Private, S/260, 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action, Battle of Aubers Ridge, Richebourg L'Avoué, 9 May 1915, aged 26
No known grave. Listed on Le Touret Memorial, Panel 20 and 21

Le Touret Memorial

Private Doctor Wheatley, S/260, 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, was born in Hartfield on 20 January 1888, the son of Isaac (b.1850) and Rosanna (née Coates) (b.1853) Wheatley. Isaac was a general labourer both in Withyham and Brighton. Doctor Wheatley had five brothers, Joseph, Ernest, Walter, Frank and Albert. He lived at various times in Coleman's Hatch, Hartfield (where the family was recorded as living in the 1901 census), Legers Row, and Brighton, where the 1911 census records the family as living at 33, Newhaven Street, Brighton, with Doctor's brother Walter listed as a porter in Brighton, brother Frank as an errand boy for a greengrocer, aged 15, and his sister Caroline and brother Albert as scholars aged 13 and 10.

His pre-war occupation was general labourer and he was a member of the 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, Special Reserve, having originally joined up in 1908.

He transferred to the 2nd Battalion in August 1914. He enlisted in Brighton with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and was posted to France on 20 September 1914. On 10 December 1914 he was wounded by a shell and hospitalised at Rouen.

Doctor Wheatley was killed in action on 9 May 1915 at Richebourg L'Avoué, about seven miles north-east of Béthune, Pas de Calais, France, during the Battle of Aubers Ridge [1]. He was aged 26. He left £8 8s. to his father, Isaac.

The 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, went 'over the top' in an attack on German trenches on the morning of 9 May. The battalion suffered "very strong enfilade fire from an angle of the German trench opposite the Munster Fusiliers". Many of the troops did not get as far as the German trenches due to heavy fire and were ordered to retreat. Two officers were killed, nine were wounded, three missing and 101 other ranks were killed — which would have included Doctor Wheatley. The battalion records document that the heavy casualties were due to machine gun shrapnel and high explosive shells when advancing over the breastwork of the trench.

Doctor Wheatley has no known grave and is listed on Le Touret Memorial, Panel 20 and 21. He is also listed on the war memorial in Hartfield.

(It is incidentally striking that no less than four men who are commemorated on Hartfield War Memorial, three of whom were members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, all died on the same day taking part in the Battle of Aubers Ridge. They are Pte. Frederick Sylvester Edwards, Pte. Thomas Edward Honeysett, Lt. William Woodfall Melville and Pte. Doctor Wheatley.)

Carol O'Driscoll

1)  For more information about the Battle of Aubers Ridge and the involvement of the Royal Sussex Regiment see
The Long Long Trail: The Battle of Aubers and 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment War Diary covering the Battle of Aubers Ridge (9th May 1915). [^]