Ernest James WHEATLEY

9th Infantry Brigade AIF


War Medal/Victory Medal to L/CPL 1265 E WHEATLEY 34 BN AIF and RAS Badge


Lance Corporal: 1265 Ernest James WHEATLEY.

Born: 1883. Lambton via Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Birth Cert:28049/1883.

Married: 1922. Cessnock, New South Wales, Australia. Marriage Cert:7413/1922.

Wife: Isabella Wheatley. nee: Hill. Died 1971. St-Leonards, N.S.W. Death Cert:48980/1971.

Died: 3rd September 1952. Boolaroo, New South Wales, Australia. Death Cert:20102/1952.

Father: Charles Wheatley. Died 1922. Minmi, N.S.W. Death Cert:7243/1922.

Mother: Mary Jane Wheatley. nee: Ritchie.


Ernest James Wheatley enlisted with D Company 34th Battalion AIF on the 9th January 1916 and was an original member of the Battalion.

"Until the 10th of March, early training and formation of the Battalion was in progress. On that day the Battalion marched to the newly pitched camp at Rutherford and was completed with the exception of the Transport. These joined later and came from the Army Service Corps camp near Sydney. Here strenuous training was carried out. The men were very keen and fit, whilst their comfort and health were made a special study. Food was good and ample and sports and recreation were not overlooked.

A Girl's League was formed to cater for the comforts of the Battalion, under the supervision of Miss Violet MACKAY, who took a keen interest from the beginning, having, with the Mayor of Maitland met the men of the Wallaby March at East Greta and prepared dinner for them on their arrival. On 1st May 1916, the Battalion left by Train from Farley Station for the Showground in Sydney, equipped with kit bags and neccessary clothing, and was reviewed in Moore Park by General RAMACCOTTI. On the following morninng, 2nd May 1916 the men embarked on the transport HMAT A20 "HORORATA" and sailed at 4:00pm".

The voyage to England was without any unusual incidents and a good passage throughout. The first port of call was Albany, where three days were spent. Columbo was reached on Empire Day, 24th May. Here two days were taken up coaling and taking on provisions, etc. During the stay the Battalion carried out a route march through the town. Suez was reached on 8th June, where a party of Light Horse and some details were disembarked. Arriving at Port Said on 9th, the ship coaled and proceeded to Alexandria which was reached on 11th June 1916.

Here the Battalion transferred to S.S."Aragon", E867. Some Australian Details were on board, also a number of Tommies going to England on Furlough. Devonport was reached on the 23rd June, the Battalion disembarked at Plymouth at 1:00pm and entrained during the afternoon for Amesbury, arriving at midnight and marching to hutments at No: 1 Camp, Larkhill. Here the Battalion settled down to hard training, which included Route Marching, Trench Digging, Bomb Practice, Musketry and general Camp Routine. Later the Battalion moved to the No: 25 Camp and finished off their training, which included six days' battle practice and field work at the Bustard Trenches.

Four days' disembarkation leave was given from 6th to 10th July and later King's Leave from November 5th to 9th. Whilst here the Official Colours were issued. Purple over Green (Oval), these replacing the Colours presented to the Battalion (Old Gold on Shoulder Straps) by the Ladies of West Maitland. A Signal Section was formed at Larkhill under Lieutenant: Harold Henry McMINN. The weather in England was mostly fine until the latter part of training, when a good deal of rain and snow caused inconvenience. In October the 34th Battalion was reviewed at a Divisional Parade by His Majesty King George V at Bulford.

The 34th Battalion left Larkhill on the 21st November and entrained at Amesbury for Southampton, embarking on the S.S "Arundel". The transport section left by S.S. "Princess Victoria". The Battalion arrived at Le Harve, France on the 22nd November 1916. Disembarkation commenced at 8:00am and the Battalion marched to No;1 camp on the Hill, arriving at 2:00pm. The men carried heavy loads, in some cases amounting to miniature Q.M.' Stores. The march over cobblestones was very tiring, notwithstanding the many route marches which had been carried out at Larkhill. However, after bathing their feet and receiving treatment, as well partaking of a good meal, some spent a comfortable night.

The following morning the Battalion moved to Le Harve Railway Station, leaving D Company behind. On arrival at the Station entraining commenced at 8:00am and the train left at 11:15am. The journey was slow and occupied until 4:30pm on the 24th. On arrival at Bailleul the men detrained and marched to Outtersteene. D Company arrived at 4:00pm the following day. The Battalion rested here in billets for two days previous to taking over garrison duties in the Line at Armenties. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel. Malcolm St John LAMB. with the Adjutant, Company commanders, N.C.O's and Specialists went into the Line to inspect Trenches, Stores, Plans and to arrange for the taking over this Section of the line on the following day.

The specialists and N.C.O's remained in the Line. On 27th November the Battalion went into the Line in the L'Epinette Sector. The men were taken up by motor lorries as far as the Square near Houplines Station, and marched via Butterne Avenue and Willow Walk to the Line, carrying their packs and blankets into the trenches. Lewis Gun ammunition was taken into the Line with the tin cases. The going was difficult owing to the conditions of the Trenches and the heavy and bulky loads. Later the blankets were dumped near Tussage Dump, from which most of them disappeared. This was the main incident of our relief in the Line.

The Sector taken over had been held by the Northumberland Fusiliers whom the 34th Battalion relieved. Specialists of this Regiment remained for a couple of days to arrange and assist in the routine. We were greeted with a display of Verey Lights and, apparently anxious to see the newcomers, the enemy searched our Sector with his searchlights throughout the night, which was misty and dark. Our Artillery and Trench Mortars put over a heavy barrage, either to let Fritz know we had arrived or to cover the change over; this was the signal for increased activity of enemy Machine Gun and Rifle fire to which the Battalion energetically replied.

During the night Patrols were sent out, Listening Posts established and wiring was commenced. Dawn broke with a thick mist hanging over the Sector and our men could get very little idea of the new frontage. Our Artillery and Trench Mortars were busy registering on the enemy positions throughout the day and Fritz retaliated with Machine Gun and Rifle fire. The first day passed with no special incidents. Our first Casualty occured on the following morning at sunrise when Private: 148 William PECK was sniped with an explosive bullet through the forehead. Counter battery work, Machine Gun firing and sniping were fairly active during our first term in the Line. The first Casualty occured on the morning of the 3rd of December at sunrise when Private: 148 William PECK was sniped with an explosive bullet through the forehead. Counter battery work, Machine Gun firing and sniping were fairly active during our first term in the Line.

Considerable damage was done to our Trenches and parapets and one of our Listening Posts was destroyed. Some enemy Patrols were dispered by our snipers. Enemy working parties were fairly active on our front and his patrols were strong. Considerable road and rail transport was noticeable behind the enemy lines. The Battalion livened things up generally in the Sector which of late had been fairly quiet and Fritz did not appreciate the change. Just before being relieved we presented them with an issue of Gas. The Trenches were in a very wet and muddy condition. The water in the bottom of them being frequently frozen, the ice had to be broken to provide sufficient cover for the men, as the parapets were not high enough to allow walking on the ice. Thus the men had to stand in the freezing water and mud, with the result that the constant wet and cold caused many evacuations with trench feet.

The 33rd Battalion was on our left and the New Zealanders were on our flank during this period. After six days in the Line we were relieved and marched to Billets in Armentieres. The Battalion Headquarters were at No: 6 Rue de Strasburg, the Quarter Master's Store at No: 28. Billet routine from the 4th to 10th December 1916 consisted of a general clean up and Bath Parades to Erquinghem.

On the 11th December 1916 the 34th Battalion went into the Line again. "B" Company occupying the Subsidiary line instead of "D" Company, as in the first period. The weather was still cold and misty. The usual counter battery work was carried out by the Artillery and Trench Mortars. Some shells from our own "Heavies" dropped short and fell into our front Line. Sniping on both sides was again active. Extra Patrols were sent out to engage the strong fighting enemy Patrols in No Man's Land. The enemy was busy with his Working Parties and good work was also done by the wiring parties. Two extra Lewis Guns were added to the Front Line for the purpose of sweeping the enemy parapets and wire, in retaliation for enemy sniping which had become most active and causing trouble.

This was the beginning of continuous sweeping of parapets on both sides during the whole period of holding this Sector of the Line. The 34th Battalion Patrols were contesting No Man's Land, which up to this time Fritz considered belonged to him. Heavy bombardments were carried out which caused considerable damage to the Trenches and Supports on both sides. quite a number of Men were being evacuated with trench feet through standing in the cold and wet, notwithstanding that dry socks were issued every day to the troops. during this period there were a number of casualties, including 6 K.I.A.and Lieutenant: Stephen Matthew HARRIS was the first the Officer wounded. Captain: Walter Hedland Valentine BAKER. and Lieutenant: Frederick Llewllyn EAST. and a number of men were also evacuated sick.

The 34th Battalion was relieved on the 18th of December 1916 and marched to billets in Armentieres. Captain: Edmund BEAVER injured by shell fire, and several other ranks sick, were evacuated from here. On the 23rd December 1916 the 34th Battalion moved to Reserve Billets at La Blanc Masion, where the buildings of hutments and stables for muleswas carried out. The roads were flooded two or three feet deep and Carrying Parties of men erecting the hutments had to wade through this, in many cases waist deep. While here the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel. Malcolm St John LAMB. left for Army School. Christmas Day, the first and what proved to be the worst in France, was spent in Billets, only in the course of erection. The rations for Christmas Dinner were plentiful, but the cooking facilities were poor and the troops were somewhat "fed up" with the environment and bad weather.

Each man had 1lb of Pudding and a quart of Beer if he wished. The Pudding was supplied by the Comforts Fund and the Beer from the Regimental Funds. Working Parties had to be provided both on Christmas and New Year's Day. On the 31st of December 1916 Lieutenant Colonel. Malcolm St John LAMB. returned to the 34th Battalion and on the 4th January 1917 Headquarters and "A" Company moved to Jesus Farm and joined the remainded of the 34th Battalion in hutments, which were now finished. The following day Major: Walter Arnold LeRoy FRY. left for the Training Battalion at Larkhill. A few men were evacuated sick and one, Private: A LEACH of the Australian Medical Corps Staff, died.

On the 24th January 1917 the Specialists went into the Line in the Houplines Sector. The following day the 34th Battalion took over from the 36th Battalion, whos Commanding Officer:Lieutenant Colonel: James William Albert SIMPSON. had been killed the previous day. On the 29th January 1917 Major: Ernest Edward MARTIN. temporarily transfered to command the 36th Battalion until the 20th February when Lieutenant Colonel: John Alexander MILNE. became Commanding Officer. The Front Line here was very similar to last Sector. During this period a good deal of shelling was carried out on both sides enemy sending over "Pineaples" freely. Aerial activity increased and many fights took place. The Patrols were now gaining mastery of No Man's Land and Fritz was getting the "Wind up". Verey Light displays, constant use of his Searchlights and bombing of his own wire were common occurences during the night time.

On the 26th of January 1917 2nd Lieutenant: Gordon Thomas WOOD was the first Officer Killed in Action who was killed by shell fire. Also during this period the first Non Commissioned Officer killed in Action was Sergeant: 165 William James "Bully" RICHMOND. The 34th Battalion was relieved on the 31st of January 1917 and moved to Billets in Armentieres. Whilst here a number of the men were evacuated suffering from trench feet and trench fever, caused by the appaulling conditions in the Trenches, No Man's Land and a Listining Post. Working Parties were supplied, a general cleaning up carried out and Bath Parades held.

On the 6th February the 34th Battalion relieved the 36th Battalion in the Houplines Sector. Patrols only occupied Listening Posts as the nights were very bright and moonlit. The Battalion's Trench Mortors put over a large quantity of shells, to which Fritz replied vigorously with "Minnies" and "Pineapples" but very little damage was done. Enemy planes were active over our Lines, but the Australian Aircraft drove him back. Air fights were frequent now. Also there was quite a lot of Anti-Aircraft firing, but no planes were brought down. Enemy Planes dropped bombs on our Sector and Working Parties, while his Working Parties were dispersed by the Brigades 18 Pounders. "Minnies an "Pineapples" caused damage to our Trenches and Brigades Artillery did likewise to the enemy placements.

Lieutenant: William Henry SALVATORI. and Lieutanant: Ray WOLSTENHOLME. and a number of men sick were evacuated here. The 34th Battalion relieved on the 12th February and until the 17th February, the usual routine of supplying Working Parties, general cleaning up, was carried out. The 34th Battalion went into the Line again from the 18th to 25th February and Patrols were busy exploring No Man's Land. The enemy Patrols and Working Parties, which were strong, were dispersed by Lewis Gunners. Snipers were very active and the enemy Machine Gun fire greatly increased. From the 25th of February the 34th Battalion was in Billets.

From the 13th to the 17th of March 1917 the 34th battalion were again in Billets. Lieutenant: Henry Cecil BENNETT was evacuated here. The 34th Battalion occupied to Line from 17th to 25th March 1917. The enemy persistently bombarded Hobb and Edmonds' Arc with 7.7's, 5.9's and 4.2's and had arial observation throughout. Later quite a number of Gas Shells came over and a powerful enemy searchlight was constantly playing over Japan Road. On the 17th/18th March 1917 we released a quantity of Gas which brought a retaliation of Machine Gun fire.

During the night of 19th March 1917 the enemy set up red lights and the Brigades Artillery up in the vicinity of the S.O.S. Signal. Several craters and also gaps were made in the enemy wire. Patrols saw a large party leave the enemy trenches and advance to shell holes where they left bombs, etc, a number of which were connected by tape. The enemy had apparently been suprised when making a silent raid. On the 20th of March, Frtiz put down a heavy bombardment on our Front Line, doing some damage. On the night of 20th/21st March, the enemy attempted a false S.O.S. by sending up Red Lights, which was the Battalions S.O.S. Signal. The Brigade's Artillery opened up, narrowly missing one of our Patrols which was just about to go into No Man's Land. Having obtained the mastery of No Man's Land with our Fighting Patrols, Fritz apparantly hoped to get the Battalions Artillery to open up on No Man's Land when Patrols were out.

However it did not succeed as a number of enemy dead were found by Scouts, lying in No Man's Land. Owing to the snow-clad ground Scouts were greatly hampered in thier work. Fritz was holding Posts every twenty yards on our Front, which wer strongly manned, and was very active digging communication Trenches.


At 10 pm on the 6th June 1917, the Battalion left its billets fully equipted for the assembly Trenches. The order of march being "D", "A", "C" and "B" Companies. All went well until just before reaching Gunners Farm, where the enemy was putting a number of Gas Shells over and Masks had to be put on. Ploegsteert Wood and the back area were receiving particular attention. All Companies were greatly delayed of the amount of Gas in the Wood, which resulted in a number of men being gassed on the way up and many others were completely exhausted. A number of men lost there way in the darkness and smoke. Many could not see at all and had to be led back by there comrades. I many cases it was the blind leading the blind. After a gruelling March, the first arrivals reached the Assembly Points 30 minutes before Zero Hour, while the last company arrived only 10 minutes before Zero.

On the 7th June, seven seconds before Zero Hour, which was 3.10am, four Miles on our front were fired. There was a voilent swaying as if an eatherquake had taken place and the men in many instances were thrown together. The sky was brilliantly illuminated by the explosives and terrific Artillery fire, the sound of which could not be heard over the intense Machine Gun Barrage. The men left the Trenches immediately and there were a number of casualties on the parapet owing to the heavy enemy Barrage. The supports were also being shelled and the Reserve Company ("D") suffered considerable losses. The weather was hot and sultry and every one felt the tyring march.

The Battalion passed through the 35th Battalion in the vacinity of the enemy's original Front Line, near Ulsters Switch. The enemy fire had been very severe up to theis point and many men were lying here. A halt in our Barrage gave the Company Commanders an opportunity of Checking their Compass Bearings, defining their limits, and getting into position for the next advance. At the left of the Barrage a fine assault in complete waves was made. The men gained their objective in fine style behind a perfect Barrage and commenced consolidating their position. The mopping up of the Trench System was soon accomplished and many of the enemy were killed in their Dugouts. By 5.30am fair cover had been obtained on the Consilidation Line. At 6.30am Enemy Machine Guns were located in a rebout in "Uncertain Trench" and heavy Artillery was brought to bear on them with good results. By 7.30am the Black Line was down to two thirds of its depth and linking up by Companies and Platoons were in progress. The enemy was seen moving along "Uncertain Trench" and also reports were received from the 33rd Battalion that the enemy was massing 1,000 yards in front. Reports of enemy movement continued throughout the early part of the morning, but Artillery co-operation helped to disperse the tendency and during the day no organised counter attack was attempted.

At 8.30am the Line was well dug along the Front and affording excellent protection for the men. By 9.30am only one gap remained between "A" and "B" Companies in the full length of the consolidation of the "Black Line" to the River La Douve. The Trenches being now well down, widening and sandbagging were now in progress and at 11.30am showed very plainly in an Arial Photo as a good defensive Trench. There were repeated enquiries for water from the Front Line. Carrying Parties were suffering heavy casulties and were completely knocked up with the long distance.

At 1.40pm Captain: Arthur Sidney WHITLOCK with "D" Company advanced to the Green Line, without Artillery support, owing to an alteration in the Zero Hour not reaching him. At 2.45pm he reported by Runner that, having waited 30 minutes and no Artillery Barrage as arranged have been put down, he had advenced to the Green Line and was consolidating. by 7.30pm all Companies reported that their positions were well consolidated. Just before midnight Captain: Arthur Sidney WHITLOCK was killed between the Green and Black Lines, and Captain: Robert Joseph STEWART took command of "D" Company. Patrols under the Scout Officers were sent out during the night and encountered enermy Patrols which were dispersed. A number of enemry patrols were also killed by our Machine Gun and Lewis Gun fire earlier in the night. At 5.00am on the 8th June an enermy Plane over, flying low and inspecting our new position.

Our casualties to date had been 8 Officers and 236 other ranks. Captain: Arthur Sidney WHITLOCK and Lieutenant: 584 Leslie William Roy WARNER K.I.A. Lieutenant's Lieutenant: William Walter MATTHEWS   Lieutenant: Hector Reginald McLEOD,   Lieutenant: Bruce Gray McKENZIE,   Lieutenant: Benjamin Greenup BRODIE, Lieutenant: Thomas Clifton PITTAWAY, and Lieutenant: Frederick Winn WALKER wounded.

(A Short History of the 34th Battalion, Illawarra Press; 1957)

Ernest was with D Company during this action and was Wounded in Action and received a Guns Shot Wound to his Left Arm and Head. and was evacuated to the 11th Stationary Hospital at Rouen. Ernest was transported back to England, and after his convalescence returned to Australia on the 15th February 1918.

Cessnock War Memorial

Cessnock War Memorial


Ernest's Memorial British War Medal:43576 and Victory Medal:42627 and Returned from Active Service Badge:48242 was Donated to the Harrower Collection by Gary Mitchell of Woodrising via Newcastle on the 1st September 2013 and is on display at the Swansea RSL Club

Family Information

Ernest was a single 32 year old Billiard Maker from Cessnock, N.S.W upon enlistment. His parents Charles and Mary Wheatley were married in 1877 at Newcastle, N.S.W. Marriage Cert:3771/1877 and had at least 9 children. Arthur Hirriam Charles Wheatley born 1877 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:17481/1877 and died at Cessnock, N.S.W. Death Cert:11521/1948. Charles Wheatley born 1879 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:19908/1879 and died 1879 at Lambton, N.S.W. Death Cert:7602/1879. Albert William Wheatley born 1880 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:20161/1880 and died 1945 at Wollongong, N.S.W. Death Cert:13346/1945. Francis Henry Wheatly born 1881 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:24739/1881 and died 1951 at Belmont, N.S.W. Death Cert:10049/1951. Ernest James Wheatley born 1883 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:28049/1883 and died 1952 at Boolaroo, N.S.W. Death Cert:20102/1952. Eva A Wheatley born 1885 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:30213/1885. Walter P Wheatley born 1887 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:32321/1887. Ada J Wheatley born 1890 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:18017/1890. Charlotte M Wheatley born 1893 at Lambton, N.S.W. Birth Cert:19007/1893.

21st February 1930.

The Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder. OBITUARY


The unexpected death of Mrs. J. A. Kerr, of South Cessnock, which this ocurred at the Cessnock District Hospital on Wednesday, February 12 came as a great shock to the community and on all sides could be heard expressions of regret and sympathy for the family, which in recent times have had more than their share of trouble and misfortune. Mrs. Kerr was the eldest daughter of the late Mr and Mrs John Hill, well known pioneers of the Coalfied. She was 42 years of age, and was born at Wallsend. While not an active worker in matters of a public nature, the deceased lady was well known and highly respected through out the district Her kindly disposi tion and nature won for her a large circle of friends, and the attendance at her funeral was a striking tribute to her memory. Her true and affectionate nature was rejected in her home life. Those whom she lived with, she lived for. She was a true and loving nyther, and dutiful wife whose first thought was always for her children and home. The funeral, which was the largest and most representative seen in Cessnock for years, took place on tbe 13th instant, the interment taking place in the Methodist portion of the Cessnock Cemetery. Rev Owen Evans, assisted by the Rev Thomas, conducted a short service at the home, and afterwards officiated in a very impressive ceremony at the graveside. The pall-bearers were Messrs. Albert Vile, William, Foster. Thomas Kerr, and Harry Spicer (brotherin law). The chief mourners were Mr John A. Kerr (husband), Miss Thelma Kerr, (daughter), Mr Jack Kerr (son), Misses Jean and Verlie Kerr (daughters), and Donald Kerr (son), Mr and Mrs John Hill (Junr.), Mr and Mrs. Albert Vile, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Wheatley, Mr and Mrs Louis Hill, Mr and Mrs. Harry spicer, Mr and Mrs. Gladstone Hill, Mr and Mrs. William Foster, Mr and Mrs. Thomas Kerr (sisters and brothers) In addition to the large number of telegrams, cards and letters of condolence received by the family, floral tributes were laid upon the grave as tokens of love, esteem, and respect from the following: Her loving husband, her loving children, her loving sisters, her loving brothers, Len and Mary Sidai, the South Cessnock 'C' Grade Cricket Club, Mr and Mrs J. Barnett, Mr and Mrs J. Flider, Ray and Mrs Harris, Mrs D. McGilvary, Mr and Mrs Chas Jack, Mr and Mrs Baumgardner, Mr W. S. Johnston, E. and M. C. Barringham, Mr and Mrs Robert Reid, Mr and Mrs Booth, Mr and Mrs Lowe, Mr and Mrs. Dains.


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Under Construction; 03/09/2013-28/04/2016.

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