30th September marks the anniversary of the action in 1900 for which Old Wellingtonian Charles Melliss was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The son of a high-ranking Indian Army officer, Charles was a student in the Hill at Wellington from 1876 to 1879. After going to Sandhurst he too entered the Indian Army, and served in several campaigns in India and Africa. In 1900 he took part in the Ashanti campaign in the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana), where the action recorded in his citation took place:
On the 30th September 1900, at Obassa, Major Melliss, seeing that the enemy were very numerous, and intended to make a firm stand, hastily collected all stray men and any he could get together, and charged at their head, into the dense bush where the enemy were thick. His action carried all along with him; but the enemy were determined to have a hand-to-hand fight. One fired at Major Melliss, who put his sword through the man, and they rolled over together. Another Ashanti shot him through the foot, the wound paralysing the limb. His wild rush had, however, caused a regular panic among the enemy, who were at the same time charged by the Sikhs, and killed in numbers. Major Melliss also behaved with great gallantry on three previous occasions.
After this, Charles continued to serve in Africa, and at the outbreak of the First World War was sent to the Middle East. By then a Major-General, he was part of a large number of British troops taken prisoner in 1916. He spent the rest of the war doing his best to improve conditions and treatment for his fellow prisoners-of-war. He retired from the Army in 1920, and died in 1936.
His Victoria Cross now belongs to Wellington College, along with his other medals which include the Order of the Bath, Order of St Michael and St George, numerous campaign medals, and a Royal Humane Society medal which he was awarded in 1899 for saving the life of a ship’s crew member who had fallen overboard.