Corporal Lawrence Carthage Weathers VC (1890-1918, 28yo)

Corporal Lawrence Carthage Weathers

Lawrence Weathers was born on 14 May 1890 at Te Kopuru, New Zealand, and at 7 years old sailed to Australia with his family and settled in South Australia. At the completion of schooling he became an undertaker. Weathers enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on 03 February 1916 and deployed with the 3rd Battalion in June 1916.

On 10 June 1917 he was wounded during an operation at Messines where he was evacuated and did not rejoin his unit until December. Promoted to Lance Corporal on 21 March 1918 he was gassed two months later at Villers-Bretonneux but again rejoined his unit within a month.

After the victory at Mont St Quentin, the clearance of barbed wire entanglements north of Péronne fell to the 43rd Battalion. The major objective was Scutari trench. The unit went forward at 0535h that morning, but were halted by effective fire. From the Vanguard, Weathers attacked the enemy garrison and killed its leader. Replenishing his stock of bombs, with three others he went back into the fray. Given cover by a comrade's Lewis-gun, Weathers seemed oblivious to danger as he scaled the German parapet and hurled his bombs into the trench below. By 0700h resistance ceased. He took three machine-guns and 180 prisoners back to his lines. For his actions he was recommended for the Victoria Cross.

Weathers was promoted to Corporal on 10 September 1918. The Battalion move to attack the Hindenburg line and at dawn on the 29th the engagement commenced. Weathers was wounded by shell-fire and died from his wounds. He was buried in Unicorn Cemetery in France and never knew of his Victoria Cross which was gazetted on 24 December 1918.

Warrant Officer Class Two Kevin Arthur Wheatley VC (1937-1965, 28yo)

Warrant Officer Class Two Kevin Arthur Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley was born on 13 March 1937 at Surry Hills, New South Wales. At the completion of his schooling he worked as a milk carter, food steriliser, machine operator and brick burner. On 12 June 1956 he enlisted into the Australian Regular Army.

At the completion of recruit training he was allocated to the Royal Australian Infantry and joined the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and in March 1957 transferred to the 3rd Battalion. After service in the Malayan Emergency he transferred to the 2nd Battalion in August 1959 followed by the 1st Battalion in June 1961. In January 1964 he was promoted to Sergeant and in August, temporary Warrant Officer Class Two.

Wheatley arrive in Vietnam in March 1965 and on 13 November 1965 he and another Australian – Warrant Officer Swanton were on a search and destroy mission in the Tra Bong Valley when they were attacked by the Viet Cong. Swanton was shot in the chest. Although told that Swanton was dying, Wheatley refused to leave him. Under heavy fire, he half-dragged and half-carried Swanton out of open rice paddies into the comparative safety of nearby jungle. He refused a second request to withdraw, pulled the pins from his two grenades and waited with his motionless colleague while the enemy approached. Two grenade explosions were heard, followed by several bursts of fire. Wheatley and Swanton were found at first light next morning, dead from gunshot wounds. For refusing to abandon a wounded comrade in the face of overwhelming odds Wheatley was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Sergeant John Woods Whittle VC, DCM (1882-1946, 63yo)

Sergeant John Woods Whittle

John Whittle was born on 03 August 1882 at Huon Island. He enlisted in the Tasmania's 4th (2nd Imperial Bushman) contingent as a Private where his unit reached South Africa on 24 April 1901 and saw action in the Cape Colony prior to returning to Tasmania in June 1902. Soon after, he enlisted in the Royal Navy where he served as a stoker for five years before again joining the Permanent Military Forces.

Whittle transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 06 August 1915 where he was promoted to the rank of Acting Corporal and in October 1915 sailed as a reinforcement for the 26th Battalion. In April 1916 he had transferred to the 12th Battalion and was now located in France. He was wounded in action on 18 June 1916 and promoted to Sergeant in October 1916. In early 1917 he was involved in the fighting during the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. At dawn on 27 February 1917 his battalion attacked the outpost villages of Le Barque and Ligny-Thilloy. On the left flank, Whittle bombed an enemy machine-gun post, forced the Germans to flee and won the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The 12th Battalion carried out a diversionary attack on the village of Boursies on 09 April 1917; Whittle led his platoon in the initial assault. The Germans resisted fiercely and counter-attacked. Whittle checked and steadied the forward posts until CAPT JE Newland came forward to organise the defence and regain lost ground. After a four-day spell out of the line, the Battalion advanced close to Lagnicourt. At 0400h on 15 April 1915 the enemy mounted a surprise counter-attack. 'A' Company was forced from its trenches to a sunken road where CAPT Newland and his men made a stand. Whittle saw the Germans bringing up a machine-gun. He 'rushed alone across the fire-swept ground', attacked the enemy with bombs before the weapon could be brought into action, killed the crew and captured the gun. For his heroism at Boursies and Lagnicourt he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Whittle continued to serve and was wounded during the German offensive in March 1918 and again in late July 1918. He returned to Australia and struggled to find work. On 02 March 1946 he died of a cerebral haemorrhage and was buried at the Rookwood Cemetery. Whittle was one of two Victoria Cross recipients to have been permanent serviceman before the war.