James Rookie WHEELER

WHEELER, James Rookie

Service Number: 5478
Enlisted: 4 February 1916, Enlisted at Seymour, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 8th Infantry Battalion
Born: Beechworth, Victoria, Australian, 1877
Home Town: Koetong, Towong, Victoria
Schooling: Berringama State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Miner, Farmer
Died: Killed in Action, France, 3 March 1917
Cemetery: Bulls Road Cemetery, Flers
Plot 1, Row C, Grave 32
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Beechworth War Memorial, Corryong War Memorial, Cudgewa War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

4 Feb 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 5478, 8th Infantry Battalion, Enlisted at Seymour, Victoria
4 Apr 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 5478, 8th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '9' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Euripides embarkation_ship_number: A14 public_note: ''
1 Mar 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 5478, 8th Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages
23 Jul 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 5478, 8th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières

Help us honour James Rookie Wheeler's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Carol Foster

Son of Charles John and Emily Wheeler of Koetong, Victoria

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Stephen Learmonth
On this day we remember ...

Pte James Rookie Wheeler

James was born in 1877 in Beechworth, Victoria. He was the eldest of four children (3 boys and 1 girl) of Charles and Emily (née Mildren). By the age of 15, Charles had lost his two younger brothers and his mother.

James enlisted on the 4th of February 1916 at Seymour, Victoria. At the time of his enlistment he was 38, single and gave his occupation as miner. He was allocated the regimental number 5478 and was taken on as part of the 17th Reinforcements for the 8th Battalion.

The 17th Reinforcements embarked on HMAT A14 Euripides on the 4th of April at the Port of Melbourne. They disembarked at Suez on the 14th of May and spent the next two weeks training in Egypt. On the 31st of that month they embarked on HMT Huntgreen and, sailing via the Mediterranean Sea, arrived at Plymouth in England on the 12th of June. James’ stay in England lasted nearly two months. Aside from the normal training regime, James also spent from the 7th through to the 31st of July admitted to the 2nd Training Battalion Hospital recovering from being circumcised.

On the 2nd of September 1916 James marched in to the 1st Australian Division Base Depot at Etaples in France. He rejoined the 8th Battalion a week later on the 15th, which was currently stationed amongst the ruins of the Chateau Segard near Voormezeele in the Ypres Salient.
On the 2nd of March 1917 the battalion relieved the 6th Battalion which was holding the recently captured Barley and Bayonet Trenches. A Company HQ occupied one of the old German dugouts. The company commander, Lieutenant Bill Catron tried to remove a dagger embedded in the wall of the dugout. Unbeknown to the Lieutenant the dagger had been booby trapped to a German mine. The resulting explosion killed Catron and Privates Dillon, Edwards, Wheeler and Ryan.

The 8th Battalion’s chaplain, Joseph Booth, who had only recently joined the unit, performed the burial ceremony, but this was interrupted by enemy shellfire, leaving Booth to hurriedly pronounce the benediction and disperse the mourners. Private James Rookie Wheeler and his mates were interred in Bulls Road Military Cemetery in Flers, France.

The Thursday, 29th March 1917 edition of the Corryong Courier included this note on page 2;
“WHEELER - Killed in action, somewhere in France, on March 3rd, 1917, James Rooke, beloved only son of C.J. Wheeler, Koetong, and brother of Annie. East Kew; nephew of Mrs Thos. Nugent and H.W Wheeler, Berringama, Alfred Wheeler, Beechworth, and F.E. Wheeler. Wabba; only nephew of Mrs Osmotherly, sen., Tallangatta.

Sadly missed.”
James is remembered at the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, the Beechworth War Memorial, the Cudgewa State School War Memorial, the Wabba and Berrigama Districts War Memorial and the Corryong War Memorial. For his service, he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Lest we forget