b. 26/07/1891 Bermondsey, Surrey. d. 16/07/1969 Colchester, Essex.
DATE OF EM ACTION: 20/11/1942 Great Oakley Munitions Factory, Essex.
Frank Henry was born on 26th July 1891 in Bermondsey, Surrey, the only son out of three children born to John Henry and Eva Rosina Wheeler (nee Stratford). His father was a stock broker’s clerk, and sadly his mother died when he was seven. They then lived with his uncle and Frank studied hard and by the time of the 1911 Census he had qualified as an analytical chemist. On 8th June 1916, Frank married Nellie Doris Brown at All Saints Church, Dovercourt, Essex. Little else is known about his life other than his involvement at the explosion at the Great Oakley Munitions Factory in November 1942. Frank died in Colchester on 16th July 1969, aged 77, and he was buried at All Saints, Dovercourt.
On the 20th November, 1942, a violent explosion occurred in a building in which explosives were being mixed, and resulted in the immediate death of the two occupants of the building, the complete destruction of the building itself, and considerable damage to adjacent structures. In one of these, a Nitrating House, a charge of 1,800 Ibs. of nitro-glycerine was in the pre-wash tank, and another nitration was about half completed. Although the building became filled with fumes and steam, the operator, Mr. Wheeler, and his assistant, Mr.Sallows, remained at their posts and took prompt steps to control the nitration and render the explosion harmless. They were assisted in this by Dr Baldwin, the Assistant Works Manager, whoarrived on the scene shortly after the explosion. He noticed that about three square feet of wood above the pre-wash tank were smouldering vigorously and throwing off sparks. With Mr. Wheeler’s assistance he extinguished this very dangerous outbreak. The danger which these three men averted was a very real one .since there is little doubt that if the necessary steps had not been taken, an explosion in the building would have occurred and that such an explosion occurring a few minutes after the firstone when many workers had left their buildings and were in the neighbourhood would have caused a great number of casualties. All three men could probably have saved their lives by running, but they can have been under no illusion as to the danger they were in. They acted promptly and courageously, and without thought of their own safety in circumstances of considerable danger.
BURIAL LOCATION: ALL SAINTS CHURCHYARD, DOVERCOURT, ESSEX.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN.