The Airmen's Stories - P/O S R Thomas
Samuel Richard Thomas joined the RAF on a short service commission in March 1939. Thomas completed his flying training and was posted to 264 Squadron, operating Defiants at Sutton Bridge, on 6th November 1939, soon after it reformed.
On 13th May six Defiants took off from Martlesham Heath to patrol the Dutch coast. They had a Spitfire escort, six aircraft from 66 Squadron.
Seeing Rotterdam under attack, the Spitfires headed in that direction. The Defiants maintained their patrol line and ran into a flight of Ju87 Stukas. Thomas and his gunner, LAC J Bromley, shot down two before a large force of Me109s of JG26 intervened and shot Thomas down in Defiant L6958. He baled out and landed on an island SE of Dordrecht. Bromley was never found.
With the aid of Dutch civilians and soldiers he made his way to the Hague where he was taken off by a British destroyer and landed at Dover.
L to R standing: P/O Hickman (not BoB), F/Lt. Cooke (not BoB), S/Ldr. PA Hunter, P/O MH Young,
P/O GH Hackwood, P/O EG Barwell, P/O SR Thomas, P/O D Whitley
Seated: Sgt. ER Thorn, P/O DHS Kay, Sgt. AJ Lauder, P/O RW Stokes
He served throughout the Battle of Britain.
When Thomas was awarded the DFC (gazetted 29th May 1942), the citation credited him with three enemy aircraft destroyed in daylight and another damaged. He was later awarded the AFC (gazetted 2nd June 1943). On 5th September 1943 Thomas, now a Squadron Leader with 3 Squadron, was shot down in Typhoon JP585 on a Roadstead sortie. He came down north of Sluis, Holland and was able to fire the aircraft before being taken prisoner. He spent some time in Stalag Luft III.
Thomas stayed in the postwar RAF but details of his service are currently unknown. He was serving at RAF Kenley when he died in the RAF Hospital, Uxbridge on 3rd September 1962, presumably from natural causes.
He is buried in Hillingdon Cemetery.
Above image courtesy of Julia Keld