b. 1821 Ruddington, Nottinghamshire. d. 21/05/1865 Westminster Hospital, London.
Francis Wheatley (1821-1865) was born in Ruddington, Nottinghamshire in 1821. He was baptised on the 10th August 1821, and was the son of Martha Thompson and Francis Wheatley, who were married on 28th December 1821 at the Parish Church of Ruddington.
His father was a framework knitter, a trade Francis followed before joining the Rifle Brigade. He was enlisted in the First Battalion Rifle Brigade (Prince Consorts Own) at Daventry on 5th November 1839 for a bounty of £3.17s.6d and was joined as a Private on 8th November 1839.
Francis spent 12 of his 21 years’ service abroad. The first 5 years and 1 month were spent in Malta and the Ionian Islands and the next 5 years and 5 months in the Cape of Good Hope. This period included the Kaffir Wars of 1846/47 and 1852/53, for the latter of which he was awarded a campaign medal.
Francis was in the Crimea from 14th September 1854 until 5th June 1855 and was present at the Battles of Alma and Inkerman and at the Siege of Sebastopol, for which he was awarded the Crimea medal with three clasps.
It was during the Siege of Sebastopol that Private Wheatley displayed his great courage. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallant conduct in the trenches on 11th October 1854 and the following day his actions resulted in the award of the Victoria Cross. A live Russian shell fell into the trench where Wheatley and other Rifle Brigade men were stood. Without hesitation, Wheatley grabbed the shell and tried to knock out the fuse with the butt of his rifle. He was unsuccessful on the first attempt, and with quick thinking, he managed to heave it over the parapet. It had scarcely fallen outside when it exploded.
Wheatley received his Victoria Cross at the very first investiture at Hyde Park on 26th June 1857. Shortly after his investiture, Wheatley left the Army and became a lodge keeper at Bramshill Park, Winchfield, Hampshire, which was the property of Sir William Cope, Baronet and a former officer of the Rifle Brigade.
Francis died at Westminster Hospital, London on 21st May 1865 from acute myelitis (inflamation of the spinal cord) and asphyxia. He was buried in a common grave in Brompton Cemetery, London, which remained unmarked until a headstone was erected on 30th March 2001. His medals are on display at the Royal Green Jackets Museum in Winchester and his name is recorded on the memorial in Winchester Cathedral.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL GREEN JACKETS, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: BROMPTON CEMETERY, LONDON.
COMPARTMENT B 41’3 X 282′ BR41396
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.