Theberton to remember VC officer a century after Gallipoli heroism

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie - Credit: RWF archive

A Victoria Cross recipient credited with turning defeat into victory at Gallipoli will be honoured in his home village this weekend – 100 years after he died in battle.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie was awarded a posthumous VC for his leadership and valour during the First World War campaign.

Born 1868 in Theberton, near Leiston, he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1889 and saw action in India, China, South Africa, Sudan, and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) during the beginning of the end of the British Empire. He then became a military consul serving in Abyssinia and Turkey, where he was awarded their equivalent of a knighthood, having helped save numerous lives in the saving lives during the Armenian massacre at Adana in 1909.

While in Turkey, the army officer – who had married Lilian Wylie three years earlier – began an affair with British explorer and spy, Gertrude Bell.

Their relationship is depicted in Werner Herzog’s recent film, Queen of the Desert, starring Nicole Kidman opposite Damian Lewis as Doughty-Wylie.

The pair continued to exchange letters until April 26, 1915, when the 46-year-old officer led an attack with Captain Garth Walford on a strongly defended Turkish fort. Although the daring operation succeeded, both men were killed at the moment of victory.

Doughty-Wylie was the highest ranking officer to be awarded a VC at Gallipoli, where he is buried close to where he fell.

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While the centenary of the Gallipoli landings will be marked with events in London today, Doughty-Wylie’s home village of Theberton will host its own commemoration.

Tomorrow, exactly 100 years after his death, a church service will follow the unveiling of a VC Memorial Stone by the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare, Countess of Euston.

Also present will be the Turkish Ambassador, the High Sheriff of Suffolk and an officer, bugler and the regimental goat from the Royal Welsh Regiment.

An exhibition over the weekend will feature all of Doughty-Wylie’s medals, including his VC – in Suffolk for the first time, having been loaned by the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon Castle. The village will also remember the other 18 local men who died in the First World War.

The organising committee, chaired by Stephen Beaumont, also managed to trace a machine gun retrieved from the beaches of Gallipoli and given to Theberton after the Great War to commemorate Doughty-Wylie. It had been on display in the mess of the Warrant Officers and Sergeants of the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment at Woolwich Barracks but will stand at the Theberton War Memorial for the laying of a flag stone in the churchyard.