Wheeldon Will

Will Wheeldon

The son of Alice Wheedon (see separate entry), Will Wheeldon was also an activist in the SLP. He was a teacher in Derby who was on the run as a conscientious objector when his mother was imprisoned.

He came out of hiding to lay a red flag over the coffin at her funeral. A few months later an amnesty was declared for conscientious objectors. Will applied for his job back, but was refused because he had been to prison, and moved to Croydon, to be near Hettie, where he worked in a dairy.

He, his sister, Hettie, (and another who was partnered at one point to Tom Bell) and his brother in law, Arthur MacManus, were all not only living together but were founder members of the Communist Party.  In November 1920, Hettie died in Croydon after giving birth to her and Arthur’s stillborn child.

In 1921, at the age of 29, Will fled Britain for sanctuary in post-revolutionary Soviet Russia – the USSR had yet to be founded. Tom Bell was certainly in Moscow and the New Economic Policy had just been introduced and experts from abroad were being encouraged to volunteer to work in Russia. Eventually, Will took Russian citizenship and seemed to have planned to spend the rest of his life there. Relatives were for many years under the impression that he died in a typhus epidemic. Will was last heard of by his family in the central Russian city of Samara (now Kuybyshev) in 1928, which would have been a place quite consistent with death by typhoid just at that time, although not so a few years later.

Only in very recent years has the modern Russian security ministry named a man they said was British who had been arrested, sentenced to death and shot who they named as “William Wileden”. It was widely assumed that this was the same person as Will Wheeldon. Much speculation followed in the press about his supposed `disillusionment’.

Although a verbal rendering of Wheeldon in a north Midlands accent could concieveably result in a non-English speaker writing the name as Wiledon, the veracity of this accusation is now in doubt since a claim made at exactly the same time about another British revolutionary has turned out to be quite wrong. This person was also supposed to have been executed at the same time as Wiledon but, in fact, it has been well-established that the subject did not die until his old age, in recent times.

Although Will sometime did have his name spelt as Wildon, as rendered in transliteration from the Russian alphabet, this is not precisely the same name. Also, although British `experts’ in security matters claim that the Russians `mis-spelt’ the name Wheeldon as Wileden, the latter is actually a perfectly normal surname widely used in the global English-speaking community. Moreover, there were few political executions in 1928, the purges not taking place until 1936-8, long after Wheeldon’s Australian based family thought he had died since he had been a great letter writer and these ceased abruptly.

So it is in fact quite unclear that Will did die in the purges, although this is possible, since anyone with foreign connections could fall under suspicion in those difficult years just before the world war. It is also perfectly possible that a different person was involved, as equally as it is that Will Wheeldon simply died of an infection.

Current thinking that he died in the late 1930s, of whatever reason, is buttressed by the releasing to a family genealogical site of pictures stating these to be of Will Wheeldon, Alice’s husband, the family in 1892, when there were just two girls, and several pictures of Will in Soviet Russia. There is a head and shoulder of him, him getting married, and then pictured in Sochi, convalescing in the early to mid-1930s

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply