Philip Wheatley

Brigadier General Philip Wheatley, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., Royal Horse Artillery

Born on 29th May 1871 in Funchal, Madeira
Died on 11th April 1935 in Nanyuki Cottage Hospital, Kenya


Family and Home 1, 2, 3

Philip Wheatley was born in Funchal, Madeira, the only child of William Frank (Frank) Wheatley and Alice Mary née Blunt. However, his mother had tuberculosis and died when Philip was one year old.

As a young child, Philip was brought up at Ashurst near Plumpton in Sussex by his French nurse Hilarie Cornélie Solerean, known as Marie. His father worked mainly in London and Philip then saw him at weekends.  Philip was a delicate child who had two severe illnesses and “went from one private school to another”. The 1881 Census shows him as an 11 year old pupil at Woburn Park School in Chertsey, Surrey.

Then, in 1882 when Philip was 11, his father obtained the position of Agent of Ashridge, moving initially into Little Gaddesden House. Philip could then be at home with his father in the school holidays. Hilarie moved with the family.

Philip’s Father Re-marries 2, 4, 5, 6

On 21st February 1887, Philip’s father William Frank Wheatley aged 46 married Annette Katherine Cockayne-Cust aged 26 at St Peter’s Eaton Square. She was daughter of the late Major Henry Francis Cockayne-Cust and a cousin of Earl Brownlow, who signed the marriage register as a witness. Annette, who was always called ‘Ettie’, moved to Little Gaddesden. However, she refused to live in Little Gaddesden House, traditionally the Agent’s home, moving instead into the newly refurbished Manor House.

Frank Wheatley and Ettie had three daughters, who were half-sisters to Philip.

  • Pearl, born 19th May 1888
  • Angelica Pamela (Angel), born 30th June 1893
  • Prudence, born 9th April 1901

Reading for the Army 3, 7

Like his father before him, Philip was destined for the Army. However, he had some trouble getting in and failed the exam in 1888. He then enrolled in the Eastern Division Militia. Hart’s Army Lists show him as a Second Lieutenant in the Suffolk Artillery from 19th January 1889, then as a Lieutenant from 12th February 1890.

In the 1891 Census he is at home with his father and step-mother at the Manor House, Little Gaddesden. His occupation is then recorded as “Reading for the Army”. This time he was successful.

A Commission in the Royal Artillery 7

Therefore, on 16th May 1891 Philip Wheatley was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. Three years later, on 16th May 1894, he was promoted to Lieutenant.

Service in the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899 – 1901 7, 8, 9

Philip Wheatley served in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War with the 1st Maxims (Pom Poms) Royal Artillery, the 3rd Royal Horse Artillery Ammunition Column and O Battery Royal Horse Artillery. He was promoted to Captain on 12th February 1900 and then to Brevet Major on 29th November 1900.

As a Royal Artillery Captain, Philip was named in Lord Roberts’ Mentions of September 4th 1901. That despatch listed those who had rendered special and meritorious service. Following his service in South Africa, Philip was entitled to the Queen’s South Africa Medal with the following 7 clasps: Paardeberg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Belfast, Relief of Kimberley and 1901.

The Wheatleys in 1901 3

While Philip was serving with his regiment in South Africa, his father William Frank, his step-mother, Annette, his half-sisters Pearl, 12 and Angelica, 7, their Nurse Hilarie (recorded as Mary) Solerean, other servants and visitors were resident at the Manor House, Little Gaddesden. Alice Cutler, sister of Frederick Cutler, John Cutler and Harry Cutler, was a 17 year old Parlour Maid.

Further Service in the Royal Horse Artillery 7, 10

Philip’s entry in Hart’s Army List 1908 shows that, from 15th September 1906, he served as Adjutant in E Battery, Royal Horse Artillery. Then, by April 1911, the Census records him as a Major and in command of Y Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, which was then at Mhow, India. The Battery remained there until after the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.

The Wheatleys in 1911 3

While Philip was with Y Battery Royal Horse Artillery in India, his father, step-mother and half-sisters Angelica, 17 and Prudence, 9, were at the Manor House, Little Gaddesden. Their former nurse Hilarie Solerean, now described as a lady’s maid, and four other servants were there too. Two of their Parlour Maids were Alice Elizabeth Searl, 20, who later married William Newman (Senior) and was the mother of William Newman (Junior) and Annie Fenn, 17, the sister of William Fenn R.I.P. and Herbert Fenn.

War Service 1914 – 1919 2, 7, 10, 11

At the outbreak of War, Y Battery Royal Horse Artillery was still at Mhow in Central India. It was ordered home and then became part of 15 Brigade RHA in the 29th Division. In November 1914, Philip, however, briefly left that Battery to take 173rd Brigade Royal Field Artillery to France. Then, five months later, he returned to command Y Battery, Royal Horse Artillery. From 10th April 1915, he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Y Battery landed at Gallipoli on 27th April 1915 and Philip then commanded them from landing until 2nd July 1915. However, after being mauled by a dog, he then left for Cairo for Pasteur treatment. He re-joined the Battery on 4th August 1915 but did not reassume command. He left Gallipoli on 12th August 1915 and subsequently served on the Western Front.

Promoted to Temporary Brigadier General 7

On 22nd August 1916 Philip was promoted to Temporary Brigadier General in the Royal Horse Artillery and attached to Headquarters Units. The following year he was awarded the D.S.O and Mentioned in Despatches twice.

Mentioned in Despatches (1) 12

The Supplement to the London Gazette of 15th May 1917 records that:

The following despatch has been received by the Secretary of State for War from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, G.C.B., Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France.
Sir,—I have the honour to submit a list of names of those officers, ladies, non-commissioned officers, and men, serving, or who have served, under my command, whose distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty I consider deserving of special mention.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
Commander-in-Chief, The British Armies in France.
… Staff
… Wheatley, Lt.-Col. (temp. Brig.-Gen.) P., R.A.

Awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) 13

Philip is mentioned again in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 4th June 1917 because:

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the undermentioned rewards for distinguished service in the field : — 
… Lt.-Col. (temp. Brig.-Gen.) Philip Wheatley, R.A.

Mentioned in Despatches (2) 14

On 11th December, 1917, the Supplement to the London Gazette records a second Mention in Despatches. “Wheatley, Lt.-Col. (temp. Brig.-Gen.) P., D.S.O., R.A.” is named by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig among those:

who have served, under my command during the period February 26th to midnight, September 20/21st, 1917, whose distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty I consider deserving of special mention.

Mentioned in Despatches (3) 15

Then, on 17th May 1918, the Supplement to the London Gazette names Philip among those:

serving, or who have served, under my command during the period September 25th, 1917, to midnight, February 24/25th, 1918, whose distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty I consider deserving of special mention.

Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (C.M.G.) 16

Further honours followed. On 3rd June, 1918, the London Gazette included the following entry:

The KING has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of His Majesty’s Birthday, to give directions for the following promotion in, and appointments to, the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, for services rendered in connection with Military Operations in France and Flanders. Dated 3rd June, 1918: —
… To be Additional Members of the Third Class, or Companions, of the said Most Distinguished Order: —
… Lt.-Col. (T./Brig.-Gen.) Philip Wheatley, D.S.O., R.A

Companion of the Order of the Bath (C.B.) 17

In the King’s Birthday Honours, June 1919, Philip Wheatley was again rewarded, as reported in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 3rd June 1919:

The KING has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of His Majesty’s Birthday; to give orders for the following appointments to the Most Honourable Order of, the Bath, for Valuable services rendered in connection with military operations in France and Flanders. Dated 3rd June, 1919:—
To be Additional Members of the Military Division of the Third Class, or Companions, of the said Most Honourable Order: —
… Lt.-Col/ (T./Brig.-Gen.) Philip Wheatley, C.M.G., D.S.O., R.A.

Mentioned in Despatches (4) 18, 19

Finally, on 4th July 1919, the Supplement to the London Gazette records a fourth and final Mention in Despatches for Philip for “distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty” between 16th September, 1918 and 15th March, 1919. For his War Service, Philip was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

Retiring from the Army 7

On 16th August 1919, Philip Wheatley retired from the Royal Artillery with the Honorary Rank of Brigadier General. He was then aged 48 and had completed 28 years of service.

Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”

Philip Wheatley, Royal Horse Artillery, is named on the original Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. He is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll.  A professional soldier, he is among the oldest men named on the Rolls.

Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver

Sister Angel’s War 2, 20, 21, 22, 23

At the outbreak of war, Lord and Lady Brownlow offered Ashridge as the location for an auxiliary hospital and convalescent home for troops. This was controlled by St Albans Hospital and mainly staffed by the Red Cross. Lady Brownlow devoted much time to the Red Cross both at Ashridge and their house at Belton, Grantham, which became a Red Cross Hospital.

Angelica Wheatley volunteered full time at Ashridge from 23rd September 1914. She spent the first six months as an H.P.M. and the remaining time as a Nurse. Her service ended on 10th November 1919. Angelica’s Red Cross Record Card noted that she “Worked Continuously for 4 years at Ashridge VAD Hospital” and under the heading “Honours Awarded” it recorded “role of honourable service“.

However, Angel Wheatley died in West Herts Hospital, Hemel Hempstead on 29th May 1922, aged only 28. She had suffered from Myocarditis for 2 years and Tuberculosis for 3 months. They eventually lead to heart failure. She was then buried in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 1st June 1922.

Emigrating to Kenya 2, 24

On 7th September 1919, Brigadier General P Wheatley, travelled 1st Class to Bombay for onward travel to British East Africa, where he intended to reside. He is listed among the British passengers leaving Liverpool aboard the “City of Marseilles”, an Ellermans City Line ship bound for Bombay & Karachi. He was 48 years old and his occupation was “retired soldier”.

Philip took advantage of the Imperial Government’s “soldier settler” scheme to move to Kenya, where he had a 4306 acre farm, Erith Estate, in Nanyuki. However, his letters home showed that he found his new life dull and lonely. He built a house, tried to put in irrigation for his crops, ran a transport company and leased areas of farmland to Somali cattle traders. Unfortunately, however, he had no farming experience and soon started to lose money. He persevered with the farming enterprise until 1924 when he sold the farm.

Later Life in Kenya 2, 25

Then, in 1924 Philip moved to the newly founded township of Nanyuki. There he took on a new lease of life and became involved in civic affairs. He was a member of the Township Committee, the District Committee and the Road Board. He was also President for the King George V Silver Jubilee celebrations. In addition, he helped to found the Nanyuki Cottage Hospital. Philip also became local correspondent of the East Africa Standard. He was Secretary of the Nanyuki Sports Club and responsible for the building of the township’s race course and polo ground. However, in 1934 he began to suffer heart trouble and, on 11th April 1935 aged nearly 65, he died in the Cottage Hospital he had helped to found. He was then buried in the local graveyard.

Postscript: Colonel William Frank Wheatley, the Ashridge Agent 2, 20, 23, 25

Philip’s father Colonel William Frank Wheatley was the Agent of Ashridge for forty years from 1882 until his death in 1923. He ran the estate with efficiency and devotion and was a constant presence when the Brownlows were elsewhere, in London or at Belton. He exercised authority but also great kindness, including to those who served under him. He was a very keen Territorial officer and became Colonel commanding the 2nd (Herts) Volunteer Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, in which a number of men on the village Roll of Honour served before the war.

When war was declared and the Brownlows retreated to Belton, Colonel Wheatley continued to oversee the running of the Ashridge Estate. He also trained militias in the Ashridge grounds and supervised young recruits digging trenches on Berkhamsted Common before they were sent to France and Flanders.

Though ill with bladder trouble from December 1907, the Colonel continued to work into his eighties. He was believed to be the first person in the village to ride a safety bicycle and one of the first to own a car. He continued to use both these until a few days before his death, aged 83, on 29th May 1923.

Frank Wheatley was mourned by many in the village, especially those who had worked for him. His coffin was made by Estate Carpenters from Ashridge oak. On 1st June 1923 after cremation, his ashes were interred in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden. They lie in the same grave as his daughter Angel who had died aged 28 and been buried exactly a year earlier. However, there is no headstone or grave marker to commemorate the Colonel.


1. British armed forces and overseas births and baptisms Transcription

2. Bolton, Roger, (2014), “The Witch, Poet and Spy and other Little Gaddesden Stories”, Grosvenor House Publishing Limited.

3. 1881 – 1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census Transcriptions 

4. Westminster Marriages, 1887

5. England & Wales births 1837-2006 Transcriptions

6. The 1939 Register

7. British Army, Army Lists 1839-1946 (Hart’s Army Lists)

8. Anglo Boer War – Mentions in despatches – Army

9. UK, Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949 (South Africa 1899-1902)

10. The Royal Horse Artillery – The Long, Long Trail


12. Page 4753 | Supplement 30072, 15 May 1917 | London Gazette | The Gazette M.i.D. 1

13. Page 5474 | Supplement 30111, 1 June 1917 | London Gazette | The Gazette D.S.O.

14. Page 12922 | Supplement 30421, 7 December 1917 | London Gazette | The Gazette M.i.D. 2

15. Page 5951 | Supplement 30691, 17 May 1918 | London Gazette | The Gazette M.i.D. 3

16. Page 6453 | Supplement 30716, 31 May 1918 | London Gazette | The Gazette C.M.G.

17. Page 6790 | Issue 31370, 30 May 1919 | London Gazette | The Gazette C.B.

18. Page 8501 | Supplement 31435, 4 July 1919 | London Gazette | The Gazette M.i.D. 4

19. British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914-1920

20. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge

21. British Army, British Red Cross Society Volunteers 1914-1918 (Angelica Pamela Wheatley)

22. Copy (pdf) of the Death Certificate for Angelica Pamela Wheatley

23. Little Gaddesden Burial Register 1922, 1923

24. UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960

25. National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) 1858 – 1995

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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson