Thomas D Handley (Biographical Notes)
1933 - 24 June 2017


(Biographical Notes)


May 1940 - Entered Royal Navy as an (Officer) Cadet RN at Dartmouth.
Sep 1940 - Joined HMS Rodney at Rosyth as a Midshipman, awaiting German invasion which never came.
Nov 1940 - Joined HMS Dunedin mainly deployed in patrol and escort duties in the central and South Atlantic. Ship captured one German supply ship and 4 Vichy merchant ships - I did 3rd officer duties in two of the French ships.
!8 Nov 41- I left Dunedin and joined HMS Vansittart (destroyer) at Freetown West Africa. 6 days after I left Dunedin she was sunk by a U Boat and of a crew of 500 over 420 were lost. Nov 41 to Feb 42 was employed as watch keeper and in Feb 42 ship was attacked by a German Heinkel 111 which dropped 4 large bombs - ship took avoiding action and thus there were no hits or damage to us.
Feb 42 - Left Vansittart and joined the battleship HMS Duke of York. Took part in covering force for 2 Russian convoys together with another battleship, a battle cruiser and one aircraft carrier, German battleship Tirpitz came out and the aircraft carrier was bombed by German aircraft from Norway.
May to Aug 42 - Sub Lieutenants courses in UK.
Sep to Dec 1942 - Combined operations training and then put in deputy charge of 10 landing craft assault carried on the converted ocean liner MV Durban Castle. Embarked 1500 US Troops and landed them on beach near Oran at beginning of the North African Campaign early Nov.
Jan to April 1943 - OOW keeping on board the aircraft carrier Activity mainly in the Clyde. May to Dec 43. Pilot Flying Training mainly in Canada. Awarded Wings in December.
Jan to May 44 - Leave and Operational Flying Training in Seafires and Spitfires at RNAS
Jun 44 - Joined 885 Naval Air Squadron flying Seafire 3's in Northern Ireland.
Nov 44 - Squadron transferred from Seafires to the American Hellcat 2.
Jan 45 - 885 embarked in HMS Ruler and proceeded via the Suez Canal to Australia to disembark new spare Fleet Air Arm aircraft and to put ashore 885 Squadron for final operational training.
Mar 45 - 885 re-embarked in Ruler and proceeded north to a friendly harbour in the Phillipines where we met up with the operational British Far East Carrier Force. Some of our aircraft were transferred as replacements for losses to the other carriers, and 6 of our pilots including me went to a fleet carrier HMS Indomitable to join 1844 Squadron.
May/Jun 45 - Indomitable sailed to take part in the war against Japan, in particular to attack the Saki Shima Guntu, Japanese islands just to the west of South Japan. Our task was to prevent Japanese aircraft from flying out of China to return to Japan for the final conflict. I was made one of the 2 Hellcat pilots that flew photo sorties of airfields and harbours in the islands. I used to be first and stay until last over the targets, so that results of the raids could be assessed. I did most of the reconnaissance at 25 to 30 thousand feet and although I was never fired at by one of their fighters occasionally their AA guns gave me anxious moments.
Jul 45 - Indomitable returned to Australia for rest and relaxation.
Aug 45 - I left the ship and I was flown back to the UK from Australia to do an Air Warfare course but as the Navy were short of aeroplanes at the end of the War - when all American aircraft had to be paid for, returned or destroyed - I was given courses and then became a qualified Flying Instructor with the RAF having done a course at RAF Little Rissington in 1946.
1947 - 48 - Flying Instructor with the RAF but mainly teaching Naval aircrew under training.
1949 - Air Warfare Instructors Course.
Late 1949 & 1950 - Joined 800 Squadron flying Seafire 47s (the very last Spitfire/Seafire type built) in HMS Triumph in the Far East. Stationed in the Singapore, Hong Kong area until sent to assist Australian Forces in Japan.
June 1950- HMS Triumph had just left Japan for Hong Kong en route for UK when the Korean War broke out. Triumph was sent to Okinawa, the US base in the area. After a few days she joined USS Valley Forge for the air war over Korea. I was Senior Pilot of 800 Squadron and took part in operations in the British Sector of the Korean War. The CO of the squadron was killed in an accident onboard and I was made CO as an acting Lieutenant Commander, and was Mentioned in Dispatches at the end of the ship’s Korean operations. After 3 months of hostilities things were going well for us and our allies and Triumph was released to return home to UK.
Jan to Jul 51 - Jet pilot conversion courses.
Nov 1951- Appointed CO of the second jet squadron in the Fleet Air Arm flying Attackers at RNAS Hal Far, Malta.
Jun 52 - Embarked in HMS Eagle - Home based.
Jan 53 - Appointed Chief Flying Instructor at the Naval Air Fighter School at RNAS Culdrose which moved to RNAS Lossiemouth towards the end of the year.
Apr 55 - Lt Cdr Flying, HMS Centaur
Jun 56 - Staff of Flag Officer Flying Training
Jan 57 - Promoted Commander - In command of a minesweeper.
Apr 58 - Commander Air, HMS Centaur. Sept of that year, Carrier Work Up.
May 59 - Centaur proceeded to Far East for 1 Year deployment.
Jan 60 - Staff Course at RNC Greenwich.
Sept 60 - DAOT Admiralty
Oct 63 - Commander and Cdr (Air) at RNAS Hal Far, Malta.
Oct 66 - Naval Attaché, Istanbul.
Apr 67 - Naval Attaché, Tehran.
May 70 - Deputy Head of Naval Security in London.
Dec 72 - Resident Naval Officer, Mombasa and Advisor to the Kenya Navy.
1 Jan 1976 - Retired
24 June 2017 - Died in Beacon Court, Dartmouth.

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