sandford’s ‘Mark of the Lion’
‘Mark of the Lion’ is an interesting phrase. The word ‘beast’ in the book of Revelation in the bible actually means ‘wild beast’. A lion is a wild beast, considered the king of the wild beasts.
There can be good and bad marks at school. In Charles Upham we have a lion of a man, and as Jesus is considered the Lion of Judah, Charles Upham can be a mark of the beast in the good sense.
Or better perhaps, a mark of the best!!!
He obtained a war rehabilitation loan and bought a farm on Conway Flat, Hundalee, North Canterbury. It is said that for the remainder of his life, Upham would allow no German manufactured machinery or car onto his property.
I don’t blame him. And when you know as I do that Germany has been pinching our manufacturing over the years, it makes me livid to think we let this happen.
A bronze statue stands outside the Hurunui District Council buildings in Amberley, North Canterbury, depicting Charles Upham “the observer”.
It is quite a memorial to the man. His face is set like flint, determined.
What a man. I salute you sir.
I gather that Amberley is a town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It is named after a farm name in Oxfordshire. Although I cannot be sure, I suspect this may be in Great Coxwell just south west of the small town of Faringdon in the west of Oxfordshire.
There is also a village of Amberley near where I live, so when I go past it I can be reminded again.
Also there is a village of Upham, in Hampshire, England. It lies near and to the north-west of Bishops Waltham, a small medieval market town. I have been to the village; it is a lovely quiet spot. If I visit again, I hope I shall be reminded once more of Charles Hazlitt Upham.
I thought I would have a quick look at anagrams of his name. I selected these three although there are many others I consider suitable.
Allah chutzpah mister – chutzpah is from a Hebrew word and is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad.
AZ act He shall triumph – AZ are the first and last letters of the English alphabet, like the alpha and omega of the Greek.
Jesus Christ is the word of God. And he triumphed at what is called the cross, strictly a ‘T’ for tree. ‘Cursed is he who hangs on a tree.’
And His body was of course taken down the same day.
Christ zeal phut la ham – there you have it! Christ’s zeal phuts or explodes the ham (la is ‘the’ in French).
The thing is Libya is considered to be Phut or Put. Libya was under the control of Italy, the capital of which is Rome.
Italy was on the side of Germany. And ham is from pork which is what the Germans like very much as their main meat!!
Christ’s zeal was in Charles Upham. What a man he was.
And to use with a little license the words of Corporal Jones’ from Dad’s Army regarding the Germans;
‘They don’t like it upham sir!’
P.S. You might like to view this on more victories, H.M.S. Victory and Jesus’s V.C., his Victorious Cross.