The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. E H Thomas
Eric Hugh Thomas was born in Crowborough, Sussex on 10th October 1917, the family moving to Tunbridge Wells in 1933.
He attended Tonbridge School (Smythe House) from 1932 - 35.
Thomas joined the RAF on a short service commission in July 1936. His initial training was carried out at the Civil Flying School, Yatesbury, he then went on to 6 FTS Netheravon on 19th September.
His first posting was to 19 Squadron, operating the Gloster Gauntlet at Duxford, where he arrived on 22nd May 1937.
The group shots in his logbook above are expanded below.
19 Squadron Duxford 1938 Group 1
P/O GL Sinclair, P/O MCF Mee, F/Lt. JB Coward
F/O LC Withall (AUS), P/O EH Thomas, F/O AJ Banham, P/O WG Clouston (NZ), P/O AI Robinson
P/O GE Ball, P/O JAG Gordon (CAN), P/O TG Pace
19 Squadron Duxford 1938 Group 2
P/O JAG Gordon (CAN), F/O AJ Banham, S/Ldr. HI Cozens, P/O GL Sinclair
P/O GE Ball, F/Lt. JB Coward, P/O WG Clouston (NZ), P/O TG Pace
P/O AI Robinson, F/O LC Withall (AUS), P/O MCF Mee, P/O EH Thomas
All the above airmen except Cozens, Mee and Pace went on to fly in the Battle of Britain.
He served with 19 Squadron until 24th April 1939, when he was posted as an instructor to the Advanced Training Squadron at RAF College, Cranwell (below, with his dog Peter).
This posting ended on 19th August 1940, he returned to 19 Squadron but was only there a few days before a posting to 266 Squadron came through. He arrived at Hornchurch, where 266 was operating Spitfires, on 23rd August. This posting was also short-lived as on 10th September he joined 222 Squadron, remaining at Hornchurch where 222 were also based.
Thomas shared a Do17 on the 15th, damaged a Me109 on the 20th, shot down Me109s on 9th October and 25th October and destroyed another and damaged a
second on the 29th.
Thomas shared a probable Ju88 on 4th April 1941 and damaged a
He111 on 14th May. He took command of 611 Squadron at Rochford on
26th June 1941. He left the squadron on 17th November to command 133 (Eagle) Squadron at Eglinton.
Thomas was awarded the DFC (gazetted 25th November 1941).
He married Eirene Smith on 31st January 1942 at St. Charles the Martyr in Tunbridge Wells.
He damaged a Fw190 on 29th May 1942 and got a probable Me109 on 5th June. In early August Thomas was appointed Wing Leader at Biggin Hill and led the Wing over Dieppe on 19th August. He destroyed a Fw190 and damaged another on 9th October.
Thomas was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 18th September 1942).
He was posted away from Biggin Hill on 15th January 1943 for an attachment to HQ 11 Group, this ended on 1st February and he was awarded the DSO the next day (gazetted 2nd February 1943).
Attendance at No.8 War Course, Staff College, Camberley (1st February to 17th May 1943) was followed by promotion to Wing Commander and a holding posting to 52 OTU Middle Wallop. He was then appointed CO of the Fighter Leaders School at Charmy Down on 31st July.
He had been awarded the Croix de Guerre on 29th May.
The school moved to Milfield and Thomas went with it as CFI on 26th January 1944. His health was beginning to fail and after general duties at HQ 85 Group and 484 Group in June/July 1944 he relinquished his commission and was released from the RAF on 22nd September 1944 as a Wing Commander.
Thomas was employed at Ascot Racecourse postwar but became increasingly unwell and was admitted to King Edward VII hospital near Midhurst where he died from complications following tuberculosis on 21st April 1959.
He is buried in Tunbridge Wells Cemetery.
Both of his brothers were killed in action with the RAF.
On 18th May 1941 F/O BK Thomas was killed flying in Battle Trainer R7363 of 12 SFTS, which was shot down near Grantham by a Me110 of 3./NGJ2
On 3rd November 1943
F/Lt. CG Thomas was killed when Lancaster III ED438 EA-R of 49 Squadron was shot down by night fighters near Cologne on a raid to Dusseldorf.
EH Thomas is commemorated by a plaque at Tonbridge School (below).