Welsh Regiment Badge The First Glamorgan Bantams - 17thwelsh.ukf.net
The War Diary
France    June 1916 to February 1918

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2nd Lieutenant Charles Stanley Thomas M.B.E.
1882 - 1969
   
By kind permission of his daughter
Mrs Gaynor Howard

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2nd Lieutenant Charles Stanley Thomas (CST) was the Diarist for the 17th Battalion during the last two months of the life of the Battalion.

It was the publishing of an as-written page from each of the months of January and February 1918 that caught the eye and attention of his daughter, Mrs Gaynor Howard, when she browsed the site.

Following some correspondence, Mrs Howard kindly agreed to compile a short narrative about her father and that is reproduced below. Not only has Mrs Howard provided a narrative, but also some interesting photographs of her father and his comrades during their spell of internment. These photographs are not yet on site.

[Life is full of coincidences. As Mrs Howard narrates below, her father became interested in the Antiquities of Neath and was awarded an M.B.E. for his services to Antiquities which included the excavation of the Roman remains at Neath - at the time the writer well remembers the stir of interest at the Llanelly Boys' Grammar School. In a similar way, the brother of Capt Vivian Hastings Clay, Dr Richard Chaloner Cobbe Clay of Fovant, was noted for his work on excavations into the antiquities of Wiltshire and some of his finds are on exhibition at the Devizes Museum - GGD]


One Man's War.

by
Gaynor Howard

This is the story of one man's war. It is not the story of great heroism, nor of a career soldier, but of a man, who, like thousands of others, answered the call to arms.

At the outbreak of World War 1, Charles Stanley Thomas was an Architect and Surveyor, in practice at 1,Charlesville Place, Neath. He was then 32 years old. He was, by nature a peaceable man, but he was also a patriot, and became increasingly convinced that he should volunteer to serve his country.

His initial training in 1916, was in "D" company, No 14 (Inns of Court) Officer Cadet Battalion at Barncroft, Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire. Events moved swiftly. He was commissioned in December 1916. He married his fiancée in the following February, and a few weeks later, was sent to France.

The 17th Welsh Battalion Diary for the entry 13th-15th March 1917 records his arrival, and notes his posting to 'A' Coy. In January 1918,he takes over the daily duty of writing up the diary. A month later or so later, an entry shows that his name is on the List of Officers to be drafted into the 18th Battalion .On February 18th,he writes the final entry:

                 " This Battalion (17th Welsh) ceased to-day to be an Unit ".

In his book,' The History of the 40th Division ', Lieut. - Col. F.E.Whitton describes the morning of April 9th 1918:-

 

 " Picture to yourself a mist everywhere. Imagine shells bursting all around with a deafening roar; great clouds of earth spurting up; gas everywhere; you have your respirator on, and it does not make things clearer ".

In the confusion, the Portuguese, holding the right flank "were seen running along the main road from the line and past the transport, and in their anxiety had abandoned weapons and everything else likely to impede them "………" Through the large gap formed by the retirement of the 2nd Portuguese Division the German Infantry poured, and as the 18th Welch (sic) was the unit closest to the gap the full brunt of the attack fell on them.

" For two hours… " the sturdy breakwater formed by this indomitable battalion" held…"but was at last shattered by the pressure .No survivors reached battalion headquarters, and there fell into the hands of the enemy merely 2 officers and 14 other ranks, all wounded".

 

The two officers, 2/Lt C. Stanley Thomas and 2Lt/J. Cecil Tucker, known as "Tommy" and "Tuck" were interned, first at Baden-Baden, and later at Schweidnitz in Silesia. They survived the horrors of trench warfare and the privations of internment together, and were still in touch fifty years later.

2/Lt Thomas returned home to find his wife in poor health, and she died in 1921.This story, however, has a happy ending. Nine years later, he married the sister of the fellow prisoner with whom he shared a hymn-book in the Prison Camp Chapel Choir.He lived a full and active life until his death in 1969. His antiquarian interests were fuelled by archaeological excavations at Neath Abbey, discovering Nidum, (the Roman Camp at Neath), and acting as the town's Honorary Archivist for more than thirty years. For these "Services to Antiquities" he was awarded the M.B.E. in 1957.

Copyright, Gaynor Howard 2001