Charles Henry Ruddock: a Victorian serviceman and Walsall Wood hero of note. Image supplied by David Evans, from the Riuddock family archive.
The young David Evans has been hard at work lately gathering together and compiling articles about the Ruddock Family and The Cape, in Walsall Wood following the wonderful material that recently came to light, so kindly donated by Julie Whitehouse [Apologies for the earlier editing mistake – Bob] and Dorothy Ruddock.
There follows the first instalment of the military history of Charles Henry Ruddock, a remarkable serviceman, and apparently something of a local hero.
A good starting point on the subject is the post here last week regarding the Cape by Janet Davies Warallo followed by the post about Dulce Domum and the Ruddock family photos.
The Ruddocks have generously opened their family archive to share with us here on the blog, and there follow some remarkable items of local history, ranging from the military honour of Charles Ruddock to local postcards I’ve never seen before.
My thanks to Dorothy, Julie and David – if you have anything to add, please do: comment here or mail me, please – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
The discharge paper of Charles Henry Ruddock. Image supplied by David Evans.
This brief military record – a discharge paper – gives little detailed information about Charles Ruddock’s amazing army career. Other military records, together with notes written by Charles’ son Robert many years later, give us a look back in to the amazing life and duty of this long-serving career soldier, and I am very grateful to the Ruddock family for allowing their notes to be used in this article.
Charles Henry Ruddock died in 1959, living his final years in Occupation Road, near the area formerly known as The Cape, in Walsall Wood.
He enlisted in to the Second Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment at Whittingon Barracks on 15 October 1890, at the age of 18 years 4 months.
The family notes read that he saw service with the Second Battalion at Malta, Gibraltar and Egypt and after his return to Whittington, the South Staffs re-embarked for the Boer War. One note reads that his wife, who at the time was at home and living in Ogley Square, Brownhills, ‘posted a Christmas pudding to him while he was fighting in the Boer War’ and the notes further read… ‘He was one of the Ragged 100 which relieved Ladysmith.’
In 1902 he returned to Whittington Barracks and was posted to York Castle and became Sergeant Warder at York prison.
Full dress parade of the South Staffs Regiment at Whittington Barracks, believed to be circa.1892. Image supplied by David Evans.
He was later posted to Fort George where ‘he had the honour of guarding Her Majesty Queen Alexandra’s room when she stayed there’. He was later posted to Guernsey. ‘It was while he was at Guernsey that a ship went down in the Channel with great loss of life. Charles volunteered to go in a boat from the Garrison fort to help rescue, even though he was a poor swimmer.’
‘Charles was awarded Long Service and Good Conduct medals for his service from 1890 to 1910 and was personally commended by Queen Victoria for a flawless exhibition of gymnastics by his battalion. He was senior gym instructor for a number of years. He was one of the first men in the Midlands to ride a ball-bearing bicycle [What the devil is that? – Bob] and would often cycle from where he was stationed to compete at Lichfield Sports where he won numerous awards
‘In 1907 together with five other sergeants started a boys’ club for soldiers’ sons. This was a predecessor to the scout movement, and when Baden Powell held his first scout camp at Brownsea Island, twelve months later, Mr Ruddock’s son Robert was one of the scouts who went’ (source, local newspaper obituary 1959).
Valetta military harbour, Malta. Image supplied by David Evans.
‘Charles was presented with a silver rose bowl and watch by his fellow Sergeants in 1911 when he left the regular army with the rank of Staff Sergeant, but in 1912 he enlisted in to the local Battalion of the South Staffs Territorial Army, and also gained a position as clerk in one of the Harrison coalmines in Brownhills.
‘Attending the annual summer training camp that year at Aberystwyth, Charles formed the Tug of War team which won prizes at Olympia, and in 1912 he trained the men at the Drill Hall in Norton Canes and took them to Olympia for the national championships. In 1913 he went to the training camp with the Territorials at Caernarvon, and the Tug of War team later took part in the contest at Olympia. In 1914 he went with the territorials to the training camp at St Asaph and it was while they were at camp that the 1914-1918 war broke out’
‘They were marched from St Asaph to Wychnor Park (near Lichfield) and entrained for Luton.’
And so the second chapter of Charles’ long military career was to unfold…
Military records, Ruddock family notes, local press articles and obituary, interviews with Charles’ granddaughter, Dorothy Ruddock.