b. 1830 Bangor, County Down, Ireland. d. 17/05/1866 Dover, Kent.
William McWheeney (1830-1866) was born in Bangor, County Down, Ireland in 1830. Little is known of his early life prior to his actions during the Crimean War of 1854-1856. McWheeney was a Sergeant in the 44th Regiment of Foot (later Essex Regiment) on the outbreak of the conflict, when he performed three separate acts of gallantry which were all included in his citation in the London Gazette published on 24th February 1857.
He had volunteered as a sharp shooter at the commencement of the Siege of Sebastopol, and was placed in charge of a party of the 44th Regiment of Foot. On the 20th October 1854, one of his party, Private John Keane was dangerously wounded on the Woronzoff Road, and the sharp shooters were being heavily repulsed from the Quarries by overwhelming numbers of enemy. Sergeant McWheeney, on his return, placed Keane onto his back and brought him to a place of safety.
On the 5th December 1854, McWheeney saved the life of a Corporal Courtney, who had been severely wounded in the head, by bringing him in under fire, and by using a bayonet to dig up a slight cover, stayed with him until it went dark. Finally, on the 18th June 1855, he volunteered to join the advanced guard of General Eyre’s Brigade in the Cemetery at Sebastopol, where he remained on duty diligently.
McWheeney was awarded the Victoria Cross for these actions, and would also receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He survived the Crimean conflict, but tragically had a short life, dying at the age of just 36 on the 17th May 1866 in Dover. He is buried in St James Cemetery in the town, and his medals are held by the Essex Regiment Museum, Chelmsford.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ESSEX REGIMENT MUSEUM, CHELMSFORD, ESSEX.
BURIAL PLACE: ST JAMES CEMETERY, DOVER, KENT. SECTION R, NUMBER 1-11.
William McWheeney's name on the Essex Regiment Memorial, National Memorial Arboretum
Essex Regiment Museum (Steven Baker)