Arthur Wilfred WHEATLEY

WHEATLEY, Arthur Wilfred

Service Number: 1706
Enlisted: 27 July 1915, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 9th Infantry Battalion
Born: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 18 August 1889
Home Town: Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Kolan South State School & Brisbane Grammar School
Occupation: College Tutor/Ordained Methodist Minister
Died: Killed in Action, France, 25 April 1918, aged 28 years
Cemetery: Meteren Military Cemetery
Plot 3 Row J Grave 813, Meteren Military Cemetery, Meteren, Nord Pas de Calais, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Brisbane Grammar School Memorial Library WW1 Honour Board 2, East Brisbane War Memorial, Morningside District Honour Roll, St Lucia King's College Memorial Tablet, St Lucia King's College WWI Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

27 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 1706, Brisbane, Queensland
4 Oct 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Driver, 1706, 3rd Field Ambulance, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
4 Oct 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Driver, 1706, 3rd Field Ambulance, HMAT Mashobra, Sydney
6 Dec 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 1706, 9th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC / Gallipoli
3 Aug 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 9th Infantry Battalion
3 Nov 1917: Wounded Second Lieutenant, 9th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Passchendaele , GSW (left arm)
1 Dec 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 9th Infantry Battalion
25 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 9th Infantry Battalion, Villers-Bretonneux

Help us honour Arthur Wilfred Wheatley's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Sue Smith

Arthur Wilfred Wheatley was born on the 18th August 1889, the eldest of three sons, to British parents, Joseph and Fanny Wheatley.  Fanny, aged 14, emigrated to Australia with her mother arriving in December 1884.  Joseph, aged 22, followed 2 years later in March 1886.  Arthur’s service record states that he was a “natural born British subject”.  This is because prior to 1949 every person born in Australia was classed as a British subject.  Arthur had two brothers, John born 1890 and Joseph born 1898.  Sadly, Arthur’s father passed away in Brisbane, Queensland, on the 4th April 1900 aged 35. 

In 1903 Arthur won a bursary from Kolan South State School in the Queensland region of Bundaberg.  By 1906 he was attending the Brisbane Boys Grammar School and was Captain of the 2nd cricket team in 1907.  That same year his mother Fanny married William Coote. 

A report in The Brisbane Courier Mail dated 4th March 1911 from the Methodist Conference lists Arthur as a candidate for the ministry.  He did his theological training at Queen’s College, Melbourne, Victoria, graduating with a BA in 1914.  However, in 1913 his first appointment was to King’s College, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane as a tutor.  A report in the Daily Standard Newspaper dated 5th March 1915 from the Methodist Conference - King’s College Report states:

“The Conference this morning decided that the resignation of Mr A.W. Wheatley be withdrawn and that he rest for one year.”

However, just 4 months later on the 27th July 1915, aged 25 years and 11months, Arthur enlisted for WW1 along with his good friend, and my grandfather, Cyril Morsley (SN 1707) aged 24, who was a student at King’s College.  The address given on Arthur’s enlistment form for his next of kin, his mother Fanny, was Pashen Street, Morningside. 

Arthur and Cyril both felt they couldn’t be a part of taking life but wanted to do something to help with the war effort so they joined the Australian Medical Corps.  They trained together in Brisbane at the Enoggera Barracks and were posted to the 1st Division, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Field Ambulance, 11th Reinforcements.  They embarked together from Sydney on the ship “Mashobra” on the 4th October 1915 and disembarked at Lemnos Island 2 months later on the 4th December.  On the 6th December they boarded the “Osmanieh” and arrived at midnight at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.  They moved ashore under gunfire at 6am on the 7th December. 

Over the next 12 days Arthur and Cyril would experience war, in all its horror, for the first time.  At 11.30pm on the 19th December Arthur and Cyril were some of the last troops to be evacuated from Anzac Cove from Walker’s Pier.  They arrived at Lemnos Island at 7am on the 20th where they transferred to the ship “Hororata”.  The following day they were evacuated onto the ship “Anchises”.   Arthur and Cyril were asked to take charge of the hospital on board the ship.  As the ship was leaving port it collided with another ship in Mudros Harbour.  That delayed their departure for some time but finally at 6.30am on Christmas Day 1915 they arrived at Alexandria, Egypt.  They made their way to Zeitoun Camp on the 26th then on to Maadi Camp on the 27th.  They remained there till mid January 1916 when they were moved to the camp at Tel-el-kebir.  Arthur and Cyril shared many long walks and talks contemplating their futures after the war.  They became very close being of similar age and sharing similar values. 

On the 27th March 1916 the 3rd Field Ambulance embarked from Alexandria for France on the ship “Kingstonian”.  On the night of the 30th March, during the voyage, they lost overboard one of the men from their Unit, Private Percy Fennell.  His body was never recovered.  They disembarked at Marseilles on the 3rd April 1916.  A few days after arriving in France they met up with three other enlisted King’s College men at a YMCA meeting...Leonard Foote (SN 573), Roger Percy (SN 8673) and Alister Grimes (SN 8669).  Arthur and Cyril shared much together over the next 8 months while moving regularly all over France, including the loss of some of the men in their unit.  An article written by Arthur, from the front in France, was published on the 21st October 1916 in The Queenslander.  In that article he describes some of the experience in France and mentions his sadness at the loss of Lieutenant Hare.  Cyril was evacuated to England in mid December suffering from peritoneal adhesions.  A month later Arthur was sent to England for Cadet Training School being posted to No. 2 Officers Cadet Battalion “C” Company.  On the 3rd August 1917 he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant and posted to General Reinforcements.  On the 18th August 1917 he proceeded to France marching into Havre the next day.  A few days later he joined the 9th Infantry Battalion.  In mid September he was sent to the 2nd Army Grenade School before rejoining his battalion a month later in Belgium. 

On the 3rd November 1917 at Passchendaele, Arthur was wounded with a gunshot to the left arm and was evacuated to the 6th Canadian Field Ambulance then to the 44th Casualty Clearing Station and then finally to the 14th General Hospital in Boulogne, France.  The medical board granted him 2 weeks sick leave in England.  He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st December 1917 and rejoined his battalion a week later. 

On the night of 25th April 1918, the 3rd Anzac Day to be commemorated, Arthur’s battalion was in action on the Ypres front.  Unable to advance to take a particular village, they were compelled to dig in.  Near the German lines there was abandoned house.  Arthur and his platoon Sergeant went to check it out.  They got to the house safely but suddenly a German machine gun opened fire on them.  Arthur bore the full force of the gunfire and was killed instantly.  His Sergeant made it back safely to his own lines after escaping a bomb that failed to explode right beside him.  The enemy action was so severe that it was three days before Sergeant-Major Brown was able to crawl out to where Arthur’s body lay.  He managed to put a rope around Arthur and bring him back to their lines.  Arthur was buried at Meteren Military Cemetery, France.

Chaplain Smith Macbain records on May 2nd 1918 from France in a letter to Arthur’s mother published later in a Brisbane newspaper:

“Lieutenant Wheatley’s death caused quite a gloom in his platoon as he was highly respected and the men had nothing but admiration for him, speaking of him, his work and conduct while with him, in glowing terms.  I have only been with the battalion a short time, and have only met Lieutenant Wheatley once, but I should like to express to you and his other relatives, my sympathy with you in your bereavement.  Upon all hands I hear expressions of deep esteem in which he was held by his fellow officers and the men, and the regret at his removal.  I feel especially what a loss his decrease means when I learn that he was preparing for the ministry of his Church when he enlisted.  It was a fine thing to go as a combatant, and I am sure, from all I hear, that the spirit which prompted him to do this, animated his whole life and made his witness for God amongst his comrades a very telling and convincing one.  Doubtless he being dead, yet speaketh, and will continue to speak while those who knew him remain on earth.”

After being notified of Arthur’s death, his mother Fanny tried to get his personal effects but because she had remarried and had a different name and Arthur’s father had died, the Army wouldn’t release them to her until proof was given that she was his mother.  In July 1919 she received from the Army one small package containing 4 photos and 1 Devotional book of Arthur’s.  Fanny was notified in March 1920 that two packages of Arthur’s personal effects, including identity discs, were shipped from England on the ship “S.S. Barunga” on the 20/6/1918, 2 months after he was killed.  The ship was subsequently torpedoed & lost at sea a month later.  The inventory of the 2 lost packages was forwarded to Fanny and they contained:

Parcel 1: 1 Belt, 1 Cigarette case, 1 Handkerchief, 1 Tie, 1 pair of Slacks, 1 Tunic                                               

Parcel 2: 3 French books, 1 Wrist watch & strap, 1 Wallet, Letters, Photos, Postage Stamps, 5 Copper coins, 3 Silver coins (Indian)

Fanny wrote to the Army in October 1920 asking for the details of where to find Arthur’s grave so that she and her family might be able to visit it.  She received from the Army a Memorial Scroll in October 1921, 3 copies of a photograph of Arthur’s grave in March 1922, a Memorial Plaque in January 1923 and finally received his Victory Medal in February 1923, 5 years after his death.

Arthur’s younger brother, Joseph, enlisted just a month after Arthur’s death on 1st June 1918 aged 19 years and 11 months.  He embarked for the UK on 14th October but having contracted measles on the voyage was disembarked at Cape Town for admission to No. 1 General Hospital at Wynberg.  He was discharged from hospital on 30th October and returned to Australia on 4th December 1918. 

Arthur’s close friend Cyril was returned to Australia in 1919, finished his studies at King’s College to become an ordained Minister of the Methodist Church.  He married and had three children serving the Church for 30 years before retiring from active service after losing his wife in 1947.  He married again, retired to Caloundra and passed away in an Aged Care Home in Caboolture, Queensland, in March 1983 aged 91. 

An Honour Board at King’s College, Brisbane, bears the names of the 30 men from the College who served in WW1.  On the 31st August 1921 a Memorial Tablet was unveiled at the College in honour of 3 of those 30 men who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.  Arthur Wheatley is one of them.  A memorial to Arthur stands in the Balmoral Cemetery in Brisbane.  The Epitaph reads:

“In Loving Memory of Lieut. Arthur Wilfred Wheatley.

Late 9th Battalion, Killed In Action.

France 25th April 1918 Aged 28 Years.                                 

Until The day Breaks And The Shadows Flee Away.”

The loss of Arthur was felt deeply by his family and one way they remembered him was by regularly inserting a family notice in the Brisbane Courier Mail on the 25th April.  Arthur’s mother survived her second husband William who died in 1959 and her son John who died in 1953.  Arthur’s other brother Joseph died in 1976.  Fanny died in Brisbane aged 92 years old on 27th July 1962….47 years to the day after Arthur enlisted for WW1.

Arthur Wilfred Wheatley was awarded:  

1914/1915 Star 25172

British War Medal 20506

Victory Medal 20828

The Anzac Commemorative Medallion was instituted in 1967 by Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt.  It was awarded to surviving members of the Australian forces who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula, or in direct support of the operations from close off shore, at any time during the period from the first Anzac Day in April 1915 to the date of final evacuation in January 1916.  Next of kin, or other entitled persons, are entitled to receive the medallion on behalf of their relatives if the medallion has not been issued.

The medallion is cast in bronze and is approximately 75 millimetres high and 50 millimetres wide.  The obverse of the medallion depicts Simpson and his donkey carrying a wounded soldier to safety.  It is bordered on the lower half by a laurel wreath above the word ANZAC.  The reverse shows a map in relief of Australia and New Zealand superimposed by the Southern Cross.  The lower half is bordered by New Zealand fern leaves.  The name and initials of the recipient is engraved on the reverse.  The medallion is issued in a presentation box.  (Australian Government - Department of Defence) - Sue Smith August 2016