Owen Cadogan Wolley-Dod CB, DSO:
A True Man of Empire
The Moustachioed Imperial Hero known as Owen Cadogan Wolley Dod was born on May 2nd 1863, he was the sixth son of Reverend Charles Wolley Dod and Frances Lucy (nee Parker), of Edge Hall, Malpas, Cheshire. He was educated at Eton, Sandhurst and was a graduate of the Staff College, 1899. He was also Fluent in French and Hindi, both of which would be very useful to him during his long career.
In November 1883 he would marry Selina Augusta Marriot and join the freshly renamed 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers as a Lieutenant the same month. This regiment was previously known as the 20th (East Devonshire) Regiment of Foot, among other names an had a long and illustrious combat history. His first posting would be India, he would go there several times between 1885 and 1898.
As the new Century grew closer to an end he would find himself marching with Lord Kitchener’s army in the Sudan to take the city of Omdurman. Wolley-Dod now a Captain would be there with the 2nd Battalion avenging the Death of General Gordon, which occurred just a few years earlier across the river in Khartoum.
After the successful completion of that campaign with the Massacre of the Mahdist army at the Battle of Omdurman on September 2nd he would take part in the Cretan Intervention, Landing there with some 2,000 other British troops on October 11th 1898. After a year in Malta and Crete they departed for the Boer War.
Wolley Dod and the 2nd Battalion arrived at Cape Town to fight in the Boer War on the 19th of December 1899 transferring to Durban to serve as part of the 11th Brigade under Major General Woodgate. From here Wolley Dod and his men would fight at the famous Battle of Spion Kop on January 23rd 1900, where they suffered over 1500 casualties, among them Wolley Dod. They then fought The Battle of Vaalkrantz before moving onto garrison duty till the need of their war in October 1902 when they sailed for home. Between this point and the beginning of ww1 he would serve in various staff appointments across England.
When war broke out in 1914 he was promoted to Assistant Quartermaster General, Irish Command, on August 5th. Then he was a General Staff Officer First Grade at the War Office, from September 16th 1914 to January 19th 1915. His first taste of the Great War in earnest would come while serving as General Staff Officer First Grade, 29th Division, from January 20th 1915 to June 4th 1915. When the 29th Division landed at Gallipoli on April 25th he was ordered by Sir Ian Hamilton to take command of the Landings at W Beach.
He also commanded the 86th Brigade, 29th Division, from 5 June 1915 to 17 August 1915. On August 13th 1915 he was invalided home after becoming sick likely with the nightmarish hell that was dysentery. He was also instrumental in ensuring all 6 men got their VC’s that day before breakfast, and was twice Mentioned in Despatches. Owen Cadogan Wolley Dod was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath on June 2nd 1915 for his actions in Gallipoli
Following a period of rest and recuperation he was appointed an Inspector of Territorial Forces December 27th 1915 and did some tours of India inspecting regiments, he was again appointed a Brigade Commander on November 25th 1917 but as of yet I haven’t been able to find which Brigade.
Brigadier General Owen Cadogan Wolley-Dod retired Jan 1st 1920 , he had served all over the Empire for 37 years and died on February 1st 1942 at the age of 79. In his personal life he enjoyed playing Cricket and Golf as well as Hunting, Shooting and Fishing.
The Jewel of the Empire 1885-1898
Lieutenant Wolley Dod would travel to Poona, India on December 7th 1885 with his new bride and the Regiment. He was made Adjutant of 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers from 15 March 1892 to 14 March 1896, and was Promoted to Captain in 1892 shortly after assuming his new post.
Owen and Selina would have one Daughter named Vera born October 10th 1890 in England, Sadly his wife would die in Poona on August 29th 1892, its unclear of what but likely a tropical disease. He would do 4 tours in India between 1885 and 1898.
Vengeance in the Soudan! 1898
The 2nd Lancashire landed in the Sudan around the 21st of August after a journey up river in steam gunboats.
One amusing thing happened during the night of August 27th, The Battalion was encamped surrounded by a makeshift Zariba of bushes when an Arab came charging wildy through the lines shouting "Allah, Allah ". Captain Wolley Dod springing into action ordered his men to hold their fire, likely this was just the scout or vanguard of a larger force. However as it happened, the mad bastard was totally alone and having used up his one and only spear he nimbly disappeared unhurt into the brush and the history books.
British troops inside a zeriba at the Battle of Omdurman on 2nd September 1898.
A pair of River Nile steamboats that helped bring troops up the Nile for the Battle.
British and Khedive of Egypt’s flags flying from General Gordon’s palace in Khartoum after the Battle of Omdurman.
1st Lincolnshire Regiment waiting between the two Dervish attacks.
Lancashire Fusilers would have been outfitted the same way.
Maxim guns positioned between Maxwell’s Egyptian and Sudanese brigade and a British battalion.
12th Sudanese Regiment in a trench at the Battle of Omdurman.
Occupation of Crete 1898
Small entry on the occupation
From left to right: unknown; Captain F Amber; Lieutenant Colonel CJ Blomfield; Captain Wolley-Dod at Kasr el Nil Barracks, Cairo circa 1898.
The Boer War and Spion Kop 1899-1902
Captain Wolley Dod and the 2nd Battalion sailed for war onboard the steamer Norman on December 2nd 1900, they arrived at Cape Town on the 19th of December 1899. Swiftly they went onwards to Durban accompanied by the 2nd King's Royal Lancaster Regiment, 1st South Lancashire Regiment, and the 1st York and Lancaster Regiment. Once they had arrived these 4 regiments would form the 11th Brigade under Major General Woodgate, as part of the 5th Division under Sir Charles Warren.
As part of the larger advance towards Ladysmith, Sir Charles Warren with three brigades was ordered to cross at Trichard's Drift in an attempt to move around the rear of the Boer positions. It was soon discovered however this was not possible and a new plan was instituted. The men would set about clearing the hills towards the right front of their position, the overall progress was very slow owed to by difficult ground, large supply trains and no doubt some level of confusion. By the 23rd General Buller, Commander of British Forces in Natal had grown tired of Warrens lack of progress and rode forward to order him to attack up Spion Kop, this was the largest and central hill in the Boer lines.
The following is a newspaper extract from the Lancashire Evening Post on March 2nd 1900, they were receiving several letters and reports from men who were there. I have used it to help tell the story of that day as only those who witnessed it can adequately retell the events:
“It took us all the night and into the morning to get up. Men were almost falling down asleep – done up. The Lancashire Fusiliers were in front and a company of Engineers with picks and spades for trenches. All at once we heard a volley, and the bullets hailed around us. By the time we got to the trenches the Boers had gone over the side of the hill. I believe we killed two, I only saw one. The mist was so thick we could not distinguish one another. It commenced to rain and we thought it all over, but to make sure we made a small shelter trench which, as we found out to our cost, was hardly any use against the shell fire which came after.” We were lying in the trenches soaked and cold, thinking what a soft job we had in taking the trenches, when a perfect hail of shot and shell came among us from three sides, and we could not see to fire back. Men were being knocked to pieces by the shells. I heard them shouting for reinforcements lower down amongst some rocks in a triangular position. It was death to move. It was out of the frying pan and into the fire as we could not get up to fire and we were as good as helpless for four hours. We expected them over us any minute so fixed bayonets and waited, but the curs would not face it but kept up a cross fire on us until dark set in"
As dawn broke on the 24th their dreadful position began to reveal itself. Somehow in the lead up to the battle the secondary peak had not been seen. The men found themselves on a plateau with no cover, this flat stretch of grass would become known as “Massacre Acre”.
“We were 14 hours under fire and will never forget the cries of the wounded as we went down the hill. The order was to get off the hill and leave everything living or dead but it was impossible for anyone with any feeling to leave them behind. There are a lot of Burnley chaps done for in the Lancashire Fusiliers Hargreaves has just been to see me and confirms this.”
The day continued and the men on both sides began to despair. The heat was rising, there was little water and less help. Below the slopes on the Boer side of the hills their allies in the all Volunteer Boer army were milling around offering no assistance. However things were much worse for the British in their inadequate slit trenches, at around 8:30 am General Woodgate was killed by a shell fragment.
It wasn’t long before others would fall to the murderous artillery and sniper fire. Colonel Blomfield, commander of the 2nd Lancashire was wounded shortly after taking command. Then Major H.H. Massy of the Engineers, Brigade Major N.H. Vertue were both killed among many more, the British units were leaderless and confused, no doubt command of the assault now fell on the shoulders of Captains like Wolley Dod. who by this time was now wounded, likely in part due to his huge stature. As to the effectiveness of the British artillery, on soldier comments "Our gunners, by the inaccuracy of their fire did far more damage to our front line of infantry than to the Boers!"
On of the few high ranking officers left was Colonel Malby Crofton of the Royal Lancasters, he took charge and semaphored a plea for help, "Reinforce at once or all is lost. General dead." However he apparently gave up giving orders as Lt. Col. Alexander Thorneycroft took command and led a gallant counter attack.
By 1pm the situation was proving too much for some, dehydration and enemy fire was taking its toll and some men tried to surrender, stepping up out of their trenches. However Thorneycroft stepped up and stopped this, yelling out out to the advancing Boers "I'm the commandant here; take your men back to hell sir. I allow no surrenders." Just at this moment British reinforcements finally arrived on the hill, a brutal close range firefight broke out but the remaining Boers were driven off. The line had been saved, yet again.
During the battle Winston Churchill who had recently escaped from a Boer prisoner of war camp was acting as a courier to and from Spion Kop and General Buller's headquarters, its possible given his proximity and rank that Wolley-Dod met him during the battle. Churchill remarked upon returning from a despatch run "Corpses lay here and there. Many of the wounds were of a horrible nature. The splinters and fragments of the shells had torn and mutilated them. The shallow trenches were choked with dead and wounded."
Churchill would return to the hill several hours later as darkness fell, after 16 hours and hundreds dead he arrived to see the British leaving their positions. He brought orders for Thorneycroft, informing him that he was now a Brigadier and there was 1400 men on the way with two of the newly converted naval guns. Thorneycroft wasn’t having it and responded to him with "better six good battalions safely down the hill than a bloody mop-up in the morning."
The sad irony of this is that the British had won, during the dark after suffering heavy losses and no help from their army the Boers had retreated, leaving the summit uncontested. However when dawn broke there were two men left up their waving their hats at the Boer Generals, so in the end they held it.
There was someone else present you may not expect, someone who could have come across Captain Wolley Dod or tended to his wounds. Mohandas Gandhi was a stretcher-bearer at the battle, in charge of the Indian Ambulance Corps which he had personally organised. In 1900 Ghandi volunteered to form a group of stretcher-bearers named the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps. He quickly recruited eleven hundred Indian volunteers to help the British Army. They were fully trained in medical duties and served at the Battle of Colenso.
Spion kop is where they really shined though when Gandhi and his bearers had to go to the front lines and carry wounded soldiers for miles to a field hospital. The terrain was far to rough for some wagons and this ensured they got help in time, for their service during the war Ghandi and 37 Indian stretcher bearers were awarded the Queens South Africa Medal.
During the battle the British suffered 243 dead in the trench at Spion Kop, many of these men were buried there and are commemorated on a memorial on the site. The British suffered nearly 1500 casuatiles total and General Buller was left disgraced as a result. The Boers suffered 335 casualties of which 68 were dead, it was viewed as a defeat by both sides. A curious result and one that has captured the imaginations of readers, painters and the like for years since.
Sir Charles Warren said in Despatches, referring to the battle: "Lancashire Fusiliers ... Captain O C Wolley-Dod, though severely wounded, remained in action, and led his company into action the next day" For his service during the fighting in January he was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, the Insignia were presented by King Edward VII himself on June 3rd 1901, shortly thereafter he was also promoted to Major.
They fought the Boers again in Early February 1900 at The Battle of Vaalkrantz, Here Bullers army would suffer their 3rd defeat trying to relieve Ladysmith. A week later on the 14th of February they finally marched into Ladysmith and broke the siege.
The Lancashires wouldn't get to share in that glory, however after the previous months fighting i'm sure they were glad for a break. They were sent to Garrison Frere from 12th to 26th February 1900, followed by Chieveley and Colenso until 8th March 1900 when they were sent to Pietermaritzburg. Captain Wolley-Dod was again Mentioned in Dispatches for service rendered during the previous month. The regiment left Cape Town for England on the SS Britannic in October 1902.
Officers of the Lancashire Regiment July 1900.
Wolley-Dod back left.
Officers of the 2nd Lancashire during the Boer War.
Wolley-Dod 4th from left back row.
Remaining officers of the Lancashire Fusilers after the Death of Queen Victoria.
Wolley-Dod 3rd from right middle.
Lancashire Fusilers at the Seige of Ladysmith.
2nd Lancashire men likely at Wellinton Barracks prior to shipping out.
Ambulance of the Indian Stretcher Bearer Corps.
"Massacre Acre" Trench at Spion Kop.
Map of the Battle of Spion Kop, January 24th 1900.
Officers of the Lancashire Fusilers at Cheiveley Camp 1900.
A Respite from War. 1902-1914
The Regiment returned to Aldershot where Wolley Dod was appointed a Brigade Major from May 24th 1902 to September 26th 1904.
For the remaining period of the 1910s leading up to WW1 he would serve in various staff posts. Serving as the Second-in-Command, Sherwood Foresters from 24 August 1904, then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel February 11th 1908, and Colonel October 4th 1911.
He was then appointed Second-in-Command at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from May 3rd 1912 to January 31st 1914, training a whole new generation of men to defend the empire. His final appointment prior to the outbreak of the great war would be as a General Staff Officer First Grade with the 5th Division in Curragh, Ireland from the 1st of February 1914.
The Great War on the shores of Gallipoli 1915
Sir Ian Hamilton said of the April 25th 1915 Landings at Gallipoli "W Beach. — Brigadier General Hare had been wounded earlier in the day, and Colonel Wolley-Dod, General Staff, 29th Division, was sent on shore to take command at 'W' Beach and organize a further advance".
expanded writeup on gallipoli
Scene at 'Lancashire Landing', 'W' Beach, Cape Helles, during the landing of 29th Division transport on 27 April 1915.
2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers heading to Shore at Gallipoli.
Vickers machine gun post in the 29th Division's line at Cape Helles, Gallipoli.
Landing area at 'W' Beach.
The main camp at "Lancashire Landing"
Turkish Sniper captured at Gallipoli.
Wounded and sick being carried to ships. Dysentry caused thousands of casualties during the campaign, Wolley-Dod among them.
Map drawn of positions and work being done on the 15th, June 1915 by Wolley-Dod while in Command.
Landing map of Gallipoli April 25th 1915.
Back to India one last time 1915-1919
Brigadier Wolley Dod would spend a few short months recovering from his wounds received at Gallipoli. In December 1915 he would be appointed Inspector of Territorial Forces and travel to India, during his time there we would inspect the 88th Carnatic and 73rd Malabar infantry regiments among others.
While the 88th seemed to be turning out quite well considering difficulties they were facing, the 2nd Battalion, 73rd Malabar on the other hand were in worse shape. Brigadier Wolley Dods report of the inspection is as follows.
-Instruction and Training: " Training in this unit is very backward, There is a Shortage of Instructors, and some of the instructors, particular in physical training are inefficient. this is reflected by the way the men stand in ranks"
-Musketry: "Being advanced as rapidly as possible now"
-Marching: "Not good, there appears to be a difficulty in getting the men to keep step"
-Physique: "Variable, some of the Nayars have very poor physique"
-Physical Training: "Not good. Shortage of good instructors. Men stand to stiffly, and their position at 'Attention' is incorrect"
-Arms and Equipment: "Complete and in Good order"
-Discipline: "No serious breaches of discipline. On arrival there were signs of slack discipline in the camp, but much improvement has been made"
-Documents and records: "Accounts correctly kept. Other books not satisfactory. Company books are full of uninitialed alterations"
-General Observations: "The turnout at the inspection was good. Drill is very backward and steps are being taken to lend instructors to the battalion. Training of specialists is receiving attention"
"There appears to be no fixed stoppage from the men for messing and the government allowance of 10 Annas a man is not made the most of. Food is lacking in quality. With good feeding and properly supervised physical training the general physique of the men would improve" "Keeping of books an records leaves much room for improvement"
On Novemeber 25th 1917 Brigadier General Wolley Dod would be appointed Commander of the Lucknow Brigade, from here on he would work to expand and modernize the Indian Army. He would also serve as commander of the Bangalore Brigade. These postings took him back to where it all began for him, much had changed in the many years since he arrived in 1885. Serving as Commander at this time may have been a nice relaxing way to end a distinguished career, he had left India in 1898 for war as a captain and returned a General 19 years later.
Now Wolley Dod would return to England and retire to a quiet well deserved retirement, few men have earned it more and im sure he could have told some incredible stories, i have enjoyed researching this man more than almost any other since i began researching soldiers. He was mentioned in several places and present at some of the most incredible moments in history, yet he was almost entirely unknown. thankfully much of the records from that time have been digitized, much like a spider web i spent nearly 4 months researching him on every available database. I reached out to friends and colleagues as well as the Lancashire Fusiliers website staff. They were incredibly helpful and provided much of the information enclosed in this history. National Archives in England contained a huge wealth of information and thanks to their lock down policy all of the downloads were free.
For his Gallipoli exploits i read through nearly 6 months of war diaries 500 pages each and clipped out all relevant information related to his service. Im sure as time goes on i will add to this and amend it as ill always be looking out for more information on this fascinating man. im so thankful to be the caretaker of these items and uncovering the history of them really brings all these heros to life. you read reports they wrote and comments about them from others, you see photos and can sometimes get a real sense of their personality, right down to the hobbies they have. you get to know them and i hope by publishing them on my website i can let others know them and keep the history alive.
thank you for reading.