Edward Oliver Wheeler
1890 - 1962
Edward Oliver Wheeler was born in Ottawa in 1890, to Clara (nee Macoun) and Arthur Wheeler, a Dominion Land Surveyor and founder of the Alpine Club of Canada. Wheeler was educated in the schools of his native city, and subsequently at Trinity College at Port Hope, Ontario. He passed with honours into the Royal Military College at Kingston in 1907 and completed a course of training in which he was credited with the highest marks obtained previously by any Cadet. His competence and scholarship augured a successful career - he was the top Cadet on passing out, was awarded the Governor General's medal and received the Sword of Honour. Commissioned forthworth in the corps of the Royal Engineers, he was posted to duty at its depot in Chatham, England, and in 1913 transferred to India.
During the First World War he served in France with a company of King George's Sappers and Miners, Indian Expedition Force, 1915 and with the forces in Mesopotamia campaign 1916-18. Thereafter he was on the General Staff in India until 1919 when he was seconded to the Survey of India. His war service was of the highest order, and he was awarded the Military Cross, and a membership in the French Legion of Honour, his citation being supported by no less than seven mentions in dispatches. In the Survey he rose to the position of Superintendent in 1927, succeeding to the office of Director in 1939, and finally to that of Surveyor-General of India in 1941. The later post he held until retirement in 1947, his successful administration and personal merit having been signalized in 1943 by his elevation to a knighthood. His return to Canada was in 1947 and he settled down with Lady Wheeler at Lavington, near Vernon, enjoying his retirement in activities connected with the mountains and the Alpine Club of Canada, until physical incapability prevented them.
Wheelers love of the mountains began at the age of twelve while his father was engaged in the survey of the Selkirk Range. In succeeding years Edward continued to spend his holidays assisting his father, and more particularly in helping with the construction and maintenance of the ACC camps and in guiding climbs during them. His early association with the Swiss Guides who were brought out and employed by the C.P.R. ensured in him sound techniques to which he added broadening experience and marked initiative. He made numerous ascents but some of note were Mount Hector and Observation Peak in 1903, Hungabee Mountain with Val Fynn in 1909, the first ascent of Mount Babel in 1910 with A.R. Hart, L.C. (Jimmie) Wilson and H.H. Worsfeld and his guideless climbs on Mount Sir Donald and Mount Tupper in the same year. In 1911 he was climbing in the Pyrenees and briefly in the Lakes District. During a period of leave in 1912 he led the ACC Expedition to Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island where the party made the first ascent of Elkhorn Mountain.
1920 saw his return to Canada on a leave which was partly spent with his father in the Fortress lake region, and partly in the planning, erection and direction of the ACC camp at Mount Assiniboine. Back to India, he was married in the spring of 1921 to Dorothea Sophia Danielson and shortly afterwards was appointed a member of the reconnaissance party under Colonel Charles Howard-Bury. This expedition was organized to examine the approaches to Mount Everest, and the possible routes for climbing it. Assisted by Henry Morshead, he carried out mapping operations from the Tibetan Plateau and on the northern, eastern and western sides of the massif. In company with George Mallory and Guy Bullock he examined the approach by the East Rongbuk Glacier. This route eventually became the key to the North Col which afterwards became so prominent a feature in successive attempts to reach the summit. The extent and rapidity of his surveying work constituted a tour de force which has hardly been equaled, demanding as it did over five months of continuous mountaineering at very high altitudes and under some embarrassment due to ill health which he ignored.
He came to Canada on sick leave in 1922 and required operative treatment but returned to India in 1923. In 1925 further convalescing in Canada was necessary after another operation in London. He then returned to India and was stationed in Quetta until 1933.
From 1950 to 1954 Wheeler was the esteemed President of the Alpine Club of Canada and particularly active in advancing its efficiency and prestige. He had been an Honorary Member since 1922 as well as a life membership of the Alpine Club (England) and latterly a member of the American Alpine Club.
Brigadier Sir Edward Oliver Wheeler passed away on March 19, 1962, at the age of seventy-one in the hospital in Vernon, B.C. following a stroke he had sustained the previous day. Wheeler will be remembered for his active and adventurous life both within Canada and abroad, his distinguishing career as a Military Officer and Surveyor, and his role with the 1921 Mount Everest expedition.
Wheeler, E.O. "Mt. Babel and Chimney Peak." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 3. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1911. p. 73-79.
Wheeler, E.O. "Mount Elkhorn, Strathcona Park." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 5. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1913. p. 44-48.
Wheeler, E.O. "Traverse of Terrapin and West Ridge of Magog." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 12. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1921-22. p. 53-55.
Wheeler, E.O. "Mt. Everest Expedition/1921." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 13. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1923. p. 1-25.
Wheeler, E.O. "ACC Golden Jubilee." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 39. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1956. p. 3-24.
Wheeler, A.O. "The Alpine Club of Canada in Strathcona Park." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 5. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1913. p. 82-95.
Wonders of Strathcona Park." Alberni Advocate. [Alberni, B.C.]
(September 6, 1912) p. 1.