OVER the past few weeks, Year 9 students from John Whitgift Academy have been researching the life of Sidney Wheelhouse, the former Grimsby Town captain who was tragically killed in action during the First World War. This year will be the centenary of his death. Students have been looking at how he volunteered for the army whilst in the peak of his career, in order to help the Allied forces' war effort.
Sidney was a right back, best remembered for his time with Grimsby Town, where his spirited performances (of which he clocked up 244) led to him becoming a popular figure, and captain of the club. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Wheelhouse enlisted in February 1915, and was in France as part of the 1st Footballer’s Battalion by November. He was involved in heavy fighting at Delville Wood in 1916, where he spent time caring for his injured comrades. He was subsequently appointed lance corporal. On 18th September 1916, Sidney and his regiment were caught in a gas attack, which killed the entire working party within 24 hour. Wheelhouse was 27 years old and left a widow, Agnes, and three children. The following short story was compiled from the work of class 9w1, who used his story as inspiration for a creative writing project.
As I lie here and wait to make this suffering end, I think of my life and how I had made some kind of difference to the world.
All that I remember about that day was, just like now though much further away, lying in a field …
THWACK! Over the goal the football flew. At our local park in the muddy puddles and the rain. I was always dreaming; dreaming for the day to come when I would play for the real Grimsby Town football team.
BUZZ! A flash of electricity hit the bright lights one by one in perfect order at Blundell Park. It was match time. The sound of the crowd like zoo animals filled my ears. The commentator shouted our names and numbers as we sprinted on the wet, muddy pitch. I remembered what my mum said, “You have to do your best to be the best, son.” The whistle blew; it was time for me to do my best again.
“PASS THE BALL SIDNEY!” screamed my teammates. I didn’t picture it to be as wild as this. As I leaped to my position, I felt the noise of the crowd spur me on again. All the tension started to build up once again; I thought that I was ready for this…
SLAM. As the door closed shut behind me, I wondered why I had been called into the manager’s office. The manager stood still, staring into my eyes. “Wheelhouse…” he began. I felt a lump rise in my throat. What had I done wrong? “I am promoting you to captain of Grimsby Town, because I am so impressed with all the good work that you have been showing.” I looked at him with a shocked look; I thought that he was going to sack me, but obviously not! Later on that night I went home with a massive grin on my face, and as I sat down with a cuppa beside the radio, I listened to the news as always.
‘BREAKING NEWS.’ The voice rang in my ears as I was just about to take a sip of my drink. It caught my attention and I just glared at the radio; war had broken out! I decided to volunteer; I knew that I had to go to war and defend my country.
CRASH! The deafening noise of another bomb filled the trenches. I was here. On my to war, I had had this horrible, cruel and disappointed feeling in my belly. I didn’t know if I had made the right decision: well, would you? I scrambled for shelter as fast as lightning, not knowing what to expect. I ran quickly so I could get the best cubby out of all the cubbys. At first I thought fighting for my country was a good idea, but after spending so much time caring for my horrifically injured comrades, I was having second thoughts.
‘GAS! GAS BOYS!’ An ecstasy of fumbling. I looked up, head in a daze as something unknown began to fill my lungs. The soldiers of the 1st Footballer’s Battalion were running, then my heart was hurting, and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. That, before this, was my last clear memory.
As I lie here and wait to make this suffering end I think of my life before the trenches, and the glory days at Blundell Park. How I wish I could be back there now.