Crew: Brill

This crew flew on Black Thursday in Lancaster JB963-OF-Q, Q-Queenie. It was the only 97 Squadron aircraft which was shot down that night, being hit by flak over Berlin. The entire crew was killed. After the war it was only possible to identify four of the crew members, the others have no known grave.

David Brill is one of only two pilots flying on Black Thursday whom we do not have a picture of. If you know of one, please let us know.

Bob Butler
the bomb aimer

Pilot: F/L David James Brill
No Known Grave
2nd Pilot: F/L Rowland Ernest, known as Tommy, Handley
No Known Grave
Flight Engineer: Sgt John Stone
No Known Grave
Navigator: P/O Norman Gregor, known as Norm, McIntyre
Buried in Berlin 1939-45 Cemetery
Bomb Aimer: P/O Robert, known as Bob, Butler
Buried in Berlin 1939-45 Cemetery
W/Op: Sgt Harry Chappell
No Known Grave
Mid-Upper Gunner: P/O Gordon James Little
Buried in Berlin 1939-45 Cemetery
Rear Gunner: F/S Ernest John Battle
Buried in Berlin 1939-45 Cemetery

Ernest Battle
the rear-gunner
Norman McIntyre
the navigator
Tommy Handley
the second pilot,
courtesy of Benny Goodman

 

TOMMY HANDLEY by Benny Goodman
Tommy Handley was so nicknamed after the famous star of a popular wartime radio program, It’s That Man Again, (affectionately known as ITMA). His real name was Roland Ernest Handley and he was born in East Ham, a poor district of London, on 13th December 1911. He was therefore 32 years old at the time of his death over Berlin, which was ancient for the wartime RAF.
In civil life he was a salesman. He married Hilda Cecilia Godley on 23rd November 1930 at Westcliffe-on-Sea. They had one daughter, named Brenda, born on 12th December 1933. He would have a second, posthumous, daughter – Veronica – 11 years later.
At the outbreak of war, Tommy joined the RAF and became a pilot. His family home was now in Southend-on-Sea, and it was from one of the people working on the pleasure boats there that Tommy had adopted his famous catchphrase, always delivered in a superb Southend accent, “All aboard The Nemo, last trip before the water goes” – this he invariably uttered as the crew climbed the ladder into the aircraft before a bombing raid.
Tommy was very short, only five foot 4, but always smiling and cracking jokes. The photograph is the only one known of him in the RAF, and was taken in May 1941 at RAF Shallufa in Egypt where he was a pilot on 37 Squadron. He sent the photo to Benny Goodman in England.
Benny Goodman, then only 20 years of age, had been his skipper (Tommy was then flying as a second pilot) with 99 Squadron at Newmarket Heath. [As Benny added later, “The photograph is typical of him. He was always full of fun, but cool and collected under operational conditions. I liked him very much and I miss him still. It is a great pity that he did not survive the war.”]
Tommy spent some months abroad, flying Wellington operations, and was allocated his own crew in June 1941. In October 1941, the overseas part of his RAF career was over and he was posted to the Middle East Pool for repatriation to the UK. For his services to date, he was awarded the DFM which was gazetted on 4th November 1941, and he received it in person from the King at Buckingham Palace on 29th September 1942.
He now spent some time as a training instructor. He was at No 12 Operational Training Unit when he was posted to 97 Squadron for his second tour, and arrived at Bourn on 26th November 1943.
As they were now both in the Pathfinders and stationed not far from one another, Tommy made a quick visit to Benny Goodman who was then flying Mosquitoes with 627 Squadron at Oakington. Benny was due to go on an op when Tommy arrived, so Tommy went to the briefing with him. Afterwards, he waited for him to return, Benny returned safely, and they enjoyed a traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs together.
Very shortly afterwards, Tommy made his first trip out for 97 Squadron as Brill’s second pilot, and was killed over Berlin. His body was never found.

"We Guide to Strike", "Achieve Your Aim"