UPHAM, Charles Hazlitt
Winner, Victoria Cross and Bar.
A new biography of Upham, Charles Hazlitt appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Charles Hazlitt Upham is the son of John Hazlitt Upham, barrister and solicitor, and Agatha Mary Upham, and was born at Christchurch on 21 September 1908. He married Mary Eileen, daughter of James McTamney, on 20 June 1945 and has three daughters. Upham was educated at Waihi Preparatory School, Winchester, South Canterbury, at Christ's College, Christchurch, and at Lincoln College, Canterbury. He holds a Diploma of Agriculture and is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Valuers.
A high-country musterer and shepherd, Upham later joined the Valuation Department. On the outbreak of the Second World War he enlisted in the 2nd NZEF on 18 September 1939. He sailed with the First Echelon with the rank of sergeant, being promoted to Second Lieutenant on 2 November 1940; was promoted Lieutenant on 2 November 1941 and Captain on 8 May 1942. He was a prisoner of war from 1942 to 1945. After the war he became a sheep farmer at “Lansdowne”, Conway Flat, Hundalee, North Canterbury, and is a member of the Parnassus Rabbit Board and Conway Flat School Committee.
Upham was awarded the Victoria Cross for sustained gallantry, skill and leadership on Crete between 22 and 30 May 1941. At Maleme he was responsible for the destruction of four enemy machine-gun nests and brought out a wounded man under heavy fire. He then penetrated 600 yards into enemy-held territory and led out an isolated company. He was wounded three times in the next two days but remained in action. At Galatos, on 25 May, he led his platoon forward as the Germans advanced, killing 40 and forcing them to retire. When his platoon was ordered to retire he went back to warn other troops that they were in danger of being cut off. At Sphakia, on 30 May, he repulsed an enemy party advancing on Force HQ, 22 being killed before the remainder fled in panic.
Upham was awarded a Bar to the Victoria Cross for outstanding gallantry and magnificent leadership as a company commander in the attack on Ruweisat Ridge on 14–15 July 1942. He destroyed an entire truckload of German soldiers with hand grenades and, although twice wounded, led his men in the final assault. Held up by machine-gun posts and tanks he led his company forward to gain their objective, personally destroying a German tank, as well as several guns and vehicles with grenades. Though hit in the elbow with a bullet, with his arm broken, and weak from pain and loss of blood, he consolidated his newly won position before having his wound dressed. Returning to his men he remained with them throughout the day under heavy artillery and mortar fire. He was again severely wounded and completely immobilised. His gallant company, by then reduced to only six survivors, was over-run and all were taken prisoners.
A quiet, modest man, Upham shunned publicity. When the people of Canterbury raised a fund to purchase him a farm he politely but firmly refused to accept the money. In 1949 the Charles Hazlitt Upham Scholarship, tenable by sons of ex-servicemen at the University of Canterbury or the Canterbury Agricultural College, Lincoln, was established from the money raised.
London Gazette, 14 Oct 1941, 26 Sep 1945.