William (Bill) Wheeler Royal Navy World War Two by his loving daughter Sandra
William Wheeler, known by all as Bill, who was born in Thornton Heath, has sadly passed away at the grand age of 96. He trained before the war as an engineer tool maker so these skills were able to be transferred when he signed up for service during WW2. He was assigned to the Fleet Air Arm within the Royal Navy aboard the air craft carriers. He served on board HMS Activity, HMS Fencer and HMS Invincible amongst others. I recall attending an old boys reunion with Dad on board the new HMS Invincible in the eighties. Bill saw action in the Pacific Fleet and served in Australia, India and was also part of the Artic Conveys who assisted with assuring the safe passage of much needed supplies to the Russian Federation. He was in recent years, very proud to be decorated by the Russian Federation for his contribution to the war effort.
Bill had so many stories to tell of his time in the Royal Navy including when he fell overboard in the Pacific. Luckily he was spotted and was subsequently rescued by an escort ship. He always told the story that he had dolphins surrounding him while he was in the sea waiting to be rescued. He always believed they came to protect him. Bill also survived a kamikaze attack on board ship.
Bills Brother Jim, who was in the RAF 110 Squadron was killed in action at the age of 26 and is buried in the War Grave Commission cemetery in Ranchi, India. We took a few minutes to hold a tribute to Jim at Dads service as the family were never able to have a service to celebrate his life. He was loved and greatly missed. Jim’s cap and medals accompanied Bills Navel Cap and medals. Bill would have been pleased we were able to remember and pay tribute to Jim.
Bill finally arrived home after the war in 1946 having to be rescued again as the American Liberty ship bringing him home run aground off the coast of Ireland. Having lost both of his parents, Bill had made arrangements to emigrate to Australia. The country he grew to love while he was serving their. His passage, a job and accommodation was all arranged but following a final visit to see his Uncle Harry who lived in Peckham, who should visit while Bill was there, his Dear Rose, Bills beloved Wife of almost 70 years, who always helped Uncle Harry with his shopping. Uncle Harry did some match making that day. That was the end of Bills Australia plans as it was love at first sight.
Bill spent all of his later years supporting the Royal British Legion and The Royal Navel Association serving as Secretary and on the committees. Bill received the fellowship of Navel Men for his selfless work. This dedicated work brought a lot of pleasure to Bill and he would enjoy many social occasions at the local branches of the Royal British Legion and Royal Navel Association with his Dear Rose and all of their wonderful friends that they made over the years. He enjoyed singing at these events and was known by the family as Grandad My Way. Bill and Rose spent holidays at their reunion ‘Bless Them All’ weeks with friends and Dad would always attend the annual Royal British Legion remembrance services without fail and support the poppy appeal.
Bill will be greatly missed by all of his wonderful family that loved him dearly. He meant the world to all of them.