Begin New Search
Refine Last Search
Cemetery Lookup
Add Burial Records
Help with Find A Grave

Find all Uphams in:
 • Saint Paul's Churchyard
 • Papanui
 • Christchurch City
 • Canterbury
 • Find A Grave

Top Contributors
Success Stories
Community Forums
Find A Grave Store

Log In
Capt Charles Hazlitt Upham
Birth: Sep. 21, 1908
Canterbury, New Zealand
Death: Nov. 22, 1994
Canterbury, New Zealand

Victoria Cross with Bar holder (twice awarded the VC), he is considered one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II, because the VC has been awarded twice to only three men (including Charles Upham). He is the first combat soldier to earn two Victoria Crosses, the only soldier to earn two VCs in World War II, and the first ANZAC (and currently only ANZAC) soldier to win two VCs. Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, his father was a lawyer. He was educated at the Waihi Preparatory School, Christ's College, and Canterbury Agricultural College, where he excelled in rugby and crew. After college, he managed a farm, and in 1937, became a government valuer. When war broke out in 1939, he volunteered for the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, joining as a Private, and quickly was promoted to Sergeant due to his leadership. In 1940, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and went to serve in Greece, Crete, and later, North Africa. Upham won his first VC on Crete in May 1941, leading a platoon in the battle for Malerne Airfield. Carrying his favorite weapon, a bag of hand grenades, Upham attacked two German machine gun nests, killing eight German paratroopers in the first nest, and then destroying a second nest set up in a house. He then proceeded to destroy an anti-aircraft gun position. When his platoon caught up to him, he then carried a wounded man to safety in full view of the enemy, and then ran a half mile to save a company from being cut off by attacking Germans. The next day, Upham was wounded in the shoulder by a mortar burst and hit in the foot by a bullet, yet despite this he would continue to fight, helping his unit locate the enemy gun positions and bring return fire upon the Germans. With his one arm in a sling, he propped his rifle in a tree fork, and killed two approaching Germans; the second man was so close that he fell onto Upham's rifle muzzle as he died. During the retreat from Crete, Upham was so severely weakened from dysentery that he looked like a walking skeleton, but he climbed up a 600 foot ravine with a Bren gun to fire on a group of advancing Germans, killing 22 of 50 attackers, and successfully aiding the retreat of his unit from Crete. The unit was landed in Egypt, where the British Army was then fighting the Africa Korps and the Italian Army. Upham earned his second VC on July 15, 1942, when the New Zealanders were defending the Ruweisat Ridge during the first Battle of El Alamein. Upham ran forward through a position swept by machinegun fire to lob grenades into a truck filled with German soldiers. When contact was lost with a forward unit, Upham commandeered a German jeep and ran it through a German position to reach the unit. When the vehicle became bogged down in sand, Upham cooly ordered several Italian soldiers to push it out of the sand, and his commanding demeanor got them to do it. Even when he was wounded, he continued to go on, attacking a strong-point until his unit occupied the position. While shot in the elbow and suffering from a broken arm, he continued to direct the battle until he was wounded again in the legs and could no longer stand up, at which point he surrendered. Taken prisoner by the Italians, he was evacuated to Germany, but proved such a difficult prisoner, that after two unsuccessful escape attempts, he was sent to Colditz Castle, then considered the toughest POW camp in Germany, where he remained until the war ended. For his actions at Ruweisat, he was awarded a bar to his VC. Upon his release from Colditz in 1945, Upham went to England to track down Mary McTamney, a Red Cross Nurse from Dunedin, New Zealand, and in June 1945, they were married. Returning to New Zealand, Upham resisted all attempts to lure him into politics. When friends and neighbors raised 10,000 pounds to buy him a farm, he declined the money and gave it to start an endowment for scholarships to sons of ex-servicemen. He would obtain a resettlement loan from the government to purchase a farm in 1946, in Rafa Downs, some 100 miles north of Christchurch, where he had worked before the war. Despite his war wounds causing him some physical trouble, he became a successful farmer. Upham was extremely shy, and tried to avoid all publicity, often turning down requests for attendance at memorial events, but only relented when he received a personal appeal from New Zealand's Prime Minister. He and his wife would have three daughters, including a pair of twins. When he died, over 5,000 people attended his funeral. (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson) 
Family links: 
  John Hazlitt Upham (1867 - 1951)
  Agatha Mary Coates Upham (1884 - 1975)
  Mary Elizabeth McTamney Upham (1912 - 2000)*
*Calculated relationship
Saint Paul's Churchyard
Christchurch City
Canterbury, New Zealand
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: K
Record added: Oct 23, 2003
Find A Grave Memorial# 8017274
Capt Charles Hazlitt Upham
Added by: Eman Bonnici
Capt Charles Hazlitt Upham
Added by: Eman Bonnici
Capt Charles Hazlitt Upham
Added by: Eman Bonnici
There are 2 more photos not showing...
Click here to view all images...
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

A very brave man indeed!
- J. Bruce Fox
 Added: Sep. 21, 2016

 Added: Nov. 11, 2015
V.C. x 2 = Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham
- Jonathan Robert De Mallie, Historian
 Added: Apr. 2, 2015
There are 51 more notes not showing...
Click here to view all notes...
How famous was this person?
Current ranking for this person: (4.1 after 38 votes)

Privacy Statement and Terms of Service