Major Charles Henry Green,
1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment,
attached 3rd Battalion, Nigeria Regiment, West African Frontier Force.
Died of wounds, near Mkwera, 8 November 1917.
Buried in the Mkwera Cemetery, whose war graves were ‘lost’
and is now commemorated in the Dar es Salaam Cemetery.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Charles Henry Green on 8 November 1917, at the age of 35. A career soldier, and a veteran of the Boer War, Major Green left a widow, Ruth Graham Parry and a three year old son, later the legendary RAF ace, Group Captain Charles ‘Paddy’ Green (1914–1999).
Charles Henry Green was the fourth son and sixth child of Sir Frederick Green KBE, a descendant of the shipbuilding Greens of Blackwall Yard. His mother, Alice Jane, was born in Sydney, the daughter of a baronet, Sir Daniel Cooper. Charles was born on 23 August 1882 at the country home of his parents, Hainault Lodge in Chigwell Row, Essex.
Another ancestor, the shipbuilder and philanthropist, George Green, was the founder of a number of schools, one of which, George Green’s School on the Isle of Dogs, continues to bear his name today. Green’s concern for the safety of the crews of his ships between voyages resulted in the building of The Sailors’ Home, in East India Dock Road, which accommodated 200 sailors. This hostel was racially integrated, something regarded as “exceptional” for the time—1841.
Charles was educated at Harrow School and at the Royal Military College (Sandhurst). He was ‘gazetted’ to the South Staffordshire Regiment in 1901, and saw service in the Boer War following which he served with the West African Frontier Force until 1908.
In 1913, Charles married Ruth Graham Parry at the Parish Church of St George, Hanover Square. Their only child, Charles Patrick Green was born in Pietermaritzburg the following year, four months before the outbreak of the First World War.
In October 1914, Charles went to France with the 7th Division, and fought in the First Battle of Ypres, which saw the Regular Army suffer appalling losses. Charles was seriously wounded in that action and was mentioned in dispatches for conspicuous bravery. A transcript of the battalion’s diary is in the Thread started by Coomera (see under Further Reading below).
Once recovered, he was sent to the Cameroons and then on to East Africa, where he was attached to the 3rd Battalion of the Nigeria Regiment, probably because of his experience with the West African Frontier Force between 1901 and 1908. At the time of his death, he was Acting Second-in-Command. He was again mentioned in Despatches in January 1918, and recommended for the DSO.
The following account of the action at Mkwera Hill, in which he was mortally wounded on 8 November, is taken from a letter sent to his widow, Ruth, by Lieutenant-Colonel John Badham, who was commanding the 3rd Nigeria Regiment.
He was as fine a fighting man as one could possibly get, and always so cool and collected in the hottest of actions, that everyone round him gained complete confidence, and I always knew that, however heavily the Germans might attack us, if your husband was in command of the firing line, there was not the slightest chance of anything going wrong.
On the 8th of November we were ordered to attack the left of a German position, and, after getting right up against the Germans in thick bush, they made most determined counter-attacks on us. Your husband again took command of the firing line and had just gone to a part of the line which was being heavily attacked, to cheer on and encourage the Officers and men. On his arrival there the Officer in Command had just been wounded, and your husband was helping him away when he was hit in the back.
The Orderly informs me that he said to your husband, ‘Come away to the hospital,’ but your husband, seeing that matters were critical, turned back to the firing line and re-established confidence all round, but was shortly afterwards hit by a burst of Maxim fire, receiving four more wounds in the chest and arms. He was quickly got away to hospital, but there was no hope from the first, and it was only his stout heart that kept him alive so long.
Major Green was the most senior officer in the Nigerian Overseas Contingent to be killed in East Africa. As an officer, it is apparent from this account and from the Nigerian Contingent’s War History (pp. 236–241), that Major Green fought alongside his troops, rather than commanding at a safe distance. (This book is accessible online from the link in the sources.)
A marriage bond and allegation, dated 27 June 1918, together with a marriage registration in the second quarter of 1918, record that Charles’s widow married Lieutenant Colonel John Frederic Badham in the Parish Church of St George Hanover Square in the last week of June. This was the church in which Ruth and Charles had married five years earlier. A marriage to the widow of a fellow serviceman or brother officer was not uncommon in that war. And sometimes a pact had been made, and was kept.
Downes, Capt. W.D., With the Nigerians in German East Africa, London, 1919. https://archive.org/stream/cu31924027831860#page/n7/mode/2up, accessed 7/11/2017. [Major Green is mentioned on pp. 59, 74, 238 and 241.]
The National Archives, WO 76/104/18, ‘Record of Service of Charles Henry Green’, date left blank.
The National Archives, WO 95/1664/2, ‘War Diary of the 1 B[attalio]n South Staffordshire Regiment, 25 October 1914.
Survey of London, Volumes 43 and 44, ‘No. 133 East India Dock Road’, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols43-4/pp127-147#h2-0017, accessed 7/11/2017. [This Building is still standing today, but has been converted into flats.]
Further Reading and Notes
The updated CWGC web site now informs the searcher of the day of the week on which a death occurred, or was presumed to have occurred. I now know, without reference to a historic calendar, that in 1917 the eighth of November fell on a Thursday.
1914-1918, Invisionzone, Thread responding to a post by ‘Coomera’ re the wounding and rescue of Charles Henry Green, http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/145290-1st-battalion-south-staffs-regiment/, accessed 7/11/2017.
[Note: Read the first post, by Coomera, and the post by Roy Evans giving the War Diary entries for 25–26 October 1914, the action in which CHG was seriously injured. There are also two later responses by Coomera as he attempts to establish the story behind his grandfather’s saving the life of CHG, and the accommodation provided for the relatives of Sergeant Richards in the 1930s. Note that Sir Frederick and Lady Green both died in 1929 so the ‘Mr Green’ to whom Coomera’s grandfather referred, may have been one of Charles’s brothers.]
Exactly a week later after Captain Green received these serious injuries, the 1/Lincolnshire Regiment was taken in by similar tactics, in their case the calling out of Hindustani phrases, resulting in the loss of most of the Regiment when they advanced between and towards ranks of the enemy. For more information on the fate of the Lincolnshires, see https://hamremembers.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/leo-de-orellana-tollemache-tollemache-1879-1914/.
Major Green was not a South African but his son settled there after WW2, and his grandchildren were born there. (This blogger is flexible re criteria for Southern Africa.) Today his descendants can be found in South Africa, and further afield, in Canada and Scotland. If I find I am a few countries short here, then expect an update.
Much can be found online about his son, Paddy, including lengthy obituaries in the British Press. The following links lead to some reflections on his son’s military career. All hyperlinks in this article were checked and worked on 7 November 2017.
600 Squadron Association, ‘Profile: Charles Patrick ‘Paddy’ Green’, http://600squadronassociation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Profile_-_Charles_Patrick_Green_-_600.pdf, accessed 7/11/2017.
Tidy, D.P. (Squadron Leader), ‘South African Air Aces of World War II: No 7 Group Captain C.P. Green’, Military History Journal, Vol. I, No.7, December 1970.