Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham VC and bar (September 21, 1908 - November 22, 1994) was a New Zealand solider who won the Victoria Cross twice during World War II. Earning the Victoria Cross and Bar for outstanding gallantry and leadership in Crete in May 1941, and at Ruweisat Ridge, Egypt, in July 1942. He is only the third person to receive the Victoria Cross twice and the only combat soldier to receive the award twice.
Upham was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on September 21, 1908. He was educated at Christ's College and Lincoln College where he earned a Diploma in Agriculture.
He worked first as a farm manager, then as farm valuer for the government of New Zealand.
Follow the outbreak of World War II, Upham immediately volunteered for service, citing his reason for doing so as the desire to fight for justice. He enlisted in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in October 1939 and left for Egypt with the advance party of the 2nd NZEF in December 1939 as a sergeant in the 20th NZ Battalion. He was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in November 1940.
First Victoria Cross
In March 1941 his battalion left for Greece and then withdrew to Crete, and it was here, as a Second Lieutenant, that he was wounded in the action in which he gained his first Victoria Cross.
The Victoria Cross was received for his actions from May 22, 1941 until May 30, 1941.
He displayed outstanding gallantry in close-quarter fighting, when blown up by two mortar shells and badly wounded. In spite of this and an attack of dysentery which reduced him to a skeletal appearance, he refused hospital treatment and carried a badly wounded man to safety when forced to retire. Eight days later he beat off an attack at Sphakia, 22 Germans falling to his accurate fire.
Second Victoria Cross
Upham was evacuated to Egypt. Now promoted to the rank of Captain. He received the bar for his actions on July 14, 1941 and July 15, 1941.
When leading his company attacking an enemy held ridge overlooking the El Alamein battlefield, he was wounded twice but took the objective after fierce fighting. He personally destroyed a German tank, several guns and vehicles with grenades. Upham was shot through the elbow with a machine gun bullet and had his arm shattered, he went on again to a forward position and brought back some of his men who had become isolated.
After his wounds were dressed, he returned to his men but was again severely wounded and unable to move. He was eventually overrun by the superior weight of the enemy forces and taken as a prisoner of war.
After being captured by the Germans, he 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.
Charles Upham returned to New Zealand in September 1945 and ceased Expeditionary Force service in November 1945. Shortly afterward 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.
Charles Upham died on November 22, 1994 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The ashes of Upham were buried in the graveyard of St. Paul's Church Papanui, following his death.
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."
HMNZS CHARLES UPHAM – was a Royal New Zealand Navy ship that was commissioned in 1995 and named after Charles Upham. The ship's badge featured his Victoria Cross and bar.
The ship was to be used to move soldiers and equipment in support of Government defence and foreign policy needs, as well as provide assistance in civil emergencies.
The ship was sold in 2001 as it was found to be unsuitable for the purposes it was originally purchased for.