Victoria I used to get up about 9, read the newspapers, take a few
solar observations with a Sextant till 12, have luncheon, and ride
up to town about 2, lounge about the town paying visits and
shopping till 3, then go for a ride till 4:39, get home about
5:30, have dinner at 6, cup of tea at 7:30, rubber of whist (for
love) till 11, and then turn in and that was our ordinary
employment. We used to be overrun at various portions of the
day by naval officers coming on shore for fun, and in the evening
we used sometimes to have as many as a dozen at a time in our
Mess-room, and we were all great friends with them."
-- 27 May
1860, Lt. Anderson RE
Major General Sir Charles William
Wilson, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., F.R.S., D.C.L., LL.D., M.E.
Charles Wilson was born in Liverpool and was educated at St. David's,
Liverpool Collegiate Institute and Cheltenham College. Like all
Royal Engineer officers, Wilson was a Gentleman Cadet at the Royal
Military Academy, Woolwich, where he learned his trade as an engineer,
and obtained a
commission in the Royal Engineers in 1855.
In 1864, at the instigation of George Grove, Baroness Angela Burdett
Coutts (Bishop Hill's Burdett-Coutts)helped finance the Ordnance Survey of
Jerusalem. Volunteers were called for from the Royal Engineers to
carry out the work and Wilson was selected. The aim of the work was
to lay the basis for the improvement of the water supply of Jerusalem,
which at the time was severely polluted. In addition to producing a
topographical map of the city and its immediate environs, in 1865 the
survey party carried out a series of levels from the Mediterranean to the
Dead Sea, which established the relative levels of the two bodies for the
While Wilson was still in Palestine engaged on the Survey, the Palestine
Exploration Fund was founded. On Wilson's return to England, the PEF
Committee engaged him to carry out a 'feasibility study' for proposed
Survey of Western Palestine and to identify suitable sites for future
exploration. In November 1865, Wilson and his party landed in Beirut
and surveyed their way south to Palestine, planning the Great Mosque of
April 1866, Wilson carried out
reconnaissance and survey work in Palestine, paying particular attention
to the archaeology and ancient synagogues of the region. In the same
year, Wilson was appointed to the Ordnance Survey of Scotland (Under OUR
Parsons) and, in 1867, acted as Assistant Commissioner on the Borough
Boundary Commission. In this year, also, he became a member of the
Committee of the
Palestine Exploration Fund.
In 1868, he volunteered to take part in the Ordnance Survey of Sinai,
along with Capt. H.S. Palmer (yes, OUR Palmer). The report of their
work contains Wilson's chapters on the route of the Israelites and the
prehistoric and Byzantine archaeology of the region. In recognition
of Wilson's work in Jerusalem, he was awarded the Diploma of the
International Geographical Congress in 1871. In 1872, he was
elected to the Council of the Society of British Archaeology and in 1874
he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. On returning to England he
became Director of the Topographical Department at the War Office and
Assistant Quartermaster General in the Intelligence Department.
In 1876 he received a C.B. (civil) for the organisation of the
Department. He then had charge of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland and
also served on the Royal Commission for the Registration of Deeds and
Insurances in Ireland in 1878. Later in 1878, he was appointed
British Commissioner on the Serbian Boundary Commission. From 1879
to 1882, he served as Consul General in Anatolia and travelled extensively
in the remoter districts of Turkey.
In the summer of 1882 he took part in Sir [missing
expedition to Egypt to suppress
the rebellion of Col. Arabi. In 1884,
Wilson was Chief of the Intelligence Department on Wolseley's
expedition to relieve Gordon at Khartoum. On his return to Britain, Wilson was appointed Director of the Ordnance Survey in Ireland and
was Director General of the Ordnance Survey from 1886 to 1894. From
1895 until his retirement in 1898 he was Director General of Military
Throughout his military career Wilson remained in touch with the
Palestine Exploration Fund, serving as its Chairman during the period
from 1901 to 1906.
In his diary,
"...Only fancy our having a visit from 2 ladies here. We
were quite swamped with visitors, 10 all at once, and in this
country of course where people dine where they sleep. Col.
Hawkins gave up his house to the 2 ladies and their husbands and the
remainder we managed to stow away amongst us. We got up a very
decant dinner for them and had a jolly evening, singing and dancing
and sent them away the next morning, I hope, greatly pleased with
their visit. What would English people think of driving 15
miles with the thermometer at zero and 18 inches of snow on the
ground? but here distance is never thought of for a moment when any
excitment is going on."
Dr. Lyall and I are quite alone at Colville, Darrah having left for
Fraser river to erect monuments on the boundary there and the others
being still out in the field.
Bauerman is ordered home before winter sets in and I am afraid Dr.
Lyall will have to invalid as he is far from well and will hardly be
able to stand the severs winter up here, so that we shall be much
reduced in numbers and rather lonely cooped up in our log huts.
We had a
rather amusing scene here the other day which would have caused civilized people to open their eyes; the departure of Macdonald, the
Hudson's Bay officer here, and his family on a hunting
expedition. They went off mounted by twos and threes; Mrs.
Macdonald, a french half-breed, leading, perched high up on a
curious saddle used by women here, one of her younger daughters
behind her and the baby swinging in its Indian cradle from the
pommel; next came Miss Christine who is about 17, with her gaily
beaded leggings and moccasins and gaudy shawl flying in the wind,
she had a younger sister behind her an in front a small brother
perched like a young monkey on the high pommel; next came the boys
two and two on horseback and last Macdonald himself on his buffalo
runner, surrounded by a crowd of Indians and half-breeds, to which
add some 40 or 50 pack horses and spare animals rushing wildly about
with the shots and cries of their attendants and you have a fine
scene of excitment and confusion. I was invited to join them
and offered a buffalo robe in the comman lodge where we all live
together, but unfortuantely I could not leave this place or I should
have liked very much to have gone with them as the hunting season is
leaves today for Victoria, an invalid. Bauerman, our
geologist, also leaves with 10 men for England. The constant
exposure and wear and tear has told pretty heavily on some of our
party and they have been sent away to escape our rough winter which
it is doubtful whether they could stand another turn of.
The American garrison up here have been ordered below in consequence
of the Southern disturbances, which looks rather bad for the
Northerners as they must be in great want of men to withdraw such a
remote garrison as this.
They have been replaced by volunteers. I have not seen any of
them yet, but from all I can hear they will not be very pleasant
neighbours: the companies were raised in California from the very
scum of the earth and, as the officers are chosen by ballot from
among the men, you may have an idea what they will be. The men
have already been distinguishing themselves by several robberies,
housebreaking etc. which seems to be much in their line.
will give you an example of the way one day is passed, which you can
multiply by the number of days in the winter and have a good idea of
how we manage to kill time.
get up at about 8 am and dressing and breakfast while away the hours
till 1/2 pat 9, then writing and business till 2 or 1/2 past 2 when
I always go out either for a walk or in the sleigh returning about
5. We dine at 6 and after dinner read or have a game of
backgammon or rubber of whist till 10 or 11 o'clock, then to bed to
go through the same course on the morrow.
We have seen nothing of our neighbours, the American volunteers, but
we occaisionally hear of their doings. The officers and men
had a fight amongst themselves the other day, what they call a 'free
fight', everyone against his neighbour, in which coonsiderable
damage was done to the faces and prominent features of the
December 24th, 1861
Our cook, having cleverly contrived to boil up his pipe and tobacco
with the soup, we spent a rather cheerless Xmas eve and everyone
went to bed at an early hour, with a vastly unpleasent sensation.
"...our men are now busily engaged in getting one of their
rooms in order for a large ball which they are going to give to the
fair, or rather, dusky ladies, of the valley and which will give us
some amusement. The preparations which are on a very extensive
scale, serve to while away the monotony of the long evenings."
February 3rd 1862
"...The ball given by our men went off with great eclat, all
the elite of the valley being there and dancing kept up till a late
hour. The following week we also had a large ball at the
Hudson's bay fort and kept up the dancing till 1/2 past 7 in the
morning with great spirit. A "reel of huit' as it is
called in these parts, is the favourite dance and I must say the
ladies are untiring. I think they could have gone on for
another 12 hours. Coming back by sleigh through the cold wind
I managed to catch a sevsre cold, which has kept me a prisoner to
the house ever since."
February 22nd 1862
"A large Ball was given by the Americans at the Garrison as it
was Washington's birthday, to which we all went up and spent a very
jolly evening dancing jigs and reels till 4 in the morning.
All the inhabitants of the valley were there, with their babel of
tongues and we sat down to a first rate supper such as has not been
seen here before, only fancy, hoops and crinoline, polkas and galops,
have now found their way to this remote spot, but I cannot say that
the ladies are great proficients in the art. At any rate I
know my limbs ached for many a day after, for when once started, our
fair partners never stop till the music ends.
A few days
before the ball a most cold blooded murder was perpetrated by one of
the Volunteers officers! who stabbed a man with a large bowie knife
without any provocation. This is the second murder he has
committed within the last three years and I suppose he will get off
this one as he did the last. The people almost make a boast
that no one is hung for murder in this country. Lynch law is the
only thing for this wild life however repugnant it may seem to
An Outline of the Life and Military Service
of Charles Wilson
14 Mar 1836: Born at Liverpool. Son of
Edward Wilson, Esq.
of Hean Castle, Pembrokeshire.
1844: At St. David’s School,
1845: At the Collegiate Institute,
1852-54: At Cheltenham College.
1854: Student at the University of
1855: Commissioned Lieutenant in the
Royal Engineers. Passed second in first open admission to the Royal
1855-57: At the School of Military
1857: Employed at Dover.
1857-58: Employed at Portsmouth.
1858-62: Assigned as the
Secretary of the North American Boundary
Commission in British Columbia, Canada.
1863-64: Employed at Chatham.
1864: Promoted Captain.
1864-65: Carried out the Ordnance
Survey of Jerusalem.
1865-66: Exploration in Palestine.
1866-68: In charge of the Ordnance
Survey of Scotland.
1867: Married Olivia, daughter of the
late Colonel Duffin, Bengal Cavalry.
1868-69: In charge of the Ordnance
Survey of the Sinai.
1869-70: Executive Officer of the
1870-73: Director of the Topographical
1873: Promoted Major.
1873-76: Assigned as Assistant
Quartermaster-General at the Intelligence Department.
1874: Elected a Fellow of the Royal
Society (F.R.S.). Also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
President, Geographical Section, British Association, Belfast.
1876-79: In charge of the Ordnance
1877: Created Companion of the Most
Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.)(Civil).
1878-79: British Representative on the
Serbian Boundary Commission. Royal Commissioner for Registration of
Deeds and Insurances in Ireland.
1879: Promoted Lieutenant Colonel.
1879-82: Consul-General in Asia Minor
1881: Created Knight Commander of the
Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George. Employed while
Consul-General in Asia Minor on a Special Mission to Rumelia, and on the
inspection of the
Consular stations in Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine.
1882-83: Employed on a Special Mission
in Egypt, on the trial of Arabi Pasha, and under the Earl of Dufferin.
Awarded Egypt 1882 Medal and Khedive’s Star.
1883-84: In charge of the Ordnance
1883: Honorary Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.),
1883: Promoted Brevet Colonel.
1884-85: Deputy Adjutant-General and
Chief of the Intelligence Department for the Nile Expedition. Present at
the action at Abu Klea. Commanded the troops at the battle of El Gubat
on the 19th of February 1885. Mentioned in despatches, thanks of the
Government and two clasps to the
1885: Created Knight Commander of the
Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.).
1885-86: In charge of the Ordnance
1886: Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.),
Director-General of the Ordnance Survey of the United Kingdom.
1888: President, Geographical
Section, British Association, Bath.
1893: Appointed Temporary
Major-General. Honorary Master in Engineering (M.E.), Dublin
1894: Promoted to Major-General.
1895-98: Director-General of
1898: Retired from the Army by
from the Larimore Collection
1899: Traveled in Palestine.
Edom, and Moab.
Address: 9 Warwick Square, London, S.W. Club: Athenaeum Recreations:
traveling and exploration.
1904: Traveled in Palestine.
25 Oct 1905: Died at Tunbridge
1. WATSON, SIR CHARLES M. The Life
of Major-General Sir Charles William Wilson, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., F.R.S.,
D.C.L., LL.D., M.E. E.P. Dutton & Company, New York, 1909.
2. HUNTER, A.A. (ed.). Cheltenham
College Register, 1841-1910. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1911, p. 149.
3. SLADEN, D. (ed.). Who’s Who,
1899. Adam & Charles Black, London, 1899, p. 991
Charles Wilson was also a painter, many
of his works can be found at the British Columbia Archives, some are presented
here for your viewing pleasure.