b. 31/01/1873 Chakrata, India. d. 13/04/1915 Shaiba, Mesopotamia.
George Godfrey Massy Wheeler (1873-1915) was born on 31st January 1873 at Chakrata, India, the son of General Wheeler and grandson of General Sir Hugh Massy Wheeler of the Indian Mutiny Force. His grandfather was killed along with his wife and one of his children during the Cawnpore Massacre on 27th June 1857.
George was educated at Bedford Modern School, and joined the Army on 20th May 1893, in the 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. In October 1897, he was transferred into the Indian Army and joined the 7th Hariana Lancers. He was promoted to Captain in 1902, and from 1908 to 1912 he was Commandant of the 50th Camel Corps. He was promoted to Major in 1911 whilst holding this command. In 1908, he had served on the North West Frontier, earning the campaign medal and clasp.
On the outbreak of war in 1914, he was posted to the fighting in Mesopotamia (Iraq), where he would be heavily involved in the action against the enemy. On 12th April 1915 at Shaiba, Mesopotamia, Major Wheeler led his squadron in an attempt to capture a flag which was the centre-point of a group of the enemy who were firing on one of his troop’s picquets. He advanced, attacked the enemy’s infantry with the lance, and then retired while the enemy swarmed out of hidden ground where Royal Artillery guns could attack them. On 13th April Major Wheeler led his squadron to the attack of the North Mound. He was seen far ahead of his men, riding straight for the enemy’s standards, but was killed in the attack.
Wheeler was buried in the Basra War Cemetery, and the status of his grave is unknown as the cemetery was damaged during the Iran-Iraq War and again during the Allied invasion of Iraq between 2003-2004. Wheeler was gazetted for a posthumous VC on 1st September 1915, and the medal was presented to his widow on 4th September 1916. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the India Medal 1895-1902 with two clasps (Punjab Frontier and Waziristan), Indian General Service Medal 1908-35 with one clasp (North West Frontier), 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal 1914-19. The location of his medals was unknown for a number of years, until January 2015, when the staff of the Royal Pavilions Museum, Brighton, Sussex, during a search for First World War memorabilia discovered them. The museum’s records show that the medals were donatd to the museum in 1950 following his widow’s death. She had been living in Brighton for some time.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL PAVILION AND MUSEUMS, BRIGHTON, SUSSEX.
BURIAL PLACE: BASRA WAR CEMETERY, BASRA, IRAQ.
Plot III, Row C, Grave 22
Brighton Pavilions Museum – Image of the Wheeler VC Medal.