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Charles Wooden VC (24 March 1827 - 14 April 1875) was a Germanmarker recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to Britishmarker and Commonwealth forces.

Crimean War

He was awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of gallantry during the Crimean War. He was 27 years old, and a Sergeant-Major in the 17th Lancers , British Army. On 26 October 1854, in the Crimeamarker, at Balaklavamarker, Sergeant-Major Wooden went out with surgeon James Mouat to the assistance of an officer who was lying seriously wounded in an exposed position, after the retreat of the Light Cavalry. He helped to dress the officer's wounds under heavy fire from the enemy.

This order, carried by the young Captain Nolan and misinterpreted by Lord Lucan, began one of the most famous of all military engagements - The Charge of the Light Brigade - on 25 October 1854. Charles Wooden rode in this action.

Captain William Morris of the 17th Lancers, who, with about 20 men so far comparatively unscathed in the sea of carnage all around, came upon a squadron of Russian Hussars. Ordering his men to keep together, he rode straight at the Russian leader, running him through with his sword with such force that he toppled him over the side of his horse, and, unable to disengage his hand from his sword, fell with him. The Russians closed on Morris and slashed at him with their sabres, cutting through his forage cap until he lost consciousness. He was taken prisoner but in the confusion of the field, managed to slip away, capture a horse and make a dash for freedom, only to fall from his horse due to his wounds. Pursued by the Russians through the thick smoke of the battlefield, 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, in agony from a broken right arm, broken ribs and three deep head wounds, he managed to free his leg and stagger towards the British lines. By a strange co-incidence he came across the body of his good friend Captain Nolan and lay down beside it. Earlier Morris and Nolan had exchanged the letters customary by friends before battle, promising to inform the other's loved ones, should anything happen. Once again Morris lapsed into unconsciousness.

An attempt was made by Turkish troops to recover the two bodies, but as the Russian fire rained down upon them, they dropped their charges and bolted. Then a message was sent to the 17th Lancers and Sergeant Charles Wooden of the 17th Lancers (who had ridden in the charge and had his horse shot from under him) and Surgeon Mouat of the 6th Dragoons, struck out under heavy fire to rescue the stricken Morris. After roughly dressing his wounds, they succeeded in returning to their lines. For this action both were to be awarded Britain's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. Morris survived, despite his wounds and died four years later in India.

Sergeant Wooden was something of a character in the 17th Lancers. One night, returning to camp the worse for wear after a drinking session, he was challenged by the sentry on guard duty, but could not remember the password. "'tish me," Wooden whispered in a slurred voice. "Who?" asked the sentry. "'tish me, 'tish me!" came the answer. Down came the sentry's lance as he demanded to know just which 'me' it was.

By now in a temper, Wooden bellowed: "'tish me, the Devil". The sentry, now exercising his better judgement on recognising his sergeant retorted: "Pass, 'tish me the Devil!" From that moment the nickname stuck and for the remainder of his service with the 'Death or Glory Boys', Wooden remained "Tish me the Devil".

Wooden, a German by birth, was not a popular man in the regiment possibly because of his odd demeanour and strong German accent. Even the award of his VC was controversial. At first he was not entered for the award although Dr Mouat was. Wooden wrote to Dr Mouat saying that if Mouat was to receive a VC then so should he as he had been at Mouat's side during the rescue of Lt Col Morris. Luckily for Wooden, Dr Mouat agreed and wrote to the Horse Guards supporting Wooden's claim.

The reply to his letter reads: "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 VC was gazetted on 26 October 1858.

His VC citation reads:

Wooden's other medal entitlement is the Crimea Medal (with bars Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol), Turkish Medal, French War Medal and the Indian Mutiny Medal.

Later service

He was promoted to Lieutenant and Quartermaster of the 6th Dragoons in October 1860, exchanged to the 5th Lancers in 1865 and then into the 104th Regiment of Foot in 1871.

On 14 April 1875 Wooden shot himself following a drinking session, having complained of severe head pains the previous week. An inquest recorded death by suicide due to temporary insanity. He was 50 years old and had served 30 years with the Army. He is buried in Dover Cemetery.

The medal

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the The Queen's Royal Lancers Regimental Museum (Belvoir Castlemarker, Lincolnshire, England).


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