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Walter Handley

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July 1927.

Walter Leslie Handley , (April 5, 1902 - November 15, 1941), was born in Aston, Birmingham, and was a famous British Inter-War motorcycle racer with four wins at the Isle of Man TT Races in his career.

He was later the Works Manager and then a Director of Rex-Acme

Later he also raced cars in the 1930s, and died during World War II in an aircraft accident while serving as pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary.

Walter Leslie Handley (5 April 1902 - 15 November 1941) born in Aston, was a famous British inter-war motorcycle racer with 4 wins at the Isle of Man TT Races in his career.

He was the motorcycle messenger for the OK-Supreme factory, and in 1922 he rode an OK-Supreme in the first Lightweight TT race held at the 1922 Isle of Man TT Races. Arriving on the Isle of Man the day before his first practice lap, Walter Handley was confronted the next day with an early morning practice session with heavy mist and unfamiliarity with the Mountain Course, turned right and started to ride the course in the wrong direction. He was stopped by a Flag Marshall at Governor's Bridge just as other competitors were just about to complete their first lap of practice. This incident in practice involving Walter Handley was described as the "Comedy of novice from Birmingham" by the national newspapers. He set the fastest lap of 51.00 mph (82.08 km/h) on an OK-Supreme even though he did not finish the race.

In the 1923 Isle of Man TT he tried entering both the Lightweight and the Junior TT races, coming eighth in the Lightweight, but failing to finish in the Junior.

In 1922 the Rex and Acme motorcycle companies were amalgamated to form Rex-Acme. Walter Handley raced Rex-Acme motorcycles from 1924 to 1928, making them famous, and even became a company director, but left in 1928 to ride different machinery. Handley rode Rex-Acmes using the Blackburne 173 cc single, and, in the 1926 Senior TT, the Rex-Acme ohv 498 cc V twin.

In 1924 he entered the Junior, Lightweight, and Ultra-Lightweight classes on Rex-Acme motorcycles, but failed to finish in any event.

In the 1925 Isle of Man TT, entering the same races, and still riding for Rex-Acme, he won both the Junior and Super-Lightweight TT races, with a DNF in the Lightweight. That double win was the first time a rider had won two TT races in one week.

1926 he came second in the Senior TT, and third in the Junior TT, with a DNF in the Lightweight TT.

1927 he came first in the Lightweight TT, with a DNF in the Junior TT.

1928 his Senior and Lightweight TT entries both failed to finish.

1928 Motosacoche made a name in the Grand Prix, with the 350 M 35 ohc racing bike, built by Dougal Marchant, of England, ridden to two European championship titles, 350 and 500, by Walter Handley.

For the 1929 Isle of Man TT he rode AJS motorcycles in the Senior and Junior, and an OK-Supreme in the Lightweight. He came second in the Junior on the AJS, and did not finish the other races. "Wal Handley received a letter of appreciation from the ACU after an incident at Greeba Bridge during the 1929 Senior TT Race."

He won the Senior Manx TT in 1930 on a Rudge, but on his last Rex-Acme ride, in the Lightweight he had a DNF.

1931 he tried a Belgian FN in the Isle of Man Senior TT, but did not finish. Dougal Marchant was the designer.

1932 he rode in the Senior, Junior, and Lightweight TT classes, a Rudge in each event, got second in the Lightweight, third in the Junior, and a DNF in the Senior. Handley's Corner on the Mountain Course was named after him. He crashed there on a Rudge in 1932.

1933 he rode a Velocette to seventh in the Junior, but his Excelsior failed to finish the Lightweight TT.

1934 In the Isle of Man TT he rode a Norton in the Junior, but did not finish.

An injury to a thumb caused by replacing a drive-chain at Sulby caused Handley to withdraw from the 1935 TT Races.

1937 Handley lapped Brooklands at over 100 mph on a BSA Empire Star, and was awarded one of the traditional Gold Star pins for the feat. That inspired BSA to produce the BSA Gold Star model.

1931 he co-drove Freddie Dixon’s Riley at Brooklands in the 500 Miles race, but holed the crankcase.

1934 he co-drove a MG Magnette, but crashed on the banking when an axle bearing seized.

In the Brooklands 1934 International Trophy Race, Handley drove an MG Magnette well, until a back axle broke late in the race.[

He entered the 1933 Mannin Moar in an Alfa Romeo Monza 2.3 litre Straight-8, and in the 1934 Mannin Beg race he led for the first lap and retired on the second.

He also entered the 1935 Mannin Beg at the Isle of Man.

Handley and Pat Driscoll entered a 2 litre Riley in the first ever GP road race held in Britain at Donington Park, on 5 October 1935, but only completed five laps of the 120 lap, 492.8 km race.

He had a bad crash at the 1936 British Empire Trophy after taking over Freddie Dixon’s third placed Riley and broke an arm.

1941 Capt W. L. Handley was killed on the 15th November 1941, while serving with the Air Transport Auxiliary as a pilot, at Kirkbride airfield (Ordnance Survey Map NY 227 558 GB Grid) near Kirkhampton, Cumberland. The aircraft involved was a Bell: P-39 Airacobra which crashed just after take-off. The accident was described by an eye-witness:

"Walter took-off from an aerodrome. . . . and crashed into a ploughed-field within five minutes of being airborne. He was piloting an Airacobra. When he took-off the motor was 'moving' hard with an awful din and when he throttled down, it appeared to cut for a few seconds and then finally died out. Wal side-slipped towards a wood with it seemed the intention of putting his craft into the tree-tops. He missed the wood by feet. The starboard-wing hit the ground first and the machine immediately exploded."

The aircraft crash was described as a loss of control, 2 miles east of RAF Kirkbride near Fingland.

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Sources of Information

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