Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Charles was born on 14 August 1883 in Christchurch.
In 1903 he left for Edinburgh to attend university. Over the next ten years he studied medicine, gaining a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) in 1908, becoming registered the same year. Further study followed and he was awarded a Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 1911. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1912. He became acquainted with a number of influential individuals, most notably Professor Ernest Rutherford who had married his older sister in 1900.
In 1913 Charles returned to New Zealand, registered as a GP in March, set up a practice and was also employed as Assistant Surgeon at Christchurch Hospital.
On 4 August Britain declared war on Germany. On 5 August Charles enlisted, along with his friend Charles Hercus and other medical staff from Christchurch Hospital. Because he had been an active Territorial Medical Officer, he was appointed second in command as a Major of the New Zealand Mounted Field Ambulance.
On 16 October 1914, after intensive training, Charles departed from Wellington on the Star of India. On 3 December the convoy arrived at Suez in Egypt where training of troops and horses continued.
Charles arrived in Gallipoli, without his horse, about two weeks after the initial landing on 25 April 1915. His first task was to look after the wounded being transported to the nearby Greek island of Lemnos and later to Malta. The risk of enemy submarines was ever present.
Following a number of other voyages with wounded, including one to Alexandria, Charles returned to Anzac Cove on 23 July. His men established a dressing station at Chalk Hill where most of the thousand cases a week he treated were illness related rather than wounded – mainly dysentery and typhoid.
As conditions continued to worsen, the first snow fell and blizzards began to torment the troops, Charles reported that some soldiers had frozen to death in the trenches. On 11 December he heard rumours that evacuation might be a possibility. He finally received orders they were to depart on the evening of 19 December. Charles and his men arrived back in Egypt at the end of 1915 and had two months to recuperate.
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles were now to be commanded by Brigadier Edward Chaytor from Motueka. Charles was appointed Commanding Officer of the unit that remained in Egypt and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. By 23 March 1916 he was in charge of a fully equipped and manned Mounted Field Ambulance that began to prepare to fight the Turks to defend the Suez Canal. This would become what many came to call the ‘forgotten war’. Charles was probably involved in many of the skirmishes and battles that took place over the almost two years the campaign dragged on.
On 11 December Jerusalem was captured. “[A] Christmas present to the British nation”, was the way the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, described the occasion. Soon after, on 17 December, Charles departed Egypt to take up his new post as Commander of the New Zealand Stationary Hospital at Wisques near St Omer in Northern France.
While the life was more settled, it was no less traumatic with large numbers of British casualties on a daily basis.
After Armistice Charles was transferred to London in December and in May 1919 he returned to NZ and was struck off the Army roll. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 17 December 1917 and was mentioned in despatches on 6 July 1917 and 12 January 1918.
Charles died circa 1969.