Kempsey war hero Lance Corporal Cuthbert William ‘Billy’ Debenham Wheeldon, who was killed in battle on August 19, 1918, will be remembered at the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on Saturday March 2.
The moving ceremony, which is held daily at the closing of the War Memorial and pays tribute to an Australian soldier who lost their life in times of war, will mark the 103rd anniversary of the raising of the 45th Infantry Battalion which Billy was a member.
Billy’s great nephew John Thomas will be in attendance to honour his family member who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
“It will be a very emotional service,” Mr Thomas told the Argus.
“But it will be good to travel to Canberra as a family and commemorate the life of a great guy.”
Billy was born in 1894 and was the second son of Henry and Emily Wheeldon of Gladstone.
Initially, Billy was forbidden by his mother to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, however Billy asked Emily if he could if he scored a goal in his next football match. Emily agreed as Billy had never scored a goal before. Billy scored in his next match and Emily permitted him to join the army.
Billy enlisted in the AIF on February 23, 1916 aged 21 years and 11 months. Billy was unmarried and his occupation was listed as a farmer.
Billy departed Australia on August 22, 1916 on the troopship, HMAT Wiltshire as part of the 4th Reinforcement of the 45th Infantry Battalion.
Billy was a machine gunner and fought in many battles. On October 11, 1917, Billy was wounded in Broodseinde Ridge in the Third Battle of Ypres, but remained on duty with his unit.
On April 12, 1918, Billy was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.
The young man was killed in action on August 19, 1918 at Lihons, near Harbonnieres in France. Less than three months from the end of the war.
Military records show Billy was killed after he put his head up to see whether it was possible to get a shot at the enemy who were only 30 yards away. Billy was shot in the head and died a few minutes later.
Billy was buried at Harbonnieres but in 1920 his remains were exhumed and he was moved to the Fouquescourt British Cemetery outside of the French village of the same name.
Billy is memorialised on the cenotaphs at Gladstone and East Kempsey and on the Wall of Remembrance at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
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