Charles Melliss

12 Sep 1862
6 Jun 1936
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Major General Sir Charles John Melliss VC KCB KCMG (12 September 1862 – 6 June 1936) was a British military officer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Melliss was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. A staff officer in the Mesopotamian Campaign of World War I, he was captured after the Siege of Kut.

He was the son of Lieutenant-General George Julius Mellis, Indian Staff Corps and was educated at Wellington College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the East Yorkshire Regiment in September 1882 but transferred to the Indian Army in 1884.

He served in East Africa 1895-1896 and on the North West Frontier of India 1897-98; operations in the Kurram Valley; Tirah 1897-98. Served with North Nigeria Regiment, West Africa 1898-1902 – Ashanti 1900 and the relief of Kumassi – wounded four times, once severely. Served East Africa, 1902-04, where he was badly mauled by a lion in 1903. Commanded the 53rd Sikhs (Frontier Force) 1906-10 and served on the North West Frontier operations (Zakka Khel) of 1908.

Promoted Major-General 19 March 1912.

He married in 1901 Kathleen, youngest daughter of General J. M. Walker, C.B

Mellis was 38 years old, and a captain in the Indian Staff Corps, Indian Army, attached to the West African Frontier Force during the Third Ashanti Expedition when, on 30 September 1900 at Obassa, Ashanti , 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 promoted Major 10 July 1901.For the same action that won him the Victoria Cross, he was also awarded the brevet rank of Lieutenant-Colonel on the following day.

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.

Melliss spent his captivity at Broussa in northwestern Anatolia. While there, he repeatedly wrote letters to Enver Pasha detailing the sad state of the enlisted prisoners and demanding better treatment. Most of the British other ranks (1,755 out of 2,592) captured at Kut-al-Amara died in captivity.

He retired from the Indian Army 24 February 1920. He was appointed Colonel of his old regiment, the 53rd Sikhs, Frontier Force on 31 May 1921, a position he held until November 1934.

Melliss is buried at St. Peter’s Churchyard, Frimley, Surrey, England. His VC is held by Wellington College.

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