April 23rd 1918

 

Lieut. Greville Thomas (Gurkha Rifles)

Today, it is my sad duty to report the loss of someone who was not only a much loved Old Boy, but also a member of my own family.

My nephew, Greville Thomas, was killed on April 10th in Palestine.

My sister has forwarded to me a letter from Lieut.-Col. Shaw, commanding 3/3 Gurkha Rifles, with his account of Greville’s final action.

“On April 9th orders came for an advance for the 10th…  

As one of the preliminary moves of the day, we were to take the hill I have marked 6.

Your son’s Company (D Coy) was detailed for the job and, after a preliminary bombardment by our guns, he rushed the hill with practically no casualties…

At about 10 a.m the real advance began…

The General sent me orders to rush the Pimple from the direction of Hill 6 with the company holding that hill. I passed on these orders to your son, and we had a long talk on the telephone, discussing the matter and arranging for artillery co-operation. He was absolutely confident about it, though he knew the attack would involve loss, across the open as it was. His last words on the telephone were a very cheery ‘Very well sir; goodbye’ and I answered ‘Good luck, old boy,’ and we shut down the telephone.

The attack failed completely, though most gallantly made. The Pimple turned out to be the surprise of the day, and was heavily held by the enemy… the attack was simply swept away. The two leading platoons were shot away to a man, and the support platoon practically shared the same fate…

Greville fell while leading this platoon in its dash across the open. He died instantaneously with three machine-gun bullets in his chest.”

Greville’s parents had only recently received a letter from him, written two days before his death:

“Just a short line today as I am very busy. I take my Coy. into the attack tomorrow. It’s not a very big show and mine is the only Company in the Battalion doing it, but one never knows what opposition there will be…”

With so many soldiers having no known graves, it is comforting to hear from Lieut.-Col. Shaw that in Greville’s case at least, his body was recovered:

“The following day I started negotiations under the Red Cross flag with the Germans and Turks with a view to mutual burying of the dead. As a result, his body was buried by our Medical Officer on April 17th. The position of the grave has been registered and marked with a cross of stones alongside.”

Of my three Thomas nephews, only Lynam Thomas remains  – Eric, the middle of the three brothers (and not an Old Boy of the OPS), having been killed in action last December.

Greville’s chief characteristics were an intense love for the home circle, and an unremitting devotion to hard work and duty, with a keen sense of humour. He was a great forward at Rugby football and helped introduce the game at Rossall, to which he won an Open Scholarship in 1910.


					

April 8th 1918

Lieut. Greville Thomas (Gurkha Rifles) is in Palestine. Over Christmas he was on the Red Sea and was able to spend a few days in Jerusalem last month.

Greville has from his earliest days been a great letter-writer; his letters are capitally descriptive and expressive of his feelings and ideas, from his letters home from the OPS to some long beautiful letters he has been sending more recently from the East – this before his first experience of action:

26/3/18 “Tomorrow night we go into the real thing and I should like to write you a few lines today, as I may not get the chance to do so again for a week or two… 

We expect pretty stiff opposition now, but we are sure to win through. If I get through all right you’ll know.  I’ll write as often as I can; if I don’t, you’ll know I have done my best from the day I entered the Service and you needn’t worry about anything else…

I’m looking forward to tomorrow night and the following weeks. I shall see my first real fighting then. I’m enjoying every minute of the life now and wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

Greville is the oldest son of my sister Helen – and my own dear nephew. His family were encouraged by his fine words, but understandably anxious to hear that he came through all right.

Fortunately, we did not have to wait long to hear that, for now at least, all is well:

29/3/18. “I write, as it were, in the midst of battle. We captured the ridge we are on the night before last, and we have been fighting to hold it ever since. The hillock I and my Company took was defended by a machine-gun, a Lewis gun and about ten men – all Germans we think…

My only kit now is a blanket and note books and the small photos I have of you all. Well, cheerioh, all of you, and don’t worry about me. I quite enjoy the show. One has got one’s job to do, and I try to do mine to completion, and yet don’t take any unnecessary risks.”