Charles Wheeler

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Person.png Charles Wheeler  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(journalist, propagandist, spook)
Charles Wheeler.jpg
BornSelwyn Charles Cornelius-Wheeler
26 March 1923
Bremen, Germany
Died4 July 2008 (Age 85)
London, England
Alma materCranbrook School
Children • Marina Wheeler
• Shirin Wheeler
SpouseDip Singh
Triple Bilderberger propagandist. BBC Washington correspondent. Helped former Nazi military personnel escape the Soviets after the war.

Employment.png Intelligence operative

In office
1942 - 1947
EmployerRoyal Marines
Preceded byIsaiah Berlin
Helped former Nazi military personnel escape the Soviet occupation zone

Sir Selwyn Charles Cornelius-Wheeler [1] was a British journalist and broadcaster. Starting in naval intelligence during World War 2, he joined the BBC in 1947, where he became a foreign correspondent in many places of interest to British intelligence services. Wheeler also had spells as presenter of several BBC current affairs television programmes including Newsnight and Panorama. He attended the 1962, 1966 and 1967 Bilderberg conferences. His daughter daughter Marina Wheeler is the former wife of British prime minister Boris Johnson.

Early life

Wheeler was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1923, to Winifred Agnes (née Rees) and former RAF wing commander Charles Cornelius-Wheeler.[2][3] The family later moved to Hamburg, where his father was an agent for a shipping company.[1][2] Educated at the Cranbrook School in Kent, his first job was as an errand boy at the Daily Sketch newspaper at the age of 17.[4] He enlisted in the Royal Marines in 1942, rising to the rank of captain.[2]

In 1942 he went into the Royal Marines and with the rank of captain was assigned to 30 Assault Unit, a special unit created by the author Ian Fleming to gather advance intelligence for the D-day landings in June 1944. He was selected because of his fluent German but made such an impression on his unit commander, Patrick Dalzel-Job that he was rapidly promoted to second-in-command.[5] After the war he was posted to Berlin, helping to exfiltrate personnel from the Soviet occupation zone. (Officially this was only "some of Germany's submarine commanders"[5], but the British recruitment program was similar to Operation Paperclip).


After leaving the Royal Marines in 1947, Wheeler joined the BBC, initially as a sub-editor at the Latin American division of the World Service.[6] Wheeler's long career as a foreign correspondent began with a three-year posting to Berlin in 1950, partly thanks to his fluency in German.[6] He returned to the UK and became a producer on the fledgling current affairs series Panorama in 1956.[6] As part of Panorama's team, he travelled to Hungary to cover what would become known as the Hungarian Uprising. Taking Panorama's camera into the country, despite being told not to, he filmed the jubilant Hungarian reaction to the rebellion. He and the Panorama producer (and his then wife) Catherine Freeman had to persuade the BBC to give the story prominence.[7] Just hours after Wheeler returned to Britain, the Soviet Union re-entered Hungary and crushed the revolt.[6]

Having declined an offer to become the programme's editor, he was later assigned to New Delhi (where he reported extensively on the CIA-sponsored 1959 Tibetan uprising).[1][3] He returned to Berlin when the Wall was built and remained there for several years with his Indian-born second wife. Between 1965 and 1973 he moved to Washington DC, where he covered the American Civil Rights Movement and the Watergate scandal.[1] In the later years of his television career he was the American correspondent of Newsnight. Wheeler was the first presenter of BBC World's Dateline London discussion programme. He remained active in his later years as a presenter of documentary series on Radio 4 and a contributor to the network's From Our Own Correspondent. He had been working on a programme about the Dalai Lama until a few weeks before his death.[3]

Personal life

Wheeler was twice married: his first marriage was to the BBC producer Catherine Freeman[7] and his second marriage, in 1962, was to Dip Singh[1] with whom he had two daughters: barrister Marina Wheeler (the former wife of British prime minister Boris Johnson) and Shirin Wheeler, the BBC's former Brussels correspondent.[1] Wheeler was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 2001, and was knighted in the 2006 Birthday Honours, for services to broadcasting and journalism overseas.

In June 2006, Wheeler announced he "had discovered" that a painting by Alessandro Allori of Eleonora of Toledo, the wife of Cosimo de' Medici, which had been given to him in Berlin as a wedding present in 1952, had been looted during the Second World War. Via the Commission for Looted Art in Europe it was returned to its legitimate owner, the Gemäldegalerie of Berlin, from whose possession it had been absent since 1944.[8]

Wheeler died of lung cancer at his home in Warnham, Sussex[2] on 4 July 2008. He was 85 years old.[1]


Events Participated in

Bilderberg/196218 May 196220 May 1962Sweden
The 11th Bilderberg meeting and the first one in Sweden.
Bilderberg/196625 March 196627 March 1966Germany
Hotel Nassauer Hof
Top of the agenda of the 15th Bilderberg in Wiesbaden, Germany, was the restructuring of NATO. Since this discussion was held, all permanent holders of the position of NATO Secretary General have attended at least one Bilderberg conference prior to their appointment.
Bilderberg/196731 March 19672 April 1967St John's College (Cambridge)
Possibly the only Bilderberg meeting held in a university college rather than a hotel (St. John's College, Cambridge)