CHARLIE WHEATLEY

Ordinary Seaman, Royal Navy, SS/9214
He died in a drowning accident in Portsmouth on 8 February 1921
while serving on HMS Shakespeare. He was aged 20.
He is buried in Coleman's Hatch churchyard.
 

Coleman's Hatch Churchyard

Charlie Wheatley was son of Jesse (born 1874) and Ada (née Divall, born 1874) Wheatley of Spring Cottage, Coleman's Hatch. He was the nephew of Doctor Wheatley, Harry Wheatley, George Wheatley and William James Wheatley, who all fell during the Great War and are also profiled here.

In the 1911 census Charlie was listed as age 10 and living with his family at Brickyard Cottage, Coleman's Hatch. His father, Jesse, was described as a tile maker in a brick works. Charlie was five feet three inches tall. His peacetime occupation was listed as a domestic gardener.

Charlie joined up in July 1918. He served on the Victory I until 14 March 1919, then the Maidstone until October 1920, on the Victory I again from 8-28 October 1920, and finally on the Columbine (Shakespeare) until his death on 8 February 1921.

HMS Shakespeare

HMS Shakespeare was a Thornycroft type leader, one of a class of a class of five destroyer leaders designed by John I. Thornycroft & Company and built by them at Woolston, Southampton for the Royal Navy towards the end of World War I. The function of a leader was to carry the flag staff of a destroyer flotilla, therefore they were enlarged to carry additional crew, offices and signalling equipment, allowing a fifth gun to be carried. Only HMS Shakespeare and HMS Spenser were completed in time for wartime service.

HMS Shakespeare was laid down on 2 October 1916, launched on 7 July 1917 and completed on 10 October 1917. She was badly damaged by a mine in June 1918. In 1921 HMS Shakespeare formed part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet 5.39—renumbered 8DF. She was sold for breaking up and handed over on 2 September 1936.

The Columbine was a depot ship. In November 1919 she was at the Firth of Forth, Local Defence and Training, Establishments and a Patrol Flotilla at (Port Edgar); also Fourth Destroyer Flotilla.

Charlie Wheatley is listed as the only person drowned on HMS Shakespeare on 8 February 1921.

On 17 March, 1921, its commander, Edmond Julius Gordon Mackinnon, was subjected to a Court Martial for testing the engines of HMS Shakespeare in a tidal basin while men were painting her sides from a catamaran. A charge that he had endangered their lives was not proved and he was acquitted. It is not thought that this is related to Charlie's death by drowning a month earlier.

Charlie Wheatley is buried in Coleman's Hatch churchyard and commemorated on the memorial in the Vicarage Rooms for those who returned home safely.

Charlie Wheatley strictly speaking is not a casualty of the First World War, having died in an incident that occurred over two years after the war ended. He is included here because he enlisted during the war and is commemorated on the Coleman's Hatch war memorial.

Carol O'Driscoll