Bertha Wheeler

Stop number WHITE 4: Continue to walk along the avenue and just by the conifer trees (and after the 21st lime tree) - but before you reach the down hill path to your left - look for the grave of Bertha Wheeler.
Wheeler plot
Wheeler plot
Read the story below and when you are ready to move on click on the dot/circle for A G Thurlow.
Bertha Wheeler's grave London Road
Bertha Wheeler's grave London Road (SWOP BFP04112)
Bertha Wheeler (1853-1927))

I am Bertha Wheeler and I once lived at 93 Easton Street with my widowed father and later, after his death, at Wick Cottage along the London Road. My father was Thomas Wheeler who was banker and one of the Wycombe Wheeler family. My mother Margaret died when I was eight so I spent a great deal of my childhood away from Wycombe at various different schools.

Myself and the Misses Harman, Eliza and Ellen, are all rather advanced in years. But we are always doing our best to support the war effort. I feel that we may be the fortunate ones, having no immediate family at the Front to worry about.

We spend a large amount of our time cutting out garments for the Belgian Refugee Workroom and Prisoners of War Clothing Committee which meets in the Crendon Lane schoolroom.

The fabric, such as flannel and flannelette, is all donated to this worthy cause and both our families, I’m proud to say, have been very supportive in this aspect of our work. Shirts, pyjamas and vests are all made by the volunteers and sent to Belgium. There is also a Wycombe Prisoners of War Fund, led by Miss Read of the Christian Aid Society, and a Belgian Relief Fund Committee (the Honourable Secretary being Miss Lilian Peace of Castle Hill House) and the letters received from the Belgians and our men in captivity is heart warming:

“I’m sure it is very good of you to think of us prisoners who, are of course, unable to help ourselves. You ask me if there is anything that I am specially in need of and I should be glad if you could get me a pair of boots.”

And

“I really look forward to receiving your parcel as it is the best I receive from England. I am quite proud of Wycombe.”

The Misses Harmans, just like myself, are from a prestigious and influential family in High Wycombe. Although we remain unmarried we have our own means of support and can afford maids to do our housework for us. This allows us plenty of time to help with the war effort and other related causes dear to our hearts. You’ll often find me behind a fundraising stall at a fete or a bazaar doing my bit.

This week we sent 13 convalescent coats and 12 pairs of pyjamas to the Red Cross and last week we sent 58 vests to the Belgian Soldiers’ Comfort Fund. We feel so sorry for the poor Belgians, forced to leave their homes and their livelihoods to come here as evacuees with such terrible tales of horror at the hands of the Hun.

It really all began in 1914 when Germany invaded Belgium forcing many Belgians to flee their homeland. The Wycombe area welcomed several groups of these Belgian evacuees and it became the practice for people like us, all good Samaritans, to make gifts to ’Our Belgian Guests’, who when fleeing from the troops had little opportunity to bring much with them. Gifts like oranges, sugar, tea, beef and eggs, and useful items such as a garden wheelbarrow, a spade or fork. And our Belgian Workroom provided them with much needed underclothing. Tickets for the operetta at Wycombe Abbey also provided them with some uplifting entertainment. On the whole the British population, in fear of a similar invasion once they had seen a German warship shell their coastal towns that December, were very sympathetic.

As the Belgians kept arriving, the War Refugees Committee (WRC) coordinated a wide network of voluntary relief work. More than 2,500 local committees, supported by local authorities, were soon set up across the country. And now hundreds of charity initiatives and events are being organised. And that’s how I became involved. For many people, like me, helping the refugees and our own prisoners of war is our way of contributing to the war effort. The death of Benjamin Lucas as a prisoner of war in Mesopotamia this year (1916) is just one of the many reasons which spurs me on. (You'll be able to see the Lucas family grave on your way back along the avenue.)

Bertha Wheeler, researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Jane Dunsterville, Flackwell Local Area History Group
Bertha Wheeler, researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Jane Dunsterville, Flackwell Local Area History Group


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