Discovering Annie Wheeler: digital story

Mrs Annie Wheeler c 1920. Image courtesy of Capricornia Coast Historical Society

Mrs Annie Wheeler c 1920. Image courtesy of Capricornia Coast Historical Society

This new digital story examines the important and unique part Mrs. Annie Wheeler played in connecting Central Queensland soldiers and their families during the First World War.

Page of Just the Link Between, edited by Nellie Coar. State Library of Queensland, Call no. RBQ 940.3 JUS

Page of Just the Link Between, edited by Nellie Coar. State Library of Queensland, Call no. RBQ 940.3 JUS

Annie Margaret Wheeler (1867-1950), soldiers' welfare worker, was born at Saunders Station, Dingo, Queensland. Educated in Rockhampton, she trained as a nurse at Sydney Hospital. In 1896 she married Henry Gaudiano Wheeler of Cooroorah Station, near Blackwater, and after his death in 1903, moved back to Rockhampton. In 1913 she took her only daughter Portia to England to complete Portia’s education.

Portia Jean Wheeler standing portrait London United Kingdom ca. 1914-1918, John Oxley Library, SLQ, Image: 30586-0001-0024

Portia Jean Wheeler standing portrait London United Kingdom ca. 1914-1918, John Oxley Library, SLQ, Image: 30586-0001-0024

When war broke out in 1914, Mrs Wheeler felt compelled to contribute to the war effort. Moving to London she took up residence near the AIF Headquarters and the Anzac Buffet. She endeavoured to contact all soldiers from Central Queensland, whether wounded, imprisoned, or in the trenches. She kept a detailed card index of contacts, corresponded with men on the battlefield, forwarded mail, provided for their needs and supervised the care and comfort of those in hospital.

Index cards kept by Mrs Wheeler. Acc. OM82-67

Index cards kept by Mrs Wheeler. Acc. OM82-67

For soldiers on leave she supplemented allowances and advanced funds when needed. To them, she became known as the 'Mother of the Queenslanders'. Families in Queensland sent letters and parcels through her, and by 1918 over 2,300 men were on her books. Every fortnight Mrs Wheeler sent home detailed letters which were published in the Capricornian and the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.

Arrival of Mrs Wheeler to unveil the School War Memorial at Springsure, 1919, John Oxley Library, SLQ, Neg. 69293

Arrival of Mrs Wheeler to unveil the School War Memorial at Springsure, 1919, John Oxley Library, SLQ, Neg. 69293

A support fund was set up in Rockhampton, and the Commonwealth government provided free passage for her return in 1919 to a hero's welcome. Over 5,000 people met her train. She was appointed O.B.E. in 1920.

https://vimeo.com/channels/qanzac100/231033222

To see more of State Library’s QANZAC100 digital stories, look for our channels on YouTube and Vimeo.

References

30586 Mrs. Annie Margaret Wheeler papers 1884-1991

OM82-67 Mrs H.G. Wheeler Correspondence ca 1914-ca 1919

O'Brien, M. and Bevis, M. Remarkable people : Rutherford Armstrong, Annie Wheeler, Ernest Beaman. Yeppoon Qld. : Capricorn Coast Historical Society, 2008.

Coar, Nellie (ed.). Just the Link Between. Rockhampton, s.n., 1916

Cleary, U. Dear Mrs Wheeler - 100 years ago today

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