Drummer Wheeler

Two weeks after the South Staffordshires had landed in France, they were to be in full action at the first battle of Ypres. Wilmot Evans writes a striking letter of condolence to the brother of Drummer George Wheeler, shot as they stood side by side. He was one of the few surviving officers left in the battalion.

 

7th Division were most certainly in the thick of it during the First Battle of Ypres. Here is an obituary for one of the early fatalities suffered by the Division. 8119 Drummer George Wheeler was one of the first members of the 1st Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment to be killed in action during the Great War. He is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery(Plot XXX1, Row F, Grave 20).

A DRUMMER OF THE 1st BATT. SOUTH STAFFS. REGIMENT

BRAVERY & COOL MARKSMANSHIP

““Please accept my sympathies, which are the most heartfelt, for the loss of a really brave and true man and a fine soldier, who died doing his duty as a man should. I am proud to have known him.”

In these simple yet consoling words, eloquent of the comradeship among all ranks of the British Expeditionary Force, Lieut. C. Wilmot Evans, of the 1st South Staffordshires, concludes a letter addressed from the trenches to L-Corp. Harry Wheeler, describing how his brother, Drmr. George Wheeler, of 4 Peel Terrace, Wynn Street, Birmingham, was killed by a sniper’s bullet during a hot encounter at Zonnebeke on or about Oct. 20.

“I am pleased to say he was a credit to the flag”, writes the officer. “Mothers should be proud to give their sons for their country if they be as the whole regiment knew Drmr. Wheeler to be. We were all very fond of him and offer to you our condolences. I never knew such a splendid fellow as he was. I was awfully fond of him, as he was always cheerful and willing to help anyone during those trying hours we had then. He was brave, and did awfully well. He was shot through the temple by a sniper while we were holding trenches just in front of a forest. I was standing by him at the time, and he himself was firing at the Germans as they came out of the wood. Of course, we did our best for him, but he died almost immediately. We could not take his body out of the trench until dark, as the Germans were attacking the whole of the time. We moved it after dark and covered it up. The next day we were driven out of the trenches, as we were the only regiment left in that line and were practically surrounded. So I am sorry to say the body fell in German hands. He is deeply mourned by officers and men of the battalion, as he was very deservedly a general favourite. He was in our platoon and I have never had a nicer man under me, Please tell his family how well he died and what excellent work he did before his death. The regiment was so badly cut up that all records of casualties were lost. I am the only officer left of 30 which came out with the battalion”

Drmr. Wheeler was only at the front about a fortnight before he met his fate.

His brother, L-Corp. Harry Wheeler, is in the 1st Warwickshires, and is now in Birmingham rapidly recovering from the effects of being wounded in the leg by shrapnel at Ypres on Oct. 26. A married man, with a home at 310 Park Road, Hockley, he is a Birchfield Harrier who has won numerous prizes at athletics meetings.”

 

Report taken from “The Staffordshire Advertiser” – 17th January 1915

First extract in green from the 1914-1918 Website Forum

Last updated on 27 September 2017 by JJ Morgan