‘Marathon walk was homage to my war veteran ancestor’

Adam Wheeler with postcards and other memorabilia about his great-grandfathers

Adam Wheeler with postcards and other memorabilia about his great-grandfathers

First published in News Bicester Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

WHEN Adam Wheeler discovered documents about his great-grandfather during the First World War he wanted to pay his respects.

The faded memorabilia of Matthew Rolls had been tucked away for safe keeping in a rusting biscuit tin.

After the historic stash was found, Mr Wheeler followed a march of nearly 200 miles that his great-grandfather made before him during the war.

Mr Wheeler finished the journey in Cologne, Germany, on August 4, the centenary of Britain joining the war in 1914.

The documents relating to Mr Rolls, a postman from Winterbrook, Wallingford, were found when Mr Wheeler’s parents, Tony and Cecilia Wheeler, were renovating their home there.

Mr Wheeler, from Sutton Courtenay, who works in publishing, was keen to sift through the documents as he is a Sergeant with 7 Rifles, a Territorial Army regiment based at Edward Brooks Barracks in Abingdon.

Before that the 33-year-old was in a TA battalion with 3 Royal Welsh, and served in Basra, Iraq, in 2004.

Mr Wheeler, who lives with wife Helen, said he completed the walk because he wanted to “show respect” for his great-grandfathers.

He added: “I came under mortar fire in Basra and that gave me some insight into what happened all those years ago.”

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Matthew Rolls

Mr Rolls was a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, 443 Battery, on the Western Front at Maubeuge, France, when the Armistice was signed in 1918.

He had volunteered in December 1915 aged 39 but was not called up until May, 1917, when he was 41.

Gunner Rolls served in Egypt before moving to the Western Front in July 1918 and he completed the 200-mile journey following the Germans’ withdrawal towards the Rhineland.

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He returned to Wallingford after the war to work as a postman. He died in 1958.

Mr Wheeler said: “It took me eight days to finish the walk, with my family, including my dad Tony joining me along the way, and I got loads of blisters as a result. I wanted to find out more about my great-grandfather and pay my respects to the millions of men who died in the Great War. I was carrying a 30lb pack on my back so it was tough going.

“I also did the walk to raise money for the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. I’m up to about £1,200 so far.”

Mr Wheeler, a former pupil at The Oratory School in Woodcote, near Reading, has also been researching the war record of his other great-grandfather, Sgt George Jessop, who served with the 1st and 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • George Jessop

Sgt Jessop, from Harrow, fought at Passchendaele in 1917 when his platoon was wiped out by a German counter-attack.

He carried his platoon commander back to safety, but he had already died.

Sgt Jessop was shot in the leg and severely wounded but recovered and continued to serve in the regiment until he was discharged in 1927.

Mr Wheeler said: “I think he died in the 1960s – I’m still trying to find out more details about their lives.”

  • For further information about the walk, visit justgiving.com/Adam-Wheeler5/
  • The Oxford Mail has a new Twitter service reporting events both at home and abroad during the First World War in ‘real time’ Follow it @OxfordMailWW1
  • Day 1 Jeumont to Thuin to Charleroi (Marcinelle) 25 miles (France-Belgium)
  • Day 2 Charleroi to Floreffe 20 miles s Day 3 Floreffe to Namur to Ohey 22 miles
  • Day 4 Ohey to Barvaux sur Orthe 20 miles
  • Day 5 Barvaux Sur Orthe to Trois Ponts 20 miles s Day 6 Trois Ponts – Bullingen 22 miles s Day 7 Bullingen – Hollerath - Gemund 20 miles (Belgium-Germany)
  • Day 8 Gemund – Lechernicher 25 miles s Day 9 Lechernicher – Bachem – Cologne 20 miles

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