Pigs, Bombs and Handstands

Jeff Wheeler was born in 1935 and his memories have been recorded and transcribed by a member of the DLHG. Included below are two recordings where Jeff recalls first his war-time experiences with the pigs and subsequently the V1 bomb that crashed on California Holdings at the back of his house.

In addition to his work as a jobbing builder where he employed up to five people, Bill Wheeler was an Air Raid Protection Warden, and one of the wardens’ roles was to enforce the ‘blackout’. Their ‘office’ was a small hut on wheels located not far from the anti-aircraft gun site at the top of the common, although Jeff never saw it ever moving!

Where the cricket pitch is now the army constructed a long Nissen hut for the trainee engineers, who practised the building of Bailey bridges across the larger dells that covered this part of the common. Jeff can recall the anti-aircraft gun covered in sand bags, and singing songs with the soldiers late into the double, summertime evenings.

Jeff’s dad also kept pigs- officially only two, unofficially three – in his pigsty on California Holdings. To hear about Geoff’s experiences with collecting pigs for fattening up before their eventual slaughter, or the doodle bug exploding on California Holdings double click on the appropiate white triangle below.

Pigs for Fattening

The Doodle Bug Explodes on California Holdings

At the end of the war Jeff took part in the fancy dress parade around the village as part of the VE celebrations. He was dressed as a Guardsman with a large Busby hat, boots and gun, and the sentry box was made by his dad.

At the age of 13 he joined the gymnastics group at Trinity Gym (opposite the Rye), where he later first met his future wife, and at the age of 14 he came second in the gymnastic championship of the south-east.

When 17 he won the world’s hand balancing, postal competition with his entry for the one-handed balance shown below. Jeff subsequently played the London Palladium alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he also played at Wycombe town hall.

On getting married he moved away from Downley, although making regular visits to the Le Spencer Arms to catch up with old friends.