b. 24/03/1829 Germany. d. 24/04/1876 Dover, Kent.
Charles Wooden (1829-1876) was born on 29th March 1829 in Germany. Little is known of his early life and he became to being living in England prior to the outbreak of the Crimean War. He enlisted with the 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) and had risen to the rank of Sergeant Major prior to disembarkation to the Crimea.
Wooden was something of a character in the Regiment. It is believed his odd demeanour and strong German accent made him unpopular with the men, and it was his strong accent which partly led to his nickname. One night on his return to camp after a heavy drinking session, he was challenged by the sentry on duty, but he could not remember the password. “Tish me” was the slurred reply from Wooden. The sentry responded “Who?” “Tish me, Tish me” was the reply but the sentry lowered his lance demanding to know who “tish me” was. By now in a temper, Wooden bellowed “Tish me, the Devil” The sentry now realising the identity of the Sergeant Major replied “Pass, tish me, the Devil” From that moment on, the nickname stuck and for the whole of his service in the Regiment, he was Tish me, the Devil.
On 25th October 1854, Captain William Morris of the 17th Lancers, with about 20 men came upon a squadron of Russian Hussars. Ordering his men to stay together, he rode straight at the Russian leader, running through with his sword with such force, he was toppled from his own horse, and unable to disentangle his hand from his sword, fell with him. The Russians converged on Morris and slashed at him with their sabres. He lost consciousness, and was taken prisoner. He managed to slip away, get a horse and make a dash for freedom. Pursued by the Russians, he caught another horse, but fell again when the horse was shot. This time the horse fell on him, trapping his leg. When he came to, he had a broken right arm, broken ribs and three deep head wounds, and managed to free his leg and began staggering towards the British lines. Morris then collapsed unconscious next to the body of a friend, Captain Nolan.
The Turkish made an attempt to rescue the two men, but were forced back. A message was sent to the 17th Lancers and Sergeant Major Charles Wooden and Surgeon James Mouat of the 6th Dragoons, set out under heavy fire to rescue Morris. After roughly dressing his wounds, they succeeded in getting him back to British lines. Interestingly, only Mouat initially was recommended for the award of the Victoria Cross. Wooden on hearing this, wrote to Dr Mouat saying that if he was to receive a VC then so should he as he was at the side of Mouat during the rescue of Lt Colonel Morris. Dr Mouat agreed with Wooden, and wrote to the Horse Guards supporting Wooden’s claim.
The reply to Mouat’s letter was as follows “His Royal Highness feels very unwilling to bring any further claim for the Victoria Cross for an act performed at so distant a period but as the decoration has been conferred on Dr James Mouat for the part he took in the rescue of Lt. Col. Morris and Sergeant-Major Wooden appears to have acted in a manner very honourable to him on the occasion and, by his gallantry, been equally instrumental in saving the life of this officer, His Royal Highness is induced to submit the case.” Wooden’s Victoria Cross was gazetted on 26th October 1858.
Wooden following the award of the VC, moved to the 6th Dragoons and became a Quartermaster in 1860. He later moved to the 5th Lancers in 1865, and retired from the Army on half pay in 1871. He was then appointed Quartermaster of the 104th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Fusiliers) in 1872.
Sadly, Wooden, who was a heavy drinker throughout his life, died on 14th April 1876, when he shot himself following a heavy drinking session. He had been complaining of severe headaches from a damaged tooth for over a week. At his inquest, it recorded a verdict of death by suicide due to temporary insanity. He was buried in St James Cemetery, Dover, Kent.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEENS ROYAL LANCERS MUSEUM, THORESBY PARK, NOTTS.
BURIAL PLACE: ST JAMES CEMETERY, DOVER, KENT.
SECTION KG, GRAVE 8-C
Kevin Brazier – Grave Image and Cemetery Map of St James Cemetery, Dover.
Paul Reed – Image of the Wooden VC Medal Group at Royal Lancers Museum, Thoresby Park.