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This is why we remember

Friday, November 10, 2017 - 11:00

From Cllr Michael Lilley, Ryde: 
I AM writing to you about the importance of family history and the importance of celebrating our lives now. 
On November 11, I will be remembering how my ancestors survived great hardship against great odds in wars and I am only here now because of their survival. 
It is 100 years since my grandfather returned from the Western Front in 1917. 
I never knew him in person only in fond memories from my mum and grandma. 
He died in 1956 due to his lungs being damaged in the First World War and I was born in 1957, but his spirit has always been with me even at the age of 60. 
Private Leonard Frank Wheeler went to war in 1914 in the 2nd London Regiment and was invalided out in 1917 as a captain through battlefield promotions. 
He survived the Battle of Loos in 1915. The story goes that he was gassed very badly along with other physical injuries and was taken from the battlefield and put on a train home. 
A vicar came to visit him in the carriage he was lying in and asked him his name, where he came from and his regiment. Granddad said “Leonard Frank Wheeler, Cheltenham, and 2nd London”. 
The vicar looked at him and said “That’s interesting, I have just spoken to another Wheeler in a carriage further down the train, who comes from Cheltenham, but he is in the Gloucestershires”. 
It was my Granddad’s brother. 
They had both been at the Battle of Loos in different regiments, survived and ended up on the same hospital train, a million to one chance. 
The brothers recuperated and during this leave they met two sisters, the Jacksons. 
My granddad fell in love with Lily Jackson. He returned to the Western Front and was finally invalided out in 1917. 
He married Lily on August 4, 1917, and nine months later, on May 28, 1918, my mum, Peggy, was born. 
If she had not died in 1997, she would be 100 next year. 
Simply, the odds for my granddad to survive the Great War and go onto have children where millions to one; but he did survive, my mum was born which meant I was born in 1957 and I am alive to remember and tell his story. 
Thank you, granddad, for your bravery, courage, spirit, beliefs and, most of all, surviving so I can remember you. 

 


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