William Edmund Wheeler was born on 19th November, 1872 at Landport, Portsea Island, Hampshire, and was the eldest of three children to William Robert Wheeler and Harriet (Rogers).
William Robert and Harriet were married on 6th November, 1872 at Portsea, Hampshir,e just 13 days before William Edmund was born. On the marriage certificate his occupation was given as a mariner.
In the 1881 census the family were living at 6, Marlborough Row, Portsea and William Robert was now employed as a dockyard labourer.
In September 1882 Harriet died at her home, aged 28, and was buried in unconsecrated ground in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth on the 24thSeptember.
William married again in 1888, to Mary Ann Morris, in Portsea, and in 1891 all but William Edmund were living at 61, Amelia Street. William Edmund was living with his uncle and his wife, Robert and Susan Rogers in East Ham, Romford. He was now employed as a bricklayer.
William Robert was soon hit desperate times for on 31st May 1900 he was admitted into the Portsmouth Workhouse on St Mary’s Road Kingston. He was discharged the following year on the 25th July. The 1901 census states he was married but no record of his wife could be found in the records. The 1911 census found him back in the workhouse and this time he was a widower, but it is not known when his wife died. He died in 1923 aged 75.
William Edmund married Anna Martha Fitzgerald on 5th August, 1893 at St John’s Parish Church, North Woolwich, London and they lived at 52, New City Road, West Ham. They were to have seven children, the eldest being Augustus William, who also died in the war, and has his own page here.
In about 1907 the wheeler family, without Augustus, moved to 6, Bryn Houses, Flint. It is believed he came to help build the houses at the bottom of Aber Road, which were known as the “German Houses,” because they were built by Germans who owned a local factory named the British Glansztoff Works. It is also believed he was foreman on the job.
In the Northop Petty Sessions reported in the Flintshire observer 1st July, 1915 appeared the following:
THEFT OF A TURKEY: THOUGHT IT WAS A PHEASANT
Hannah Martha Wheeler, Swan Street, Flint, was charged with stealing a turkey, value 3s., the property of Henry S. Jones, Belgrave House, Northop. Mr. Jones said on the 14 June he missed a turkey from his yard. He had seen defendant in the yard. P.C. Hassall said on Tuesday, the 15thinst., He received information that a turkey was missing from Belgrave House. He made inquiries and found that defendant had been in the village. He went to Flint on the 16th and saw defendant, who produced a box containing a live turkey. Defendant said, “I thought it was a pheasant. I had no idea it was a turkey. I picked it up on the side of the road.” Witness took possession of the turkey and returned it to the owner. Defendant said she went to Northop to look for a house. She saw the bird on the road, and not knowing it was a turkey, took it. She took it home and put it in a box, thinking it would be nice for the baby. She had two sons in the Army and had just lost a son in the Navy. The Chairman said the Bench had taken all the circumstances into consideration and fined defendant 10s.
William enlisted in the Army on 13th September, 1915 with the 3/5th Royal Welsh Fusiliers No. 3437 and his address on his service record was given as 50, Mount Street.
He lied about his age because on his Attestation he claimed he was 38 years 10 months when in fact he was actually 42 years and 10 months.
His medical was undertaken by Dr Twemlow of 33, Church Street, Flint and stated: He was 5 feet 7 ½ inches, weighed 11 stones and had a chest measurement fully expanded of 37 ½ inches. His physical development was good, and his vision was normal. He had varicose veins on his left leg which caused the Army some concern for, on the 16th September, an application for discharge was made as it was thought he was “not likely to become an efficient soldier.”
In his defence Colonel E Williams wrote the following letter: “There is no objection. He has slight varicose veins as stated in my report dated 21 Sep & he is at present fit for Home service and would be thoroughly fit for foreign service after slight operation which he is willing to undergo.”
And in a letter dated 20th October Captain R J Owen, Commanding Admin: Centre 5 RWF wrote: “This man was sent back from 3/5th RWF Oswestry on the 16/9/15. Judging from appearances this man, apart from any slight physical defect, would probably make a very efficient soldier. I certainly consider that he is fit at present, for Home service, at least.”
Colonel C W Thiele wrote: “Not recommended for discharge. He has slight varicose veins of left leg which interfere very little. He is willing to undergo operation for cure.”
Private Wheeler was subsequently transferred to the Royal Infirmary, Chester for the operation.
He was Home based until 30th May, 1916, and the following day his regiment embarked at Devonport on the troop ship Kalyan. He was now serving with the 1/5th RWF. They disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt on 11th June, 1916 and joined the Base Depot, then joined the battalion on the 16th.
On the 10th February, 1916 he was admitted to the 24th Station Hospital suffering from scabies. He remained there for 9 days and discharged to re-join his unit.
On the 26th March, 1917 he was reported “Wounded & Missing.” He had been killed in action at the first battle of Gaza.
He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Jerusalem Memorial on Panel 23.
He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal and is remembered on two war memorials – Flint Town and St Mary’s Parish Church. He is also commemorated on the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor.
His death was reported in the County Herald the following year on the 6th September 1918.
ANOTHER SAD LOSS
The information has been received that Private W Wheeler, who was reported missing since 26th March 1917, is concluded by the Army authorities to be dead. The sad news was received by Mrs Annie Wheeler, of 38, Mount Street, Flint, the wife of the deceased. Mr Wheeler joined the Army in September of 1915, and previously he was employed at the silk factory as a bricksetter. He was well known among his many co-workers at the factory and was much respected, and the intelligence that he has made the great sacrifice will be received by them with feelings of the deepest regret; and we are sure the sympathies of the people of the Borough will be extended to the widow in her sad loss. It may be mentioned that the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Wheeler was lost on a vessel which was torpedoed; and that the eldest surviving son was dangerously wounded recently while serving abroad, and that he is now an inmate of one of the midland hospitals in England. There is a younger brother now serving with the Forces.
The son that was wounded was Private William Edmund Jr who recovered and survived the war.
The following story appeared in the County Herald on 14th January, 1916:
ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE
On Friday evening, at the Police Buildings, Flint, before Mr J W M Evans, Private William Edmund Wheeler, of the 1/5th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and who was some time since invalided home through an attack of dysentery, was charged with having been an absentee from the Park Hall Camp, near Oswestry. He pleaded guilty. P.C. Wasley stated that in consequence of a telegraphic message from the Camp he received instructions to look for Wheeler, whom he found at his home at 38, Mount Street, Flint, that morning. Wheeler should have returned to the Camp on the previous Monday evening. The Magistrates ordered that Wheeler should be detained to await an escort; and the police constable was granted the customary reward for the arrest.
Anna Martha was awarded a widow’s pension of 26s 3d a week, for herself and three children, with effect from the 10th December, 1917.
In the County Herald on the 11th May 1917 appeared the following story.
THE MAGISTRATES AND EDUCATION CASES
Mrs William Wheeler, of Mount Street, was summoned for the irregular attendance of her son Gerald at school. Mr Jones, School Attendance Officer, gave evidence in support of the case. The magistrates’ Clerk stated a letter was forwarded by the woman stating that she was “too upset” to attend the court. She said she had received information her husband, who was a soldier at the Front, had been wounded; and that she had heard a rumour that he had died – The Magistrates’ Clerk said that the Education Committee pressed for a fine.
The Mayor: I don’t think the Magistrates are willing to impose a fine. The case will be adjourned for a month to see whether the boy improves in his attendance.
And in the County Herald 18th May, 1917:
FLINT BOY’S COMPENSATION
At Mold Crown Court, on Monday, with regard to the award of £325 made to Albert Edward Wheeler, aged about 16 years and residing at Flint, as compensation in respect of serious burning injuries to his hands, Mr F Llewellyn Jones (Mold) now applied for the payment out of the award of a weekly sum. The boy lived at home with his mother. The father was in the army and had been wounded and reported missing. There was also a brother in the army. The mother was receiving separation allowances amounting to £1 19s 6d weekly, together with a payment of 6s a week from the Patriotic Fund. This 6s was practically expended every week on the boy, in a journey to and from hospital at Chester. For some time the boy would be unable to do anything, but it was hoped eventually to get him light employment as a messenger. His honour ordered that a sum of £1 per month be paid out of the compensation fund towards the boy’s maintenance.
Anna Martha, died at her home, 82, Mount Street, on 3rd April 1958, aged 84, and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Old London Road Cemetery, Flint. Her obituary stated she was a native of London and in her younger days was a pupil teacher in West Ham. She was a member of the Parish Church and was well-known and esteemed. She was survived by five sons and 35 grandchildren and great grandchildren.