Discovering Annie Wheeler: digital story
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.
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.
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.
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.
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