View Full Version : Sir Evelyn Wood: A General Made From "Sterner Stuff"

09-29-2008, 12:31 PM
This piece comes from COMMAND, and highlights the career of SIR EVELYN WOOD, a British General "Made of Sterner Stuff"....

19th Century soldiers and sailors were subjected to medical care that by today's standards, borders on barbarism. The miracle, it has often been said, is that any of them survived the ministrations of their doctors....

But, in fact, it may not have been a "miracle" at all...

They may simply have been made of sterner stuff....

For example, Sir Henry Evelyn Wood began a remarkable career as a youth of 17 fighting in the Crimea as a British naval midshipman. Taking a commission in the army, he saw a great deal more active service, eventually rising to the rank of Field Marshal.
He was courageous and competant - but was also the most sickness-and-accident-prone officer in the history of the British Army.

Wood started his intriguing string of personal disasters in the Crimea in 1854. While "skylarking" on the HMS QUEEN he fell overboard, but with no apparent harm. Later, while serving with the Naval Brigade in the assault on the Redan, he was severly wounded in the left arm. The doctor cheerily told him to take a seat and,
"I'll have your arm off before you know where you are!"
Wood saved his arm by fleeing, but after it healed, he broke it twice more....
Invalided back to England in 1855, he slipped and fell down a flight of stairs in his barracks. The next year, returning to Turkey as a cavalry officer, he became sick with Typhoid fever, then pnuemonia, and finally dropsy. He recovered from them all, and was allowed to rejoin his regiment, which had since been transferred to India. Shortly after arrival there he collapsed from severe sunstroke. Then he fell victim to intestinal complaints, indigestion, fever, malaria and acute toothache.
On a bet with another officer he tried to ride a captive giraffe. When he fell off, the beast's hooves cut holes in both his cheeks and made a mash of his nose.
He wasn't even slowed down - he went on to win the Victoria Cross at Sindhara while still suffering from "face ache".

Back in England again as a major, he fell from a horse and nearly broke his neck. Recovered, he soon broke an ankle in a fall from another horse. Wood was then tormented by "neuralgia of the nerves of the stomach." To treat that his doctor prescribed morphine and inadvertantly administered an overdose.
Again, Wood recovered.....
Later a lieutenant colonel, he collapsed from exhaustion during the Ashanti War. The stretcher he was placed on was accidently set atop a red anthill, whereupon the ailing Wood was immediately attacked by hundreds of those savage insects. A week later, recovered from his exhaustion and the ant bites, he was hit in the chest with a nail fired from a musket.
Throughout the Gaika War of 1878, he endured "neuralgic pain."
During the Zulu War of 1879, he suffered from swollen glands and "continuous pains in the eyes, coupled with gastric neuralgia."During the First Boer War in 1881, Wood was riding in a carraige when it hit an anthill. He was tossed out and struck his back on the head of one of the outside horses. The "irritation set up in the spine was so severe as to make my feet swell to an enourmous size", he reported. He also had chronic intestinal complaints that kept him constantly on one medication or another, administered by a variety of doctors. His aide-de-camp complained it was necessary to,
"....carry a pharmacy around to treat Wood's many ailments..."

In Egypt, during the campaign to relieve Gordon, Wood not only had severe diarrhea, but caught his finger in a folding camp chair. The finger was crushed and the nail had to be removed.
Back in England in 1897, Wood, now a full General, tried to learn to ride a bicycle. In the process he collided, on three occasions, with hansom cab horses. One bit him severely enough to put permanent teeth marks on his arm.
During the Second Boer War, Wood, by then serving as an adjutant general of the army, was forced to remain in Britain. Still, the relative safety of those isles was not enough to protect him. While riding in a fox hunt his horse threw him, driving the gold crucifix and locket he was wearing on a chain around his neck into his ribs. Once recovered from that, Wood was again assailed by pains in the stomach and began to loose his hearing.
In 1903, he was promoted to Field Marshal. He held out until 1919, when at the ripe old age of 81 he died quietly in his sleep of natural causes.