William Wheeler (1844-1902)
Grace Jane Dunsman Fearon (1846-1917)

William Wheeler was the oldest of George Frederick Wheeler & Catherine Brown‘s six children, born on 15 Jan 1844 in Liverpool. England, and baptised on 11 Feb 1844 at St. Silas’s Church. In the 1861 census he and his two brothers Henry and Robert were living with their grandparents on their farm. We assume his father had passed away, as Catherine is described as a widow in that census; however, we have not found a definite death record for him. In 1861 William is listed as a stationer. He and his brother Robert turn up in the 1971 census as lodgers at 92 Canning St, Everton. William is then described as a wine merchant’s clerk:

William moved to Australia sometime after that; we have found only one arrival of a William O’Neill to Sydney who can be our man, that of an unassisted immigrant arriving in Sydney on the City of Adelaide in 1875 from the Melbourne leg of the journey from the UK.

William Wheeler married Grace Jane Dunsman Fearon, daughter of Christopher Augustus Fearon and Grace Adriana du Moulin, in Sydney on 03 Jun 1882.Everyone called her Polly.

From a report of their wedding in Australian Town and Country Journal on Sat 10 Jun 1882, we read that William worked for G. Stephens and Co. There is a company by that name that operated as shipping agents; however, there is also a G. H. Stephen, a wine merchant in Hunter St, Sydney, and owner of the Ivanhoe Vineyard on the Hunter River (near Polkobin). We feel the latter is William’s more likely employer given his experience as a clerk for wine merchants there. The Ivanhoe vineyard is still in existence today.

Gipsy’s Notes.

ALTERNATING sunshine and showers on Saturday was scarcely the kind of weather a bride could desire, but just about the time fixed for the ceremony, 2 o’clock, the sun glinted out cheerfully, and enveloped the bride, bridegroom, and attendants in golden light as they issued from the vestry, an excellent omen say the ancients. From Five Dock the bride, Miss Grace Fearon, with her attendant nymphs, came by steamer, carriages in readiness at the wharf whirled them to St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and there Mr. William Wheeler (of G. Stephens and Co.) with his best man Mr. Charles Reid, and the Very Rev. the Dean of Sydney, awaited their coming. The bride wore a trained robe of ivory cashmere and satin, ploughed plush bodice, orange wreath and tulle veil, and was given away by her brother, Mr. Gus Fearon. Eight bridesmaids, the Misses Sherlock, Hough, Fearon, Foster, C. Blanche, grouped themselves prettily round and looked very picturesque in short costumes of pale blue cashmere-lace trimmed, blue satin and white lace mob caps, bronze shoes, and blue stockings, and carrying bridal bouquets. The bride’s mother wore garnet satin costume, and velvet bonnet of a similar hue. A married sister was in brown velvet and cashmere with dark brown plush hat. At the close of the service the bride and bridegroom drove to Burwood, and the others of the party went by launch. The wedding breakfast was partaken of at the residence of the lady’s mother, and later in the afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler left by train for Richmond.

William Wheeler and Grace Jane Dunsman Fearon had five children:

01. Harold Charles T. Fearon (b. 19 May 1883, d. 22 Aug 1945)

02. Maud Grace (b. 13 Aug 1884, d. 1967)

03. Henry Howard (b. 24 Jun 1886, d. 01 Jan 1953)

04. Kathleen Amy Ashdown (b. Nov 1888, d. 11 Jan 1894)

05. Marjorie Ethel (b. 23 Jan 1890, d. 07 Jan 1894)

Sadly, Kathleen and Marjorie died within days of each other, both of diphtheria. From The Sydney Morning Herald on Sat 13 Jan 1894 their address at the time is given as Frenchmen’s Rd, Randwick:

WHEELER.—January 7, at the Glebe Cottage Hospital, diphtheria ward, Marjorie, aged 4 years; also, on the 11th, Kathleen, aged 5 years – dearly-loved children of William and Grace Wheeler, of Frenchman’s-road, Randwick.

A year later William petitioned for bankruptcy. Firstly, this notice appeared in the New South Wales Government Gazette on Tue 03 Sep 1895:

The second notice was published  on Fri 13 Sep 1895 (indicating the family had moved to Cowper St, Randwick):

In the Supreme’ Court of New South Wales*

NOTICE is hereby given that the Single Meeting of creditors in the following matters will be held at the Court, Chancery square, Sydney, on the 1st day of October, 1895, at 11 a.m., or as soon after as the course of business will permit. To entitle a creditor to vote thereat, his proof must be lodged with the Registrar in Bankruptcy, Chancery-square, Sydney, not later than the 27th day of September, 1895 :—

Re William Wheeler (No. 10,092), late of Frenchman’s Road, Randwick, now of Cowper St, Randwick.

We have not uncovered why William found himself in such difficulties.

William died at “Strathmore”, Clifton St, Waverly, New South Wales, on 02 Dec 1902, aged 58 and was buried at Long Bay Cemetery the following day. Grace passed away on 17 Jun 1917 at Chatswood in Sydney. aged 70 or 71. This is what the family believe is the only surviving photo of Grace. Notice she is holding what appears to be an old-style hearing aid.

Generation 2

01. Harold Charles Fearon Wheeler married Thelma Edith Garrard in Sydney on 27 May 1913, as described in The Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven Advertiser on  Sat 07 Jun 1913:


A pretty evening wedding was celebrated on Tuesday, May 27, at St. James’ Church, King street, Sydney, when Mr. Harold Wheeler, of the firm of Ryan and Wheeler, solicitors, Kiama, was married to Miss Thelma Edith Garrard, youngest daughter of Mrs Garrard, Mosman. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Cecil I. Jones. M.A, of Camden. The bride was charming in a beautiful gown of white duchesse satin, and wore the customary veil, in embroidered tulle over a coronet of orange blossoms. She carried a shower bouquet of white carnations, gift of the bridegroom, with a gold bangle. The bridesmaids were Miss M. Wheeler, sister of the bridegroom, and Miss Garrard, sister of the bride, who wore dainty frocks of pale pink ninon over pink silk, had pink mob caps, and carried pink posies, gifts from the bridegroom, with gold bangles. Mr. Henry Wheeler was best man, and Mr. E. McFarlane groomsman. Mrs. Garrard, mother of the bride. wore a handsome gown of white duchesse satin, with black lace overdress; Mrs. Wheeler, mother of the bridegroom, a rich gown of black surah. Both had beautiful bouquets of red carnations and fern, gifts from the bridegroom. The reception, at which 100 guests were present, was held at the Women’s’ Club, Bligh-st. The presents were numerous and costly. The honeymoon was spent at the Blue Mountains.

Harold had been admitted as a solicitor in 1905 (The Australian Star, Sat 26 Aug 1905), having gained second class Honours in English from the University of Sydney in 1902 (Mon 21 Apr 1902). The family moved to Narrabri, about 500km NNW of Sydney, where Harold practised as a solicitor. Harold passed away in Burwood on 22 Aug 1945, and Thelma in 1979.

The couple had five children:

01. William Garrard (b. 23 Sep 1915, d. 23 Oct 1941)

02. Elizabeth Garrard (b.  26 Mar 1914, )

03. Helen Garrard (b. 18 Dec 1917, )

04. James Garrard (b. 29 Aug 1919, d. 01 Dec 1942)

05. Penelope Garrard (b. 21 May 1921, d. 1929)

02. Maud Grace Wheeler did not marry, and lived with her parents and family until her death, aged 82.

Generation 3 – Harold & Thelma’s children

01. William Garrard Wheeler was appointed a cadet midshipman on 01 Jan 1929. He was promoted to sub-Lieutenant on 01 Mar 1936 and to Lieutenant on 01 Sep 1937. When WWII broke out he was loaned to the Royal Navy. his service record can be read online here.

William was on board the H.M.S. Cossack when it chased the German battleship Bismark and sank it with a torpedo. Hi was one of three men missing, and his death was widely reported, eg by Hobart’s
The Mercury on Tue 14 Oct 1941:

Australian Officers Decorated

MELBOURNE, Monday.-For the part they played in the sinking of the German, battleship Bismarck, two officers of the Royal Australian Navy serving in the Royal Navy had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) announced tonight They are: Lieut-Commander Galfrey George Osmond Gatacre, of Mosman, Sydney, and Lieut. William Garrard Wheeler, of Narrabri (N.S.W.).

At the time of the thrilling naval chase and battle in the Atlantic on May 27, Lieut-Commander Gatacre was serving in H.M.S. Rodney and Lieut. Wheeler in H.M.S. Cossack. Both ships took a prominent part in the action. Cossack, which ran down the Nazi hell ship Bismark in Narvik fiord, was one of the first of a British flotilla which made contact with the German battleship, and hit her with a torpedo.

The action was more described in much more detail when his parents received William’s Distinguished Service Cross award. From Narrabri’s The North Western Courier on Thu 28 Jan 1943:

Distinguished Career
Lieut. W. G. Wheeler, D.S.C., R.A.N.
Presentation of Award By Lord Gowrie

On Friday, 22nd. January, His Excellency the Governor General, Lord Gowrie, held an Investiture Ceremony at Admiralty House, Sydney, in the course of which he presented to Mr. Harold Wheeler, of Narrabri, the Distinguished Service Cross awarded to his late son, Lieut. W. G. Wheeler, D.S.C., R.A.N.

In making the presentation, His Excellency said, “By command of His Majesty the King, I present you with the Distinguished Service Cross awarded to your son, Lieut. William Garrard Wheeler, of the Royal Australian Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. I congratulate you upon the honour so well and worthily earned by your son, and I offer you my condolences upon the great loss you have suffered in the death of so gallant and distinguished an officer.”

Lieut. Wheeler served in H.M.S. Cossack as Torpedo Lieutenant to the flotilla, and actually launched the torpedo that disabled the German battleship ‘Bismarck.’

The torpedo smashed a propeller and disabled the steering gear, so that the German ship was brought to a standstill, and eventually sunk by the big ships.

Lieut. Wheeler also served in H.M.S. Afridi, and took part in the operations at Namsos, when that ship was destroyed by enemy bombers.

Lieut. Wheeler took a prominent part in rescuing the wounded from the burning ship, and was eventually picked up by another destroyer, and taken to Scarpa Flow, whence he made his way to London.

For his services at Namsos, Lieut. Wheeler was mentioned in despatches, and his father now holds a Certificate from His Majesty the King to that effect, stating that the award was made for courage and devotion to duty.

Lieut. Wheeler also took part in the capture of the German prison ship Bismarck, and led the boarding party that took the prisoners from that ship. He lost his life when H.M.S. Cossack was sunk on 23rd, October; 1941.

02. Elizabeth Garrard Wheeler married Charles Cecil Deakin in Sydney on 26 Mar 1938. Charles was a Major in the British Army,  1st Battalion, 2nd Punjab Regiment, and in 1937 was appointed Major in the Australian Military Forces attached to the Australian Staff Corps during his period of duty as Exchange Officer, with seniority as from 24th April, 1936. For much of the war he was a prisoner of war in Japanese captivity (POW Camp Pudu Jail, Kuala Lumpur). The family lived in Hornsby, Sydney, after the war. Charles passed away there on 26 Nov 1978, Elizabeth on 26 Jun 2003. The couple had three children.

03. Helen Garrard Wheeler married Arthur Hugh Birch on 15 Jun 1940; from The Sydney Morning Herald on Thu 27 Jun 1940:

Mr and Mrs Harold Wheeler of Narrabri, who were in Sydney for the wedding of their daughter Miss Helen Wheeler to Mr A H (Peter) Birch at St James Church last weekend, have returned home. The morning of her wedding the bride attended the graduation ceremony at Sydney University and received her B.A. degree.

Arthur was appointed Pilot Officer in the Citizens Air Force of the RAAF in March 1942, and Flight Lieutenant in the RAAF on 16 Dec 1946. He gained the Air Force Cross in 1942, at which time his rank was Squadron Leader. He was a Wing Commander In The Royal Australian Air Force, and passed away on 18 Mar 1962 at East Malvern, Melbourne.

Arthur and Helen had four children.

04. James Garrard Wheeler enlisted on 10 Oct 1939 into the 6th Division Artillery, giving his profession as bank clerk. His service record can be read online here. He  was killed in action on 01 Dec 1942 near Sanananda, New Guinea’s north-east coast and was buried where he fell. Over time his grave was lost, and it was not until 2008 that his remains were identified:

Remains discovered in Papua New Guinea, 2008

In July 2008 Unrecovered War Casualties – Army travelled to Papua New Guinea to investigate the cases of several sets of unidentified human remains believed to be Australian soldiers.

The remains had been recovered from several locations across Papua New Guinea, and were held at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby.

A total of eight cases were investigated, four were identified as Australians, two by name, and the remainder were identified by DNA as members of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Unrecovered War Casualties – Army researched official histories, war diaries, grave registration records and the recollections of veterans to identify the Australian remains and were successful in two cases.

The two Australians identified were Lieutenant Talbot Tim Logan and Lance Sergeant James Garrard Wheeler. Following their deaths, both Lieutenant Logan and Lance Sergeant Wheeler were given immediate battlefield burials. Over the passage of time, their graves were lost and could not be located during the end of battle clearances by grave registration units.

The two sets of unidentified remains were buried “Known only to God” alongside Lieutenant Logan and Lance Sergeant Wheeler on 1 December 2009.

On 8 December 2009, the four sets of remains identified as Japanese soldiers killed during World War Two, were presented to officials from the Japanese Embassy in Port Moresby.

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