Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Lloyd Brill (1916–1964)

by Brian Eaton

This article was published:

William Lloyd Brill (1916-1964), by unknown photographer

William Lloyd Brill (1916-1964), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, SUK12497

William Lloyd Brill (1916-1964), air force officer, was born on 17 May 1916 at Ganmain, New South Wales, fourth child of Victorian-born parents Edward Henry Brill, farmer, and his wife Bertha, née Logan. Educated at Yanco Agricultural High School, William took up wheat-farming at Grong Grong in partnership with his brothers. He served two years in the Militia before enlisting in the Citizen Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, on 11 November 1940. After training in Australia and Canada, he was commissioned on 28 July 1941 and arrived in England next month.

In January 1942 he joined No.460 Squadron, R.A.A.F., attached to the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command; the squadron operated Wellingtons and Brill was posted as an aircraft captain. On the night of 29-30 May he flew through squally weather on a strike against factories at Gennevilliers, Paris. Anti-aircraft fire damaged his aeroplane's hydraulic system and put the rear turret out of action. Undeterred, he inspected his target from only 1500 feet (457 m), pressed home the attack and hit his objective. Bad weather made the home journey hazardous, but he succeeded in landing safely without flaps and with one wheel disabled. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in June for his courage and determination.

After thirty-one sorties, Brill was seconded to the R.A.F. in November 1942 for instructional duties. His second operational tour began on 1 January 1944 with his posting as a flight commander in No.463 Squadron, R.A.A.F. Four weeks later, during a night-raid over Berlin, incendiary bombs dropped by an aircraft above fell onto Brill's Lancaster, starting fires in the fuselage and a wing, impairing rudder controls and rendering the compass unserviceable. On later missions his aircraft sustained damage from shrapnel and bullets, yet he invariably managed to return to base. For his leadership, skill and gallantry, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in May. That month Acting Wing Commander Brill took command of No.467 Squadron, R.A.A.F. In July, while bombing St Leu d'Esserent, France, his successful efforts in driving off three German night-fighters won him a Bar to his D.F.C. Having completed fifty-eight sorties, he came back to Australia in January 1945. On 29 January 1945 he married a teacher Ilma Margaret Kitto at the Methodist Church, Ganmain.

Transferring to the Permanent Air Force in September 1948, Brill was to command four different R.A.A.F. bases between that year and 1964. As wing commander, he was staff officer to the chief of the Air Staff in 1952-54 and director of personnel services in 1956-59; as group captain, he was D.P.S. in 1960-63. Imperturbable in nature and exceptionally fair-minded in outlook, he was 5 ft 9½ ins (177 cm) tall, with blue eyes. Brill endeavoured to make service life congenial, particularly for the airmen, and recognized—more than many of his peers—that aircrew and aircraft are useless without efficient and contented ground-staff. Dedicated to community service, he was a Freemason and was appointed in 1962 Boy Scouts' commissioner in charge of Canberra area development. He died of myocardial infarction on 12 October 1964 at Campbell and was buried in Canberra cemetery with Anglican rites; his wife, daughter and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Herington, Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943 (Canb, 1954)
  • J. Herington, Air Power Over Europe 1944-1945 (Canb, 1963)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Feb 1962
  • Canberra Times, 13 Oct 1964
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Brian Eaton, 'Brill, William Lloyd (1916–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 5 December 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

William Lloyd Brill (1916-1964), by unknown photographer

William Lloyd Brill (1916-1964), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, SUK12497

Life Summary [details]


17 May, 1916
Ganmain, New South Wales, Australia


12 October, 1964 (aged 48)
Campbell, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.