Oral history of British science

Wheeler, Ray (Part 1 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering; Space Science and Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewees home, Isle of Wight.

  • Interviewees

    Wheeler, Ray, 1927- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Born London, October 25th 1927, to Edmund Francis Wheeler and Ivy Geraldine Friar, both from Isle of Wight both born 1900. Remarks on: father, boy volunteer to army in 1914; mother, born in East Cowes, became a school teacher in West Cowes; parents' marriage in 1923 [reference to autobiography]; Father joined Royal Corps of Signallers [3:10 Short Pause] Remarks on father: avoided combat due to end of First World War; left army at 35 with desire to reform prisoners, posted to Parkhurst Prison; story about an unreformed prisoner RW met as a child; great sportsman, declined offer to join Sunderland football team, played cricket; gentlemanly example to RW; died at 69; smoker, story about RW trying smoking but disliking it; [10:15] respectful way of dealing with people; story about father giving RW boxing lessons after he was bullied for winning a scholarship whilst at Parkhurst primary school; father never worrying. [14:29] Remarks on mother: school teacher, in charge at home, encouraged RW's reading with Dumas novels; anecdote about playing truant; RW disliking school until sixth form; taught at West Cowes until she married; encouraged education; benevolent disciplinarian. [18:42] Remarks on pets: army-surplus Alsation, Peter, and responsibilities and pleasures of pet ownership; pet rabbits, killed for food in wartime; anecdote about finding a rat in the rabbit house; rabbit enclosure. [24:18] Remarks on: childhood home on Newport to West Cowes road; V1 flying bombs overhead during war, technique for deflecting them developed by future manager; not being allowed off island during war, until a visit to a school's town and country planning conference in London in 1944, when he heard the arrival of the first V2 rocket; [29:45] conception in grandparent's home; growing up in Mill Hill Barracks, and Catterick Camp; enjoying Catterick camp, nearby countryside and holidays in Redcar; description of home in Catterick and surrounding area; [33:47] move to Isle of Wight; father entering prison service believing he could reform prisoners, but regretting decision; father enjoying gardening and football pools in spare time; father teaching RW cribbage. Remarks on mother: interested in flower gardening and sewing; anecdote about mother knitting him a bathing costume; [39:20] traits inherited from mother; pleasant nature. Remarks on: parent's political outlooks, 'Daily Mail' readers; story about hiding from shrapnel whilst watching a boat being bombed in the Solent. [44:34] Story about setting up an aircraft spotters club, aged 11, only to have it taken over by adults; pocket money. Remarks on wartime: use of Isle of Wight as navigation point; near escape from strafing aircraft; bombing of Cowes, destroying Sam Saunders' boat yard and records, making RW's later historical research difficult; vibrations of air raid shelter from explosions; [53:30] being mistakenly arrested for looting with brother whilst trying to enter grandparent's house after bombing; death of nearby family in bombing. [56:33] Remarks on paternal grandparents: family background; grandfather maintaining army boats on Fort Victoria; lived nearby; formerly ran taxi company in Bristol.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Aeronautical Engineer Ray Wheeler.

  • Related transcripts

    Ray Wheeler interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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