Lieutenant Charles Stanley Thomas (CST) was the Diarist for the
17th Battalion during the last two months of the life of the Battalion.
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.
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.
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 -
One Man's War.
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.
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 ".
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".
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.
Gaynor Howard 2001