A Walsall Wood Gentleman and Victorian Serviceman


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.

David Evans
September 2016

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11 Responses to A Walsall Wood Gentleman and Victorian Serviceman

  1. Pedro says:

    ‘He was one of the Ragged 100 which relieved Ladysmith.’

    Just who were the Ragged 100?

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    many thanks for posting this article. Readers may like to avail themselves of the occasionally free access to Military records offered by some ancestors sites to read for themselves the military service records for Charles Henry Ruddock.There are 17 or 18 pages! What does not show there, possibly because such detailed records were not kept at the time ,or loss during the blitz bombing in the second world, is reference to Ladysmith or Ragged 100. So I was not able to confirm the family notes’ reference in this instance.
    Winston Churchill’s book , London to Ladysmith, may possibly give some information.
    I would welcome readers’ help here, please.
    Mr Jeffrey Elson, historian with an ongoing interest in the history of the South Staffs regiment, very kindly sent me notes from his own research which I welcomed and appreciate greatly.
    However, Ragged Hundred seems to be a phrase that intrigues to this day.
    kind regards

  3. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob
    Good question, Pedro, the relief of the garrison besieged in Ladysmith came about after more than a hundred days of heavy fighting in the difficult South African terrain, surrounding the town, with heavy loss of life on both sides. the Boers, outnumbered and outgunned had lifted the siege, packed up and rode off. The first sight of the relief column; ‘two columns of mounted infantry, totalling about 120 men, plodding along on tired horses….their clothes are tattered and torn, their khaki is split and torn to pieces, some of them hardly decent – many of them have got hold of Boer trousers of various shades of blue and brown to protect their nether ends. They carry no cooking pots but are all cooking in their mess tins……’ (The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham)
    Perhaps a less melodramatic description than ‘The Ragged Hundred ’ but typical media interpretation, which is where the term probably originated.
    Grateful thanks to Julie Whitehouse and Dorothy Ruddock for making this fascinating material available to the blog and the tireless enthusiasm of young David Evans for research and Bob for presentation.
    Regarding ‘ball bearing bikes’, when I was a youngster the wheel of a bike contained a spindle, remove the spindle and nestling away, inside was about eight shiny ball-bearings, which was juvenile currency and highly prized on ‘swaps’ at the time. Don’t they still make ‘em like that ?

    • Hi David

      Yes, ball bearings are still used in several forms – cup and cone, sealed cartridge etc.

      First time I’ve ever heard the term ‘ball bearing bicycle’ though – familiar with ‘Safety bicycle ‘ etc


  4. Pedro says:

    I have looked through the Papers to check the movements of the 2nd Battalion South Staffs Regiment (2BSS) from October 1890 when Harry Ruddock joined, until after the Relief of Ladysmith (1 March 1900).

    I think it shows that the 2BSS did not have an involvement. The North and South Staffs 1st Battalions seem to have been in South Africa, and also the SS 24th Militia, but it is not clear that they had involvement in Ladysmith

    Sept 1890 Major W Moore, who was at the Curragh with the 2BSS, was appointed Commander at Lichfield, and his place in Ireland was taken by a Major Hunt. It seems that Major Hunt retired in October after 16 years service.

    April 1891 2BSS leave the Curragh and take up duties in Dublin, and in December leave Dublin and are at Aldershot.

    October 1892 at Aldershot but leave in November for Egypt.

    1893 relieve the Black Watch at Cairo. Situation is tranquil under Riaz Pasha.

    1894 December still in Egypt.

    1895 September the 1st B North Staffs sail on the Malabar to relieve 2BSS In Egypt, who will go to India.

    1896 record that a Captain will go to India to join the 2BSS in Madras.

    1897 September news from Bombay. Further riots due to fanatics in Madras, inciting holy war against the British. The 2BSS ordered to Manjeri from Madras. In October the Dunera sailed for Bombay with 100men from Aldershot to join the 2BSS.

    1900 September a second Lieutenant mentioned serving in India with 2BSS.

    1901 February an appointment to 2nd in Command of the 2BSS in India, also they are transferred from Sabathu to Umballa.

    • Pedro says:

      The above should read 4th Malitia and not 24th!

      On the 17th February 1900 the military reports inform…

      The 4th South Staffs Militia set out for Capetown.
      The 2nd Batallion North Staffs Regiment arrived on Feb 3 and proceed to Modder River.
      South Staffordshire yeomanry were on route and receive orders to proceed to Durban.

      Ladysmith was relieved on March 1st, after 2 unsuccessful attempts by Redvers Buller.

  5. Pedro says:

    “The Ragged 100” a Theory…

    The term would probably refer to forces inside Ladysmith than taking part in the relief.

    In the book written in 1900 “Four Months Besieged The Story of Ladysmith” by H. H. S. (Henry Hiram Steere) Pearse…..

    February 13th 1900…”This afternoon I paid a visit to Brigadier-General Hamilton in his tent beside the Manchesters on Cæsar’s Camp. Through all the glorious history of their services in Flanders, the Peninsula, the Crimea, or Afghanistan, men of the gallant 63rd have never done harder work than on breezy Bester’s Ridge, where they have furnished outposts and fatigue parties every day for four weary months. Is it any wonder that they are the raggedest, most weather-stained, and most unkempt crowd who ever played the part of soldiers? There is not a whole shoe or a sound garment among them. They are ill-fed and overworked, yet they go to an extra duty cheerfully, knowing that their General has faith in their watchfulness and grit. All honour to them! Like “the dirty half-hundred” of Peninsular fame, they have been too busy to have time for washing and mending.”

  6. Pedro says:

    There is some confusion as to which Staffordshire Regiment Harry Ruddock was assigned to, and after a conversation with the war correspondent David Evans, my interpretation is as follows…

    If you look at Harry’s 12 year Short Service form (7 years under colours, and 5 on reserve), on application, in 1890, to join “a Staffordshire Regiment” it suggest that he was already a member of the 3rd Battalion of South Staffs Malitia. On Ancestry there is an entry for Harry Ruddock of the 1st Batallion SS Reg, recorded as No. 2905…Sergeant (1899-1902 Boer War) and eligible for the SA Medal and clasps.

    As previously stated there seems no evidence that the Staffs Regiments took part in the relief of Ladysmith, and certainly no the 1st Bat……”The Militiamen of the 4th Bn. South Staffordshire Regiment (formerly (1st (King’s Own) Stafford Militia) were ready to go whilst the 1st Battalion of Regulars were still mobilizing. They volunteered and sailed from Queenstown in the Arundel Castle on 12th February 1900 whilst the Regulars departed Southampton in the Aurania on 17th March.”

    Harry’s return to England in 1902 would tie up with the end of the Boer War, but he must of at some stage signed for the full 21 years until 1911. In 1912 he applied for 4 years in the Territorials

  7. David Evans says:

    Hi Pedro
    many thanks for your ongoing research….so, QSA medal and clasps..in the plural..possibility;-
    “Relief of Ladysmith clasp”

    “A clasp inscribed “Relief of Ladysmith” will be granted to all troops in Natal north of and including Estcourt between December 15th, 1899, and February 28th, 1900, both dates inclusive.”
    source;- .AngloBoerWar com..website….gives clasp entitlements for the QSA medal..
    and another clasp from the same campaign?…..

    I think you may have found the key to a lock, Pedro. Many thanks
    kind regards


    • Pedro says:

      The clasp mentioned above says between Dec15th 1899 and Feb 28 1900, which probably is the duration of the siege. As the 1st Batt SS did not sail until the 17th March 1900, they would not be entitled to the clasp.

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