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Air Chief Marshal Sir Neil Wheeler (33296)

Sir (Henry) Neil George WheelerHenry Neil George                   b: 8 Jul 1917                r: 3 Jan 1976          d:  9 Jan 2009

GCB – 1 Jan 1975 (KCB – 1 Jan 1969, CB – 1 Jan 1967), CBE – 13 Jun 1957 (OBE – 26 Apr 1949), DSO – 12 Nov 1943, DFC – 26 Aug 1941, Bar – 6 Jul 1943, AFC – 10 Jun 1954, FRAeS, CCMI (CBIM, FBIM).

Plt Off: 31 Jul 1937, Fg Off: 31 Jan 1939, Flt Lt (WS): 3 Sep 1940, (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Dec 1941, Sqn Ldr: 20 Nov 1942 [1 Dec 1941], Act Wg Cdr: xx Nov 1942,  (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1945, Wg Cdr: 1 Jan 1949, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1956, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1961, Act AVM: 30 Sep 1963, AVM: 1 Jan 1964, Act AM: 8 Dec 1967, AM: 1 Jul 1968, ACM: 11 Mar 1972.

Sir (Henry) Neil George Wheeler

by Walter Bird
bromide print, 24 January 1967
NPG x185109

© National Portrait Gallery, London

 5 Sep 1935:     Flight Cadet, 'B' Sqn, RAF College.

31 Jul 1937:     Pilot, No 207 Sqn. (Gordons/Wellesley/Battles/Ansons - Cottesmore)

xx Apr 1940:    Flight Commander, No 12 OTU.

xx xxx 1940:     Pilot, Photographic Development Unit.

18 Jun 1940:    Pilot, Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.

xx xxx xxxx:      Recuperating.

xx xxx xxxx:       East Fortune

14 Nov 1942:     Attended Beaufighter Conversion Course, No 2 (C) OTU

23 Nov 1942:   Officer Commanding, No 236 Sqn.

xx xxx 1943:     Attended RAF Staff College & US Army Staff College.

xx xxx 1943:     Officer Commanding, North Coates Strike Wing.

xx xxx 1944:     Staff, Cabinet Offices.

xx Jun 1945:     Directing Staff, RAF Staff College.

xx xxx 1947:     Air Staff, HQ Far East Air Force.

xx xxx 1948:     Officer Commanding RAF Kuala Lumper.

 4 Apr 1949:    Wing Commander - Organisation, AHQ Malaya.

xx xxx 1949:     Directing Staff, Joint Services Staff College.

xx xxx 1951:    Wing Commander - Flying, RAF Marham.

xx xxx 1953:     Air Staff, Air Ministry.

xx Apr 1954:    Staff Officer, Directorate of Operational Requirements.

10 Apr 1957:   Assistant Commandant, RAF College

18 Jun 1957 – 1 Jan 1961:       ADC to The Queen.

xx xxx 1959:     Officer Commanding, RAF Laarbruch.

xx xxx 1961:     Attended Imperial Defence College.

 1 Jan 1962:     Air Member, Defence Research Policy Staff.

xx xxx 1964:    SASO, HQ RAF Germany.

26 Apr 1966:   Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Operational Requirements).

 8 Dec 1967:    Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Operational Requirements)

10 Feb 1969:   Commander, Far East Air Force.

 1 Dec 1970:    Air Member for Supply and Organisation.

 1 Jun 1973:     Controller Aircraft, MOD(PE).

The son of an Officer in the South African Police, Neil Wheeler attended Waterkloof House School, Pretoria and St Helen's College in Southsea before entering the RAF College at Cranwell in 1935, having been awarded a Dominion Scholarship.  His first posting was to No 207 Squadron, but on the outbreak of war the squadron was transferred to training duties and in April 1940 was absorbed into the newly formed No 12 Operational Training Unit.  Determined to get onto operations in 1940, he took the unusual step of reporting to the Air Ministry and managed to get himself posted to the recently formed and secret Photographic Development Unit.  During one such flight moisture in his oxygen system caused him to pass out at 28,000 ft but fortunately he recovered at 1,500 ft over Kiel.  With the PDU/PRU he operated from bases as far apart as Scotland and Cornwall and was awarded his DFC having completed 56 operations. 

Sometime in 1942 he was involved ain a car accident and sustained serious injuries, which kept him out of action until November when he took command of No 236 Squadron.  This unit was part of the North Coates Strike Wing of Coastal Command and was equipped with Beaufighters.  He was responsible for reviewing the Wing's tactics and introduced the concept of all three squadrons attacking together and insisted that all operations be undertaken with fighter escorts, his Bar to  the DFC was awarded for  this period of his career and at the end of his tour he was awarded the DSO.

Since retiring from the RAF, Sir Neil has held Directorships Rolls Royce Ltd (1977 - 82) and Flight Refuelling (Holdings) Ltd (1977 - ?).  He was a Liveryman of the  Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators from 1980 and Master for 1986-87.  He was also a vice-president of the Air League. His nephew General Sir Roger Wheeler was Chief of the General Staff from 1997 to 2000.

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Acting Wing Commander Henry Neal George WHEELER, D.F.C (33296),No.236 Squadron.

Flying Officer Robert Augustine IRVING, D.F.C. (119447), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 236 Squadron.

Wing Commander Wheeler has led a wing in 5 attacks on enemy shipping during which many thousands of tons have been sunk.  By his skilful and determined leadership this officer contributed materially to the successes obtained. During these operations, Flying Officer Irving, as the navigator of Wing Commander Wheeler's  aircraft, displayed a high standard of ability and proved a valuable asset.  Both these members of aircraft crew have set an example worthy of the highest praise.”

(London Gazette – 6 July 1943) 

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

"WHEELER, Henry Neal George, W/C, DFC (33296, Royal Air Force) - No.236 Squadron

Wing Commander Wheeler has taken part in many operational sorties.  Recently he has led seven successful Wing strikes.  An outstanding leader, his cool courage, infectious confidence and untiring efforts have contributed largely to the high standard of efficiency and morale attained by his squadron."

(Source - Air Ministry Bulletin 12011)

This page was last updated on 24/10/23

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