Fred Wheelton, Private 11960, 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 26th April 1915 at Zonnebeke, Belgium, aged 23
Fred Wheelton was born on 8th January and baptised on 31st July 1892 at St Peter’s Church, Macclesfield, the son of Emily and William Henry Wheelton, a silk weaver of 2 Park Lane, Macclesfield. On 10th October 1898, at the age of six, Fred started attending St George’s School, London Road, Macclesfield.
In 1901 Fred was living at 5 Albion Street with his parents and younger siblings Jane (6), Alfred (4) and baby Henry, 7 months old. Fred would have left school in 1904 at the age of 12, as was usual at the time, and he found employment as a ‘needle snatcher’ in the silk industry; but, no doubt hoping to better himself, he enrolled at the Macclesfield Technical School on 25th September 1905.
By 1911, the family had gained three more children – Elizabeth, Mary and William Miles – and were now living at 85 James Street; Fred was working in a laundry. He was later employed at the Print Works, Bollington.
Fred attested at Macclesfield and was drafted to France on 6th April 1915.
Fred’s Battalion, the 2nd Cheshires, were engaged at St Julien from 24th April until 4th May 1915. On the 15th April they were in the 84th Brigade and had taken over the Zonnebeke section. On the 20th April a heavy bombardment began on Ypres and continued for two days. On the 22nd, under clouds of gas, the Germans delivered a sudden attack on the left shoulder of the Salient. The 2nd Battalion spent a very unpleasant time suffering from shelling and gassing. About 5pm on the 23rd April two companies of the 2nd Battalion with support from the Northumberland Fusiliers and a company of the Monmouthshire Regiment took up a position S.E. of the cross-road, Zonnebeke-Langemarck and Gravenstafel-Wieltje, halfway between Zonnebeke and St Julien in support of the Canadians. On the 25th they withdrew to a position south of Hannebeek. The Germans attempted several attacks, but were dispersed by rifle fire. All their attempts to advance were checked: the Battalion were engaging the enemy at a range of three to four hundred yards.
Fred was killed in action on 26th April 1915, just three weeks after leaving Britain. His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 21 May 1915:
PRIVATE FRED WHEELTON
On Wednesday afternoon Mr and Mrs W H Wheelton, 17 John St, Macclesfield, received an intimation from the War Office that their son, Private Fred Wheelton, 2nd Batt Cheshire Regt, was killed in action on the 26th April.
Pte Wheelton, who was 24 years of age, enlisted a few weeks after the outbreak of war. For some months he was in training, and on 6th April went out to the front with a draft of the 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment. Since he has been at the front, Private Wheelton has twice written to his parents, stating that he was in the pink of condition. In civil life Private Wheelton was employed at the Print Works, Bollington. The news of his death was received with real regret, and the flag was hoisted half-mast on the mill.
Private Fred Wheelton has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel ref. 19-22 on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Fred Wheelton, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Private Fred Wheelton is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall and St Michael’s Church war memorials. The Park Green and St Michael’s Church memorials mistakenly name him as ‘Frederick’ Wheelton.
Another Macclesfield man named Fred Wheelton served with the Royal Navy and died on 3 January 1918.