Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



Ernest (Tommy) Handley by Ralph Payne


It is a fitting tribute to Ern that so many attended a final farewell to him, confirmation, if any were required, of his popularity, although Ern, would have been greatly surprised to see that so many people were bothered about him.

Ern, or 'Tommy', as he was known, started life in the Army and became an accomplished Radio Operator. He was persuaded to try for the Paras and surprised himself by passing the entrance course. Life in the Paras became his first love and he was extremely proud to have belonged to and been part of the Airborne Division, serving in Cyprus and in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. I extend the thanks of all Em's family to those members of the AEA who attended Ern's funeral.

Entering civilian life, which was one thing Ern regretted, he took on several roles, lorry and bus driving and vehicle delivery. He became extremely knowledgeable on the UK road system and is perhaps the only person I know who would identify any town by the class and road number which went to and from that place. That is true with the exception of Norfolk.

Ern was an expert on engines and would freely give of his time repairing cars of friends and family alike. He was also especially interested in diesel and steam engines, which lasted all his life. I was fortunate enough to visit a couple of museums in Norfolk where he would talk with authority to all on the workings of the various engines.

With Audrey, and retirement, eventually, the world beckoned. For a first tentative dip into the water he persuaded Audrey to visit New Zealand, meeting up with a long lost friend, who just happened to be his best man at his first wedding. The 2 pals lost contact and it is a measure of Ern's tenacity that contact was once again made between the 2 friends. His next jaunt was a shorter trip, only going so far as Australia this time visiting and reacquainting himself with relatives who had emigrated there a long time ago.

Cruising, however reluctant and reticent Ern was about this, opened up new horizons for him. Suffice to say that having been dragged kicking and screaming aboard a liner once he came to love the life. It hardly seems possible that Ern and Audrey's last cruise finished barely 2 months ago visiting several places Ern desperately wanted to see including Hong Kong and Singapore.

To the end Ern retained all his mental faculties. He could remember anything and everything from years gone by and it was a pleasure to listen to him. He was an astute man, selfless, open, honest, forthright and caring. On hearing the confirmation of his cancer his first priority became to set his affairs in order to make his passing as easy as could possibly be expected.

It is in remembrance of such a person, the ideal role model that I feel truly humbled in being asked to say these few words.

God Bless you Ern.



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