BORN LONDON, OCTOBER 3, 1920. DIED LONDON, MARCH 27, 2008.
BEST KNOWN to the Jewish public for organising the annual Ajex parade, Stanley Brilliant won the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in sinking a German U-boat off Norway. But his application to join the Royal Navy was first rejected on the grounds that his father was not born British. Alexander Brilliant fled Tsarist Russia in the 1890s and was naturalised in 1903.
Stanley spent his early years above the family’s tobacco and confectionery shop in Hackney, East London. He was a late arrival, with a brother and two sisters already in their teens.
He attended the Grocers’ School, which nurtured generations of bright Jewish boys. When he left school at 17 for articles, or training, with a City firm of chartered accountants, he seemed set for a steady career, using his talent for administration and figures.
But the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 took his mind off study. In summer 1940 he volunteered for pilot training in the Fleet Air Arm. His response to his rejection was politely to inform the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that he would serve in the Royal Navy or not at all. They accepted and he began training at HMS St. Vincent, Gosport.
He enjoyed life at sea, except for the rum. He stored his daily “tot” until he had saved enough to exchange it for a bottle of something else.
Using his technical skill and personal courage for six years as a naval pilot in practically every theatre of war, in April 1944 he was part of 819 Squadron protecting Arctic convoys in the Barents Sea. Operating from HMS Activity, he flew a Fairey Swordfish torpedo-carrying aeroplane that sank U-Boat 288. The convoy reached Murmansk safely.
In July, Temporary Lieutenant (A) Stanley Brilliant RNVR received the DSC for “undaunted courage, skill and devotion to duty”. On VJ Day, August 1945, he led the naval fly-past for Lord Mountbatten, C-in-C South East Asia Command, in Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
After the war he entered the now wholesale family business, working tirelessly. His father had died in 1942.
Away from work he devoted himself to the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) and met Ruth Sussman, a former WAAF officer.
After marrying in 1950, Stanley en- gaged with his wife’s communally active family and became involved in Hampstead Synagogue life.
By his forties he had risen in the ranks of Ajex and, together with Colonel George Bean QC, later a High Court Judge, Major Harold Freeman and Philip Mishon, provided the golden era leadership of the 1950s and 60s.
Hewasnationalchairmanfrom196870 and later a vice-president. He and his colleagues created the UK Friends for Further Education in Israel, working within the Soldiers’ Recreational Homes in Ashkelon and Beersheva.
He organised the Ajex Annual Remembrance Parade and Service every November at the Cenotaph in White- hall for some 40 years until 2002. His planning and attention to detail ensured the success of this major event in the Anglo-Jewish calendar.
Jewish veterans will not forget his “Attenshun!”, before he led the column off from Horse Guards Parade to the subsequent service, with the command, “At Ease!” Successive reviewing officers never failed to be impressed.
He held firmly moderate views and enjoyed music, travel, reading and sport. On his final ambulance journey to hospital he recited the names of the 1936 Arsenal FA Cup Team.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth; two sons, Simon and David; and two grandchildren.
Stanley Brilliant with his wife, Ruth, next to a Fairey Swordfish plane in the Imperial War Museum