b. 29/05/1892 Derby. d. 04/04/1959 St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly.
Charles Edward Hudson (1892-1959) was born on 29th May 1892, the second son (and third child) of Lieutenant Colonel H.E. Hudson. He was educated at a Prep School in East Grinstead, Surrey, and later at Sherborne School, Dorset, which he attended (The Green) from September 1905 to July 1910. Charles did not stand out during his time at Sherborne School. He later recounted, in his journal published by the biography by his son Miles Hudson, Two Lives 1892–1992, that being morbidly afraid of physical pain he was “terribly conscious of being a coward on the football field” and that it was not until he had been at Sherborne for some years that he was able to overcome these physical fears.
After leaving Sherborne School, Hudson went to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, but was unable to finish the one-year course owing to the death of his father. Instead he went to Ceylon and from 1912 to 1914 worked as an apprentice tea planter, also engaged in the first experimental rubber planting on the island. There, he served part-time in the Ceylon Mounted Rifles, in an independent section formed of six young Europeans in the district he was working.
On the outbreak of the First World War he returned to England and was granted a commission in the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) 2nd Bn., with whom he served in France and Italy, to the rank of temporary Lieutenant-Colonel. During this time he received numerous military honours: in 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for capturing two enemy bombing posts at Mouquet Farm, in 1917 the Distinguished Service Order and Bar repulsing hostile counter-attacks upon his battalion at a critical moment at the Battles of Messines and Passchendaele, and in 1918 the Victoria Cross. He was also mentioned in despatches five times and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor. At just the age of 26, Hudson was one of the youngest Old Shirburnians to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
He was given command of his battalion after the disaster at Caporetto, Italy, and was ordered to leave for Italy . He was promoted to Temporary Lt Colonel of the 11th Battalion (23rd November 1917) and then Acting Lt Colonel. After a long and wearisome march the battalion took over from the 136th Italian Regiment on the River Piave on 3rd December 1917. Two months later they relieved the 130th Italian Regiment in the line of the Asiago Plateau, near Granezza, in the mountains of northern Italy.
On 15th June 1918 near Asiago, Italy, the 26 year-old Hudson was a lieutenant colonel in the Sherwood Foresters (The Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment), British Army, Commander 11th Battalion. During an attack when the enemy had penetrated the front line, Lieutenant Colonel Hudson collected and personally led various headquarter details such as orderlies, servants, runners, etc. to deal with the situation. He rushed a position with only two men, shouting to the enemy to surrender, some of whom did. He was severely wounded by a bomb that exploded on his foot. In great pain he gave directions for a successful counter-attack that captured about 100 prisoners and six machine-guns.
He was presented with the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 18th September 1918. Three days after the Armistice on 14th November 1918, the battalion began its journey to Cologne across the frontier, and on arrival, Hudson was struck down by influenza. After he recovered, and not wanting to leave the Army, he enquired about serving in North Russia. The authorities were lukewarm about the idea, and as it looked unlikely to be agreed, Hudson decided to use his month’s leave to sailed to Murmansk on an American ship having paid his own fare in April 1919. When he arrived, he found that General Ironside was short of officers. By coincidence, while in North Russia he met up with another holder of the VC, Lt Colonel John Sherwood Kelly, in command of a Hampshire battalion. Hudson was made brevet Major on 1st January 1919.
After Russia, he considered leaving the Army, but instead continued to serve during what became the inter-war years. He became captain and adjutant in the 3rd Sherwood Foresters from 11th March 1920 to 9th March 1923. Soon after his return from Russia, Hudson married Gladys Elizabeth Lee, who had first seen her future husband when, serving in a hospital as a Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD), and saw him carried in on his way back from Italy in June 1915. The couple later had two sons, John and Miles.
Hudson attended the 1920 VC Garden Party, and the Cenotaph and Unknown Warrior ceremonies in November, when he was part of the guard of honour. He held the rank of Major from July 1928, brevet Lt Colonel on 1st January 1932, was chief instructor at Sandhurst from 1933 to 1937, and Lt Colonel from January 1935. In 1933, Vera Brittain published her memoir “Testament of Youth”, in which she records a violent dislike of Charles Hudson, former battalion commander to her brother Edward, who was killed under his command. After Charles’ death, his son Miles published a memoir in 1992, and the story of what happened to Edward Brittain was revealed. In June 1934, Hudson wrote to Vera and confessed he deliberately withheld information about the circumstances of Edward’s death. They met at Vera’s home in London and Charles revealed details of Edward’s letters which contained information about his homosexuality. Charles was told to take no action until an investigation took place, but did tell Edward.
In 1938, on the eve of the Second World War, Hudson was in command of 2nd Infantry Brigade at Aldershot, which left for France soon after the start of the war when the Germans invaded Belgium. He served with 46th Division from December 1940. Hudson found himself in command of his brigade’s withdrawal from Dunkirk in May 1940. He was subsequently awarded the Companion of the Order of Bath, and fourteen months on 14th July 1941 was appointed to command a division.
He spent the rest of the war in “a number of command appointments” in the UK and Middle East. Tragically, he lost his eldest son, Lt John Hudson, who was killed in action on 24th April 1943 in Tunisia. Soon after the war, Charles retired to Devon. He lived at Kerswell House, Chudleigh, which was later burnt down after a cigarette was left burining in the study. Most of the contents of the house was lost. The Hudsons then moved to Denbury Manor, Newton Abbot. From 1949 to 1954 he was County Commissioner of St John Ambulance Association, Devon, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County of Devon, and a JP. In June 1956, he attended the VC Centenary Celebrations at Hyde Park, and on the following year’s Armistice Day, he opened the war memorial at Sherborne School.
While on holiday with his family at St Mary’s, Isle of Scilly, on 4th April 1959, when he was 66 years old, he was suddenly taken ill and was rushed by launch to St Mary’s Hospital, St Mary’s where he died. His funeral took place five days later and he was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard near his home in Denbury, Devon. On 28th May 2003, Miles Hudson, Charles’s surviving son, presented his father’s medal group including the VC, CB, DSO and Bar, MC, Knight of Grace, The Order of St John, 1914-15 Star with clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, 1939-45 Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, Croix de Guerre with oak leaves (France), Croce de Valore (Italy) and Medaglia Al Valore Militare (Silver) (Italy) to the Sherwood Foresters Museum at Nottingham Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SHERWOOD FORESTERS MUSEUM, NOTTINGHAM.
BURIAL PLACE: ST MARY’S CHURCHYARD, DENBURY, DEVON.
Plot 87 in the North East Section.
Kevin Brazier – Hudson Grave at St Mary’s Churchyard, Denbury, Devon.
Mark Jones – Hudson Medal Group at the Sherwood Foresters Museum, Nottingham Castle.
Brian Drummond – Hudson VC Stone in Derby.