UPHAM Charles Hazlitt
8077, Second Lieutenant, 20 NZ Battalion, 2nd NZEF
During the operation in Crete this officer performed a series of remarkable exploits, showing outstanding leadership, tactical skill and indifference to danger. He commanded a forward platoon in the attack on Maleme on May 22 and fought his way forward for over 300 yards, unsupported by any other arms and against a defence strongly organised in depth. During this operation his platoon destroyed numerous enemy posts, but on three occasions sections were temporarily held up. In the first case, under heavy fire from a machine-gun nest, he advanced to close quarters with pistol and grenades, so demoralising the occupants that his section was able to "mop up" with ease. Another of his sections was then held up by two machine-guns in a house. He went in and placed a grenade through the window, destroying the crew of one machine-gun and several others, the other machine-gun being silenced by the fire of his sections. In the third case he crawled to within 15 yards of a machine-gun post and killed the gunners with a grenade. When his company withdrew from Maleme he helped to carry a wounded man out under fire and, together with another officer, rallied more men together to carry other wounded men out. He was then sent to bring in another company which had become isolated.
With a corporal he went through enemy territory over 600 yards, killing two Germans on the way, found the company and brought it back to the battalion's new position. But for this action it would have been completely cut off.
During the following two days his platoon occupied an exposed position on forward slopes and was continuously under fire. Second Lieutenant Upham was blown over by one mortar shell and painfully wounded by a piece of shrapnel behind his left shoulder by another.
He disregarded this wound and remained on duty. He also received a bullet in the foot. The bullet was later removed in Egypt.
At Galatos on May 25, his platoon was heavily engaged and came under severe mortar and machine-gun fire. While his platoon stopped under cover of a ridge, Second Lieutenant Upham went forward when the Germans advanced. They killed over 40 with fire and grenades and forced the remainder to fall back.
When his platoon was ordered to retire he sent it back under the platoon sergeant, and he went back to warn other troops that they were being cut off.
When he came out himself he was fired on by two Germans. He fell and shammed death, then crawled into a position and, having the use of only one arm, rested his rifle in a tree and, as the Germans came forward, he killed them both. The second to fall actually hit the muzzle of the rifle as he fell.
On May 30, at Sphakia, his platoon was ordered to deal with a party of the enemy which had advanced down a ravine to near Force Headquarters. Though in an exhausted condition, he climbed to the top of a steep hill to the west of the ravine, placed his men in positions on the slope overlooking the ravine, and himself went to the top with a Bren-gun and two riflemen. By cleaver tactics he induced the enemy to expose itself, then at a range of 500 yards shot 22 and caused the remainder to disperse in panic.
During the whole of the operations he suffered from dysentery and was able to eat very little, in addition to being wounded and bruised. He showed superb coolness, great skill and dash, and complete disregard for danger. His conduct and leadership inspired his whole platoon to fight magnificently throughout, and in fact, was an inspiration to the battle."
Ruweisat Ridge, Egypt - 14 and 15 July, 1942
Lieutenant Upham was evacuated to Egypt, now promoted to the rank of Captain. He received the bar for his actions on July 14 and 15, 1942, at Ruweisat Ridge.
bar to Victoria Cross
The citation from the London Gazette dated 26 September 1945 reads:
"Captain C.H. Upham, V.C., was commanding a company of New Zealand troops in the Western Desert during the operations which culminated in the attack on El Ruweisat Ridge on the night of July 14 - 15, 1942.
In spite of being wounded twice, once when crossing open ground swept by enemy fire to inspect his forward section guarding our minefields, and again 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 and he was instructed to send up an officer to report progress of the attack, he went out himself, armed with a Spandau gun, and after several sharp encounters with enemy machine-gun posts, succeeded in bringing back the required information.
Just before dawn the reserve battalion was ordered forward, but when it had almost reached its objective, very heavy fire was encountered from a strongly defended enemy locality consisting of four machine-gun posts and a number of tanks.
Captain Upham, without hesitation, at once led his company in a determined attack on the two nearest strong-points on the left flank of the section. His voice could be heard above the din of battle cheering on his men, and with heavy casualties on both sides, the objective was captured.
Captain Upham, during the engagements, 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 wound and weak from loss of blood, Captain Upham was then removed to the regimental aid post. But immediately his wound had been dressed he returned to his men, remaining with them all day long under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire until he was again severely wounded.
Being now unable to move, he fell into the hands of the enemy when, his gallant company having been reduced to only six survivors, his position was finally over-run by superior enemy forces, in spite of the outstanding gallantry and magnificent leadership shown by Captain Upham."
Mention in Despatches
Commendation Medal of Merit and Honour (Greece)
For distinguished services in operations during World War II
"Mark of the Lion" by Kenneth Sandford 1963
Victoria Cross and bar
War Medal 1939-45
Mention in Despatches
NZ War Service Medal
Coronation Medal 1953
Jubilee Medal 1977
NZ Sesquicentennial Medal 1990
Commendation Medal of Merit and Honour (Greece)
Commemorative War Medal 1940-41 (Greece)
Born: 21 September 1908, Christchurch, New Zealand
Died: 22 November 1994, Christchurch, New Zealand
Burried: His ashes are buried in the graveyard of St. Paul's Church, Papanui, Christchurch, NZ
After being captured by the Germans, Captain Upham was sent to an Italian Hospital to recuperate. During captivity he attempted to escape numerous times before being branded "dangerous" by the Germans and incarcerated in the infamous prison fortress Colditz Castle on October 14, 1944.
When King George VI enquired to Major-General Kippenberger whether Upham deserved a Bar to the Cross, Kippenberger replied, "In my respectful opinion, sir, Upham has won the VC several times over."
Captain Upham is only the third person to receive The Victoria Cross twice and the only combat soldier to receive the award twice (the others were both Royal Army Medical Corps officers).
Charles Upham returned to New Zealand in September 1945 and ceased Expeditionary Force service in November 1945. Shortly after his return he married Molly McTamney.
Following the war Charles Upham took up the New Zealand government's scheme of offering ex-soldiers the chance of a farm of their own. He lived out the rest of his life in peace and solitude on his farm in Hunadlee, North Canterbury. It is said that for the remainder of his life, Upham would allow no German car onto his property.
A bronze statue of him now stands outside the Hurunui District Council buildings in Amberley, North Canterbury, depicting Charles Upham 'the observer'.
His Victoria Cross is held at the Queen Elizabeth II Army Memorial Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand.