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RONALD D. WHEELER, M.M.
Lance Sergeant 17436 Ronald David Wheeler, 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers.
Died 10th April 1918 aged 25.
Decorations: The Military Medal, The 1914-15 Star, The British War Medal and The Victory Medal.
Ronald was the oldest of three brothers brought up at Cross Cottage, which is in the centre of Caerwent. At that time there was a village green with the "Roman Stones" at one time adapted to form the base of the village cross and now forming the base of our War Memorial.
Ronald was a keen sportsman and in 1913 won the "Climb the Greasy Pole" competition at Shirenewton Church Fete (won a leg of lamb?).
He married Emily Elizabeth and they lived at Wyndcliffe View, a tied cottage in the centre of Shirenewton. He is thought to have worked for the Liddells as a gardener at Shirenewton Hall.
Alternatively he may have been a worker on the Curre Estate.
He served in France and Flanders from September 1915. Although shown as a Private on our War Memorial he had been promoted to Lance Sergeant and had won the Military Medal for bravery in March 1918.
In April 1918 the Germans launched their last big offensive of the War and the fighting in Flanders was fierce and confused. In the Regimental War Diary Ronald is shown as "missing" on 5th April, "wounded" on 10th April and there is no further mention of him.
Either he died where he fell or he was taken to a field hospital but "lost" - his death was never recorded.
Thus there was no commemoration of his service by the Imperial War Graves Commission.
Thanks to the efforts of Gareth Jones, Ronald's name will soon be added to the Ploegesteert Memorial, Belgium, along with those of his comrades who died over the same period and have no known graves.
As if to compensate for this, he is listed not only on our own Memorial but on the Caerwent Church Organ Memorial, Shirenewton Memorial and the Memorial inside Itton Parish Hall.
After his death Emily bore a son, also named Ronald. She first moved to a smaller house in The Row, Shirenewton, later to Newchurch West. Young Ronald became a schoolteacher, lived near Pontypool and has died only recently leaving children and grandchildren.
JN 29 October 1997