Charles Edward Hudson was born in Derby, Derbyshire on 29 May 1892, the son of Lieutenant Colonel Herbert E. Hudson of the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment). He was educated at a Prep School in East Grinstead, Surrey, and later at Sherborne School, Dorset, which he attended (The Green) from September 1905 to July 1910. Charles did not stand out during his time at Sherborne School. He later recounted, in his journal published in the biography by his son, Miles Hudson, Two Lives 1892–1992, that being morbidly afraid of physical pain he was "terribly conscious of being a coward on the football field" and that it was not until he had been at Sherborne for some years that he was able to overcome these physical fears.
After leaving Sherborne School, Hudson went to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he first encountered Harold Alexander and admired him greatly, with the two becoming great friends, but was unable to finish the one-year course owing to the death of his father. Instead he went to Ceylon and from 1912 to 1914 worked as an apprentice tea planter, also engaged in the first experimental rubber planting on the island. There, he served part-time in the Ceylon Mounted Rifles, in an independent section formed of six young Europeans in the district he was working.
On the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Hudson returned to England and was granted a commission as a second lieutenant in his father's regiment, the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment). He was posted to the newly raised 11th (Service) Battalion, a Kitchener's Army unit, with whom he served in France and Belgium and Italy, ending the war with the rank of temporary lieutenant colonel. The battalion formed part of the 70th Brigade of the 23rd Division. During the conflict he received numerous military honours: in 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross (MC), in 1917 the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Bar, and in 1918 the Victoria Cross (VC). He was also mentioned in despatches five times and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor. At just the age of 26, Charles Hudson was one of the youngest Old Shirburnians to be awarded the VC.
In Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain describes several meetings with the convalescent Hudson while she was trying to discover the circumstances of the death of her brother, Captain Edward Brittain, who had served under Hudson.
Hudson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 15 June 1918 near Asiago, Italy, as a 26-year-old lieutenant colonel in command of the 11th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (The Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment). During an attack when the enemy had penetrated the front line, Lieutenant Colonel Hudson collected and personally led various headquarter details such as orderlies, servants, and runners to deal with the situation. He rushed a position with only two men, shouting to the enemy to surrender, some of whom did. He was severely wounded by a bomb that exploded on his foot. In great pain he gave directions for a successful counter-attack that captured about 100 prisoners and six machine-guns. For this, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The citation appeared in a supplement to the London Gazette on 11 July 1918.
After the war, Hudson, against advice and having embarked with a US Navy ship, volunteered to serve in North Russia during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, where he was deployed as a brigade staff officer under the command of Brigadier General Edmund Ironside at Archangelsk.
In 1920 Hudson married Gladys Lee, and they had two sons, John, born in 1922, and Miles, born in 1925. He attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1926–1927, where, among his fellow students included Harold Alexander, William Holden, Douglas Wimberley, Rob Lockhart, Richard Lewis, Roy Bucher, John Clark, Richard Bond, Eric Harrison, Sidney Archibald, George Wood, Reginald Nolder, Brian Robertson, Noel Holmes, and Ralph Deedes, all of whom were to become general officers in the upcoming war.
After returning to his regiment's 1st Battalion in Northern Ireland, he transferred to the King's Own Scottish Borderers in 1928 and, after serving with Malaya Command as a staff officer from 1930–32, was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel in 1932. He became a Chief Instructor at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from 1933 to 1936 and, in 1938, after being Commanding Officer (CO) of the 2nd Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, then stationed in India, Hudson commanded the 2nd Brigade, part of the 1st Infantry Division, whose General Officer Commanding (GOC) was Harold Alexander, then a major general.
Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Hudson led his brigade overseas to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The brigade, after several months of relative inactivity during the "Phoney War" period, saw action throughout May 1940, when the German Army launched its invasion of France, which resulted in the brigade, along with the rest of the BEF, being forced to retreat to Dunkirk, from where it was evacuated to England in late May/early June. With the threat of a German invasion, Hudson's brigade commenced anti-invasion duties, including beach defence, until mid-December when Hudson received his first divisional command.
Promoted to major general, Hudson became GOC of the 46th Infantry Division, a second-line Territorial Army (TA) formation, succeeding Major General Desmond Anderson. Formed in 1939 as a duplicate of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, the 46th Division comprised the 137th, 138th and 139th Infantry Brigades, along with supporting divisional troops, and the division, minus its divisional troops, had fought in France with the BEF, sustaining extremely heavy casualties, and after being evacuated, was then serving in Scotland under Scottish Command, reorganising after its heavy losses. Soon after Hudson became GOC, in early January 1941 the 46th Division moved to Cambridgeshire, later Norfolk, where it came under the command of Lieutenant General Edmund Osborne's II Corps, serving under Eastern Command and, like it had in Scotland, focused on reorganising and training to repel a German invasion. However, Hudson only held the command until May 1941, after a dispute with a senior officer which resulted in his demotion to brigadier and the command of a brigade, and he never again held a divisional command. He was succeeded as GOC of the 46th Division by Major General Douglas Wimberley, a fellow student at the Staff College in the mid-1920s.
After this demotion, he briefly commanded the 159th Infantry Brigade, part of the TA 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division, then serving in Northern Ireland, but was soon sent to command the 182nd Brigade, part of the 61st Infantry Division, another TA formation which was also serving in Northern Ireland, as part of British Troops in Northern Ireland. The division returned to the mainland in February 1943, moving to Essex and took part in Exercise Spartan, and moved to Kent in May, and the division was initially selected to play a role in Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy, only to be reduced to the Lower Establishment soon after, becoming essentially a training formation with the intention of supplying replacements to overseas units. Handing over command of the 182nd Brigade to Brigadier John Nichols in late November, he became aide-de-camp to King George VI from 1944 until his retirement from the army in 1946, a year after the war had ended.
He was awarded the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Commander). He died on holiday in the Scilly Isles on 4 April 1959, aged 66. Hudson was buried at Denbury in South Devon.
An obituary for Brigadier Charles Edward Hudson was published in the Old Shirburnian Society Annual Report in September 1959, reading:
The decorations bestowed on Charles Edward Hudson themselves give proof of his calibre as a soldier: V.C., C.B., D.S.O and bar, M.C., Croix de Guerre, and Italian Silver Medal for Valour. He was a graduate of the Staff College, had been the Chief Instructor at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from 1933 to 1936, had commanded a Battalion and Infantry Brigade and from 1944 to 1946 was an A.D.C. to the King. In 1949 he became the Devon County Commissioner of St Johns Ambulance Brigade and later, Chairman of the Order of St John in Devon. His two sons were both Shirburnians – J.P.C. Hudson (Harper House 1936–1940) was killed in action in North Africa in 1943, and M.M.L. Hudson (Harper House 1939–1943) is a Major in the 12th Royal Lancers. His brother T.H. Hudson was at The Green from 1903 to 1906. It was most fitting that such a distinguished Shirburnian whose own son was amongst those whose memory was there to be perpetuated, should perform the ceremony opening the Big Schoolroom on 10 November 1956. His speech on that occasion will still be fresh in the minds of those who heard it.
His medals are on display at Nottingham Castle.
He wrote his memoirs in a 730-page journal later published by his son Miles in 1992. He also wrote many poems based on experiences as far back as childhood that were also unpublished in his lifetime, as were two radio plays (never produced), ten short stories and many reflections on secular subjects. His only work that was published in his lifetime was several chess problems that were published in chess magazines.