b. 12/09/1862 Mhow, India. d. 06/06/1936 Brockenhurst, Kent.
Sir Charles John Melliss (1862-1936) was born on 12th September 1862 in Mhow, India, where his father, Lieutenant-General G. J. Melliss of the Indian Staff Corps was in service. He was educated in England at Wellington College and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, before entering the Army with the East Yorkshire Regiment in 1882, and joined the Indian Army in 1884. He served in East Africa in 1896, in the operations against the Mazrui tribesmen (earning the campaign medal, 2nd Class Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar), in 1897 and 1898, on the North-West Frontier of India.
He was present at the operations in the Khurram Valley in August and September 1897. He served in the Tirah Campaign of 1897-1898, taking part in the action on the Dargai Heights, and the Bara Valley. For his services on the North-West Frontier he received the Medal with three clasps. He was promoted to Captain and served with the Northern Nigeria Regiment with the West African Frontier Force from 1898 to 1902.
In the Ashanti Campaign of 1900 he was present at the Relief of Kumasi; twice mentioned in despatches, received the brevet of Lieutenant-Colonel, the Medal with clasp and was recommended for the Victoria Cross. He was gazetted on 15th January 1901 for his actions on 30th September 1900 at Obassa.
On 30 September 1900 at Obassa, Ashanti (now Ghana), Captain Melliss gathered together a party of men and charged into the bush at the head of them, into the thick of the enemy. Although wounded in a hand-to-hand encounter, his bold rush caused panic among the enemy who were at the same time charged by the Sikhs.
Melliss was presented with his medal on 12th October 1901 at St James’ Palace by King Edward VII. Earlier that year, he had married Kathleen, youngest daughter of General J. M. Walter, CB. From 1902 to 1904 he served in East Africa, and took part in operations in Somaliland. He was mentioned in despatches and received the Medal with clasp. From 1906 to 1910 he commanded the 53rd Sikh Frontier Force. From 1907 to 1912 he was Aide-de-Camp to the King. In 1911 he was created a Companion of Bath.
Major General Melliss was attached to the 6th (Poona) Division of the British Indian Army as it moved into what was then the Ottoman province of Basra in 1914. In April 1915, he was instrumental in the British victory at Shaiba. Melliss also fought in the Battle of Ctesiphon, the furthest up the Tigris that the 6th Division would advance.
After Ctesiphon, General Townshend, commander of the 6th Division, ordered a retreat back down the Tigris. Ottoman forces pursued the division to Kut-al-Amara, where, on 7 December 1915, Townshend ordered it to dig in and await relief. Melliss fell ill during the siege; he was in hospital when Townsend surrendered on 29 April 1916.
Transported upriver to Baghdad by steamship, Melliss remained in hospital and unable to travel as the survivors of the 6th Division were marched north toward Anatolia. When Melliss was well enough to travel, he followed the same route north. As he was a general, Melliss was allowed a traveling party and better than average supplies. Along the way, they encountered dead and dying enlisted men who had fallen behind one of the columns of British and Indian prisoners. Melliss took any survivors he found with him; at each stop he insisted that the men he had rescued from the desert be put into hospital.
He then spent two and a half years in Turkish captivity after the fall of Kut. For his services in the Great War, he was mentioned in despatches five times, and was knighted in 1915. He returned to England after his release and rose to the rank of Major-General, before his retirement. He died on 6th June 1936, aged 73 in Camberley and was buried in St Peter’s Churchyard, Frimley, Surrey. His medals are held by Wellington College.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: WELLINGTON COLLEGE.
BURIAL PLACE: ST PETER’S CHURCHYARD, FRIMLEY, SURREY.
Mark Russell – Images of the Melliss VC Grave in Frimley, Surrey.
Wellington College – Image of the Melliss VC Medal.