Celtic Royal Genealogy

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  • ID: I75
  • Name: Nigel Beaumont-Thomas 4th Parachute Squadron R.E.
  • Surname: Beaumont-Thomas
  • Given Name: Nigel
  • Suffix: 4th Parachute Squadron R.E.
  • Prefix: Maj.
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 17 Apr 1916 in 11d Hyde Park Mansions, London, England
  • Death: 20 Sep 1944 in Arnhem, Netherlands
  • Burial: Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Arnhem 17.a.11
  • _UID: 102C0B24B0C2EF43BEF8F968DCF041CBFE6C
  • Note:
    England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966
    Name: Nigel Beaumont-Thomas Probate Date: 1945

    Nigel Beaumont-Thomas of Cedar Grange, Hethersett , Norfolk, died on active war service on 20th September 1944. Probate granted at Llandudno 25th May 1945.
    Gross, 116,238-9-4 pounds, net 116,233-9-4 pounds, estate duty and interest, 12,143-14 -6 pounds.
    Archibald Ian Scott Debenham of St Leonard's, Ingatestone, Essex, Pauline Grace Beaumont-Thomas of Cedar Grange aforesaid, Thyza (nee? Hoe) Pelling of Cedar Grange aforesaid wife of Ernest Lionel Pelling
    Extracted by Gregory Rowcliffe and Co, 1 Bedford Row, London. W C1

    Education: prep school at Heath Mount, Hampstead, London;
    BA (Cantab.) Trinity College, Cambridge
    1939 joined Richard Thomas and Co Ltd. as a civil engineer

    Military History
    13.03.34 Harrow School O.T.C.
    10.06.1939 commissioned into the Royal Engineers Militia - Royal Monmouthshire, Supplementary Reserve (late Cadet Corporal, Harrow School Contingent, OTC)

    Foreign Languages:
    German (good conversational, worked as engineer in Cologne)
    French: (good conversational and translation)

    Knowledge of foreign countries:
    France (rough knowledge, no special district)
    Germany (good knowledge of Cologne and surroundings and also of Bavaria)
    Switzerland (good general knowledge, and district knowledge of most central mountainous districts
    Italy (rough knowledge from travels in Northern Italy)
    Austria, Belgium, Holland, Norway, and U.S.A.(rough traveling knowledge)

    Business Qualifications:
    Practical experience in steel industry in England, enquiring side; and in steel industry in Germany, sales side. At present cast maintenance engineer in R Thomas and Co, Ebbw Vale.

    Any special knowledge or experience:
    Extensive mountaineering experience and detail knowledge of most European Alpine districts. Practical flying experience. Good knowledge of photography.

    Professional or Artistic Qualifications:
    B.A. Engineering Cambridge, Member of the Iron and Steel Industry, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, student member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

    Egypt 17.05.40-08.12.40
    Sudan 13.01.41

    Honours and Awards:
    The Commander in Chief, Middle East Forces has approved of the Military Cross for gallantry in action.
    Authority Middle East General Orders No. 749/1941

    Particulars of Service:
    1929-1933 Cadet Corporal, Harrow School O.T.C.
    02.09.39 Posted to DBRE
    26.11.39 Reported arrival from U.K. to attend Officers School with the cosfas and attached to T.B. at Roorkee, India, E-in-C G.H.Q. No.58138 (E.I.A.) 12.11.39
    01.02.40 having been posted to his cosfas permanently transferred from T.B.S.M. to 43 Div Coy
    Reported departure from Roorkee on 30.04.40 (pm) and proceeded tp Bombay for overseas services, CO Pt II A 98 of 1940
    17.05.40 Entered Egypt, Hena Camp, 2nd Sch. Part II Order No.8 of 1940
    13.01.41 Entered Sudan, Field, Adv, H.Q. 2nd Sch. Pt. II Order 1(2) 1941
    07.12.40 Posted to X (IV) List, Field, G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. Pt II Order 14/40
    27.12.40 Posted to unit from X(IV) List, Field, Adv. H.Q. 2nd Sch. Part II Order No.3/41
    15.03.41 Wounded in action (multiple wounds arms and legs) and admitted to hospital, Field, G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. Part II Order No.3/41
    07.04.41 Posted to X(IV) List on discharge from hospital, Field, G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. X List No.12(1) of 1941
    The Commander-in-Chief, Middle East Forces, has approved of the Military Cross for gallantry in action (Authority M.E. G.O. No.749/1941), Field, G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. M.E. 2nd Part Order No.10/1941
    Permitted to remain on the sick list without being struck off duty from 15 Mar 41 to 7 Apr 41 inclusive, Field, G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. M.E. 2nd Part II Order No.10/1941

    28 July 1941 Granted the unpaid acting rank of Capt. 28th July 1941 and paid acting rank of Capt. 18th August 1941 (w.e.f. 28th July 1941) (Authority, List No.70 Pt II published with G.O.REF. No.974 dated 26th Sep 1941), G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. M.E. 2nd Part II Order No.14/1941
    28 Oct 41 To be temporary Capt. w.e.f. 28th Oct 1941, Authority MEGO 181/42 List No.Pt VI of 13/2/41, Field, G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. ME(lnd) Pt II Order No.7/42 of 3.3.42
    10 Dec 40 Promoted to War Substative Lieut. on 10th Dec 40 181/42 List No.Pt VI of 13/2/41, Field, G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. ME(lnd) Pt II Order No.7/42 of 3.3.42
    4.5.42 Proceeded to attend an officers course and posted to X(V) List w.e.f. 4.5.42, Field, G.H.Q. 2nd Sch. ME (WS) Part II Order No. 16/42 of 2.6.42

    21.6.42 Missing in the field and believed P.O.W., Field, RRSOM D.O. Pt II No.23/42
    21.5.42 To be OC 18 Fd Coy and granted the U/A/Rank of Maj. on 21-5-42 and P/A/Rank of Maj. on 11-6-42 (w.e.f. 21-5-42), Field, RRSOM, W.O No. Pt. II No. 28/42, RRSOM, ap IE Pt. II No. 10(9)
    31-7-42 Confirmed P.O.W. in Italian hands (Authority IRC telegram No.SB2231 of 31-7-42

    Medical Category ?A?
    2nd Lieut. 10 June 1939
    W/Sub Lieut. 10.Dec.1940
    Actg Capt. 28.July1941
    Temp. Capt. 28.Oct.1941
    Act Maj. 21 July 1942 Relinquished 1.2.44
    Joined Royal Monmouthshire Malitia R.E.S.R. 10.6.39
    India, 4 Fld Coy, S and M, 23.11.39
    Arrived in Egypt and Joined 43 Fld Coy. 25.5.40
    Wounded 15.3.41
    Posted to 4 Fld Coy 25.4.41
    Reported P.of W. 28.6.42
    In Allied hands 18.11.43
    Posted to R.E. Depot 4.1..44
    To attend Junior Leaders Course, S.M.E., April-May 1944
    Bridging Course, S.M.E., May-June 1944 and Company Commanders (Fld.) Course, S.M.E., August 1944

    Mayfair 9400 A.G.7
    The War Office
    (CAS. P.W.)
    Curzon Street House
    Curzon Street
    London W1
    Os/904.T. (Cas. P.W.)
    I am directed to inform you that a report that has been received from a reliable source which states that Captain N. Beaumont-Thomas, M.C. Royal Engineers, has reached Southern Italy, and is in allied hands.
    Arrangements will be made for his return to this country as soon as practicable.
    I am,
    Your obedient servant,
    (Sgd) G T H Rogers

    Mrs. P.G. Beaumont-Thomas
    Ceder Grange
    To see:- D.A.A.G. (2) Cos sheet

    17 May 1944 - Telegram
    From CRE 1 Airborne Div 171200
    To War Office AG7(0)
    RE371 Reference Conversation Longlands Hennicker. Please post No. 93266 W/S Captain N B Thomas now with 6 TBCE to RE 1 Airborne Div.
    He is volunteer for parachute duties. I have interviewed him. He is now doing courses and not employed. Vacancy for Captain exists.
    BT 171200

    Urgent Memorandum
    Repatriated Prisoner of War
    Rank and Name: Capt T/Maj. N.B.Thomas M.C. R.E.
    From: ex overseas (Prisoner of War)
    To: R.E. Depot Halifax
    Date: w.e.f. 4 Jan 44.
    Remarks: To remain on leave pending further War Office instructions.
    Placed on strength of R.E. Depot for administrative purposes only.
    Application for ration cards etc. should be addressed to Comdt. R.E. Depot.
    (Sgd) H N Cole
    Dated 28 Jan 1944
    Copies to:-
    Major N.B.Thomas M.C. R.E., Ceder Grange, Hethersett, Norfolk.
    Notes:- Comdt., R.E. Depot to arrange relinquishment of Tempy. Rank Major w.e.f. 1 Feb 44.

    Urgent Memorandum
    War Office 19 May 1944
    Hobart House
    London SW1
    R.E. Depot

    Capt. N. B. Thomas M.C., R.E.
    This officer has volunteered for parachute duties and has been posted to 1 Airborne Div.
    2. He will therefore not complete Bridging Course 8 serial 10 and coy Comd. Course 6 serial 7 at S.M.E.
    (Sgd) J D Harte
    For Assistant Adjutant General R.E.


    Forcedly Seven 19. 1500

    REDEP Halifax 19 May 44

    Training Ripon
    C.R.E., 1 Airborne Div.
    Engerto Exfor (MEAR)
    Capt. N.B.Thomas M.C. R.E. is posted to 1 Airborne Div. R.E., Fulbeck Hall, Fulbeck, Grantham, Lincs w.e.f. 24 May of duty in rank Capt.
    (Sgd) J D Harte

    Secret Cipher Telegram
    From C-in-C Middle East
    To C-in-C India Recd. 2000 27 May 44
    A4/05812 Cipher 27 May Restricted
    Your 81267 20th May Acting Major N.B.Thomas
    R.E. Recaptured P.W. now posted U.K.
    T.O.O. 1320C
    3 advance copies to A.G.7. at 17.30 on 29/5/44.
    1 copy to be returned to C.6.Tels., Room 46, with distribution.
    Distribution AG7

    Army Form B.2090A. 28B
    Field Service
    Report of the death of an Officer or a soldier to be forwarded to the War Office with the least possible delay after receipt of notification of death. Se Table II, Appendix III, Field Service Regulations, Vol. 1. (To be addressed to the War Office (C3 A.L.) in case of an Officer, and to the War Office (Effects) for a soldier).
    Regiment or Corps: R.E.
    Squadron, Troop, Battery or Company: 4 Para Sqn
    Officers Personal No.: 93266
    Rank: Capt.
    Surname: Thomas
    Christian Names: N. B.

    Registry P/93266
    2 October 1944

    In confirmation of War Office telegram dated the 5th October 1944, I am directed to inform you, with the expression of the deep regret of the Army Council, that a report has been received from the military Authorities in North West Europe that your son, Captain N. Beaumont Thomas, M.C. Royal Engineers, was killed in action on the 20th September, 1944.
    I am, Madam,
    Your obedient servant,
    E D Lloyd

    Mrs. P. G. Beaumont Thomas
    Cedar Grange

    24.08.1939 mobilized
    11.1939 - 06.1941 attached King George V's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners (India, North Africa, Abyssinia [wounded], North Africa) (POW in Italy, escaped 09.1943, in the UK 01.1944)
    28.05.1944 - 20.09.1944 Second-in-Command, 4th Parachute Squadron RE (Arnhem [killed in action])
    2nd Lt. 10.06.1939 [93266]
    WS/Lt. 01.01.1941
    WS/Capt. 08.07.1943
    T/Maj. 08.07.1943
    MC 21.10.1941 Middle East
    MID 01.03.1945 services in the field (Arnhem)

    Name Thomas, Nigel Beaumont
    Rank: Major
    Service No: 93266
    Regiment: Royal Engineers attached 4 Indian Division
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: Escape and Evasion
    Award: Mentions in Despatches
    Date 1945 Catalogue reference
    Dept Records created or inherited by the War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies
    Series War Office and Ministry of Defence: Military Secretary's Department: Recommendations for Honours and Awards for Gallant and Distinguished Service (Army)
    Piece 1 Mar 1945
    Image contains 1 item for the catalogue reference

    Name Thomas, Nigel Beaumont
    Rank: Lieutenant
    Regiment: 4 Field Company King George's V's Own Bengal Sappers & Miners
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: Middle East (Egypt and Libya)
    Award: Military Cross
    Date of Announcement in London Gazette: 21 October 1941
    Date 1941-1942 Catalogue reference WO 373/18
    Dept Records created or inherited by the War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies Series War Office and Ministry of Defence: Military Secretary's Department: Recommendations for Honours and Awards for Gallant and Distinguished Service (Army)
    Piece 21 Oct 1941-24 Feb 1942 (DCM)
    Image contains 1 item for the catalogue reference

    .R. Mon. Milia.?Nigel Beaumont THOMAS (late Cadet Corpl., Harrow Sch. Contgt., O.T.C.)
    to be 2nd Lt. l0th June 1939.
    The Military Cross.
    Lieutenant Nigel Beaumont Thomas (93266), Corps of Royal Engineers (attached King George V's Own Bengal Sappers and Miner.

    Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators? Certificates, 1910-1950 No. 15042
    Richard Thomas and Co, Shell Mex House, London
    Name: Nigel Beaumont Thomas
    Birth Date: 17 Apr 1916 Birth Location: London
    Profession: Engineer
    Certificate taken on: D.H. 60 - Moth - Gypsy 1 - 85 h.p.
    At: Cambridge Aero Club Ltd
    Date 21/06/37

    May 28 Captain N. Beaumont-Thomas MC posted to Sqn

    On the 28th Captain Nigel Beaumont-Thomas MC joined the Squadron. He was a member of a wealthy Welsh steel family. He had served in North Africa and through the battles of the western desert and Tobruk. As the Commanding Officer of the 4th Indian Division RE Field Company he was captured and held in an Italian prisoner of war camp before making a difficult and arduous escape. He had eventually returned to England and was soon looking for a new role. He wrote to a friend in Norfolk

    "I found out that getting a job, even in the army is still on the 'old boy' system. So by contacts I got an interview ....to CRE of an Airborne Div. Was accepted gladly....Very hot show....all jeeps, radio, etc and highest priority on equipment, live keen young personnel and little red tape. So here I am at the moment becoming a parachute engineer!

    June 8 Capt N. Beaumont-Thomas MC takes over I/C 1 Troop. Glider elements for Operation Tuxedo to Blakehill Farm airfield

    Captain Nigel Beaumont-Thomas who had been posted to the unit in late May took over 1 Troop on the 8th. This was considered a challenge for a new Officer coming into the Squadron. 1 Troop was the first to be formed back in Egypt and contained the senior members of the Squadron. But by all accounts he met the challenge and was welcomed by members of the founding Troop.
    On that day the glider element of the Squadron moved to Blakehill Farm airfield to be ready for any further operations. It consisted of 1 Officer 3 ORs, 1 Jeep a trailer and motorcycles. Their job was to take the Squadron transport, Jeeps and often a compressor on a trailer into the battle area. They had to travel to the distant airfields where the gliders flew from so had to set off well in advance of the rest of the Squadron.
    Later the same day the rest of the Squadron were put on two hours notice for the operation, ready to move to Spanhoe airfield just a few miles away.

    July 22 Exercise ?Bones? Wireless exercise

    It was at this time that changes were made in the command structure of the Squadron. Captain Beaumont-Thomas became second in command of the Squadron following the departure of Captain Gentry.

    September 18 0900 hrs, Sqn moved to Spanhoe airfield. 1210 hrs, Sqn took off for operation 'Market'. 1420 hrs, parachute element dropped on DZ west of Arnhem. OC injured, 6 ORs casualties. Capt Beaumont-Thomas assumes command. Slight opposition from enemy, no casualties. Advance Pty rejoin Sqn. Majority of containers lost on DZ. 1700 hrs, Sqn move off DZ to RV south on railway line. Defensive positions prepared for night. 1 Troop move off in support of 156th Btn east in direction of Arnhem. Glider element rejoin Sqn 1 OR casualty

    After taking off the aircraft circled the airfield once to formate and then set off . The flight was largely uneventful. The men in 1 Troop in the C-47 with Captain Beaumont-Thomas recalled that he gave a running commentary in a calm and reassuring manner as he stood in the door looking at the ground below. He is remembered with great pride for his coolness, efficiency and confidence as if it were a regular occurrence for him.

    Major Perkins landed badly after his parachute rigging lines became twisted and he dislocated his shoulder. The Major also in great pain had to leave the Squadron to go and seek medical attention . He left Captain Beaumont-Thomas in command and Captain Smith became 2 I/C. There was slight opposition from the enemy at the RV and the advance party re-joined the Squadron. The majority of the Squadron containers were lost on the DZ so Captain Beaumont-Thomas ordered the men to go back onto the DZ to try to find them.

    September 19 0800 hrs, Sqn less 1 Troop moved off to Wolfheze. Major Perkins re-joins Sqn. 1100 hrs, straffed by enemy aircraft. 1130 hrs, move to X roads in woods 677802. Sqn took up defensive position. 1430 hrs, supply drop & Polish Glider Element arrive. 1500 hrs, 1 Troop rejoins Sqn. 1600 hrs, OC to "O" Group, Sqn ordered to get Bde transport to south of rail line. 1700 hrs, 1 Troop at level crossing guiding transport over. 2 Troop at culvert defending south side. ½ 3 Troop assisting Bde transport through culvert. ½ 3 Troop assisting Bde transport and 17 pdr A/T guns over railway line. 1800 hrs, Sqn less 1 Troop ½ 3 Troop moved to Sonnenberg area, under heavy mortar fire. Lt Harris, SSM & 80 ORs missing. Lt Skinner & 3 ORs missing. Capt H. Brown ½ 3 Troop took up defensive position at Ommershof area. 1900 hrs, Capt J.G Smith 1 Troop joined ½ 3 Troop, all under command of Capt N. Beaumont-Thomas in support of 21 Ind Para Coy. Dug in defensive position 692793 Glaston 2/Lt Dalton IC Residue Pty, Residue Pty clearing billet area, 2nd Sea-borne Lift packing & loading vehicles. 1500 hrs 2nd Sea-borne Lift, IC SQMS Gisborne moved off for Coningsby to join other Div Sea-borne Elements. Residue Pty all accommodated in Glaston House.

    As dusk fell many men were separated from their units and others were still trying to hold back the Germans as they pushed south across LZ-L towards the railway line. Jo Johanson takes up the story, "We got on the road to Oosterbeek but the driver in the leading Jeep wasn't sure of the way. Someone asked me to go up a side road on my motorbike to see if it was the right way, I hadn't gone far when I found another motorbike in the middle of the road riddled with bullet holes! I looked down at my motorbike and decided it was better as it was and turned round. When I got back to the others Captain Beaumont-Thomas had turned up and was showing the Jeep drivers the right way to go. He told me to stay with him in case he wanted messages taking anywhere. Captain Beaumont-Thomas seemed to be the only one who knew what was happening and soon got everything organised, he told me the trouble was that the enemy had put in an attack through the woods as we were disengaging and crossing the railway. After this we managed to get into Oosterbeek without any more difficulty"

    It was getting dark now and Lieutenant 'Toby' Thomas was sent forward in one of the two remaining Jeeps to contact the CRE. He came back with orders for Major Perkins to report in person to the Headquarters of RE. There he was informed of the location at Ommershof of the remainder of the Squadron under the 2 IC, Captain Beaumont-Thomas

    F section of the Squadron were just a few hundred metres north at Ommershof and at 1900hrs they were joined by 1 Troop and Captain J.G Smith. Ken Evans says ?The position had obviously already been occupied as weapon slits had been dug or partially dug. Whether we were under command of or in support of 21st Ind Coy I was never sure. At this stage we were five Officers, Captain Beaumont-Thomas, Captain Brown, Captain Smith, Lieutenant Evans, Eden and about 65 OR?s

    The 21st Ind Coy were to the rear of the Squadron and occupying the higher ground and buildings, extending to the flanks. ?Everyone settled into a hole and began to dig deeper before trying out a K ration? Captain Harry Brown describes the area "I was instructed to attach myself to Major (Boy) Wilson and his 21st Independent Parachute Company in the grounds of a house called Ommershof at the north tip of the perimeter just south of the railway. I reported to Major Wilson who had set up his Company HQ in the basement of the substantial detached house. He gave me an area of his front to occupy and dig in. The ground was sloping to the north and was covered with a growth of young deciduous trees about 9-12" diameter and about 12-15" apart. To the west was a large open space, 400 metres north to south and about 100 metres east to west. On the northern edge a poorly made road ran from east to west (Graaf Van Rechterenweg) Beyond it was a wooded area with large houses at intervals, leading to the railway about 250 metres north. To the east, including Ommershof House were elements of 21 Company and beyond it was an area centred on the White House or Dreyeroord Hotel occupied by the KOSB. I immediately evolved our defensive layout. Our area was surrounded by a five strand wire fence. I located the Bren Gun position to the north-east corner of the wire line, manned by sappers Randall and Parker and a PIAT gunner, Bill Grantham, on the other side of the wire fence by the track each with a clean sight about 100 metres east west along the road. The rest of my group were dispersed facing north in slit trenches, I placed myself near the north-west corner of the wire line next to the Oranje Weg. Captain Beaumont-Thomas soon joined us with more of the Squadron and placed them to the south on the line of the Oranje Weg displacing some of 21 Company. The Squadron positions were spread across the area inside the wire fence, some close to the wire on the western side and others on the east, set back upon the higher ground that rose to about 3 metres. All the positions were on forward sloping ground.
    A Polish gun crew arrived with a 6 pdr anti-tank gun. Captain Beaumont-Thomas wasted no time in positioning the gun facing east down the Graff Van Rechterenweg, and left Lieutenant Eden to oversee this useful addition. At Ommershof they had no Jeeps or trailers, they had remained with the Brigade group transport and most had been lost to the enemy. Ken Evans, who had been going for over thirty hours was glad when his friend Captain Beaumont-Thomas excused him from the duty rosta that night so that he could get some sleep. He wrapped himself in a blue parachute that had conveniently been left in his foxhole and prepared for the night.

    September 20 Ommershof 0700 hrs, contact made between rest of Sqn, 2 ORs missing. 0800 hrs, attacked by approx one Coy enemy using two ½ tracked armoured vehicles. 1000 hrs, heavily mortared, Capt Beaumont-Thomas & 2 ORs killed. 4 ORs wounded and evacuated to RAP.

    At Ommershof Bill Grantham huddled into his slit trench with a PIAT, next to the track named Graaf Van Rechterenweg facing west, 200 metres to the front of him over a slight rise was the track junction with the Valkenburglaan. He was ordered by Lieutenant Evans to fire a sighting shot down the track to the north. Ken Evans was told by Captain Beaumont-Thomas to be prepared to direct the fire if they were attacked. At about this time the Polish gun crew who were positioned in the main track decided they preferred to find some of their own troops and left with the 6pdr gun. At 0800rs the enemy in about company strength, using two Half Track armoured vehicles attacked from the west, Ken Evans recalls a SP Gun also being involved. Despite the armoured vehicles the attack was broken up, and after some shots from the PIAT the vehicles sheared off. Soon after this enemy infantry of 16th SS Training Battalion attacked through the woodland to the north-west (between the east-west road track and the north ride through the woods towards the railway embankment). When they began to be visible through the thinner trees at the edge of the wood Lieutenant Evans gave the order to open fire. The Germans, who were probably testing the positions, soon withdrew. This attack was then followed by the first of many heavy and accurate enemy mortar attacks. Captain Harry Brown recalls the events of the attack, "We became aware of an SP Gun approaching us on the road from the west. It was firing eastwards across our front towards the KOSB positions. We were able to see the white hot rounds streaking along the road at about head height. Sapper Grantham fired a couple of PIAT rounds and it withdrew. This was followed by more heavy mortaring and an attack by about a company of German infantry which was repulsed by a heavy concentration of small arms and Bren gun fire. During all this I had decided to remove my steel helmet and wear my red beret as a moral booster, I was soon reluctantly persuaded to cover it up by the men around me since it would attract attention from the enemy"

    It was after a mortar attack at about 1000hrs that 28 year old Captain Nigel Beaumont-Thomas was fatally wounded. Sapper Cyril Brown, "I saw the Captain sat with his back against a tree, he said that he was alright but he was badly wounded and in a lot of pain" The Captain then taken into Ommershof House for treatment.
    A runner came to tell Captain Harry Brown of the wounding of Captain Beaumont-Thomas, he was called to Ommershof House "Captain Thomas was on the floor of the drawing room and in a bad way, he had lost a lot of blood and his legs were badly damaged, his thighs had been hit by a mortar splinter. Sapper Leonard was giving him treatment and had already given the contents of his morphia phial. I tried to talk to Nigel but he was deeply unconscious" Soon after this Captain Beaumont-Thomas died and his body was placed outside for temporary burial.
    Ken Evans, who regarded Nigel Beaumont-Thomas as a close friend was shocked on hearing the news. He crawled from his slit trench twenty metres south, along the track into the main deployment area. There he found the body of his friend, he takes up the story ?A few yards further on I saw two bodies which had been moved to the inside of the track. The bodies of my two friends and comrades were lying on their backs side by side. Captain Nigel Beaumont-Thomas had been grievously wounded and was a bloody mess from the waist down his face was a rictus of agony?. (Ken Evans and Harry Brown recall Lieutenant Eden being killed at about the same time but this does not agree with the War Diary and other accounts). ?There followed one of the most traumatic periods of my life. I closed both men?s eyes and muttered a brief and inadequate prayer. I endeavoured to control my involuntary retching (fortunately no food in my stomach so no vomiting). I then attempted to find and remove their personal possessions, placing them in sick bags from their smock pockets, including Captain Beaumont-Thomas?s famous Zeiss binoculars. I asked one of the nearby men to find their gas-capes, which we carried in our large packs, and to cover the bodies. I then went off to find Captains Smith and Brown to pass on the bad news but when I found them they had already heard it?.

    Some of the Squadron were decorated for their actions at Arnhem. Major Perkins (Later Lieutenant Colonel) Mentioned in Dispatches, Captain Nigel Beaumont-Thomas MC Mentioned in Dispatches, Captain (Later Major) Harry Brown Military Cross (Later OBE), Sapper Phil Hyatt Military Medal, Sapper W. Coulsting, Dutch Bronze Cross. Others were recommended for awards but did not receive them.

    There is no doubt that the Battle of Arnhem-Oosterbeek was the finest hour for the Squadron despite the resultant losses. It is still possible to walk the areas that they defended and see the signs of slit trenches they occupied. As the area develops and grows the signs of war slowly disappear. Every September many veterans return to visit their old battle ground and the graves of their comrades bringing back to life the story of The Battle of Arnhem-Oosterbeek and those who were members of the units of the 1st Airborne Division.

    Oosterbeek 1944 Oh my brave young companions, we who knew no fear, Who descended from the sky, on a scrap of silk yet still held life so dear Yet took life, and in so doing sinned and sinned again Now hoary, lined with age, we wait to die, full knowing, full dreading, yet with some eagerness for we who survived, life has lost much meaning On cold grey stone your names live on Shrill bugles sound your glory, Glib tongues speak of your sacrifice, but we who know stand silent with grim and stony face For we remember your youth and beauty, the pleasure and love of your smiling face Not for us the thoughts of worms and bones All of youth and beauty, for in youth is beauty and your eternal silent grace Oh those blue warm African days when like young Gods, silkborne through those blue skies, thoughts only of the day, drifting from cloud to cloud, with no thought of tomorrow Through Sicily and Italy we drifted, like young Gods we sported , laughing, carefree, gay, and Italy where we landed we left our mark and people wonder to this day. Then those grey cold waiting days in that ancient island fortress Hopes buoyed, hopes dashed, a long grey waiting, without tenderness Then at last our orders, back to the sky again, joyfully we flew like thistledown, into the wild blue Then we descended each man to his fate, you to the cold damp polder and mine to wait. Repose then in the grandeur of your deeds, repose untouched from life's regrets, Repose in that deep and eternal sleep, that I evoke in my sad thoughts

    P. Hyatt

    Extracted from the War Diaries of 4th Parachute Regiment, with grateful thanks to Steve McLaughlin

    One of the people involved in the development of the great Ebbw Vale works had a particular interest in it, since he was a son of the company's deputy Chairman. Nigel Beaumont-Thomas was born on 17 April 1916, the second son of Lionel Beaumont-Thomas. Nigel's elder brother, Richard Lionel Beaumont-Thomas, was one year older, but was to suffer from a chronic illness that caused him from the age of sixteen to spend his life in hospital. There were two more children: Paul, born three years after Nigel, and Pearl, who was five years younger. From Nigel's early boyhood the family home was Great Brampton House, at Madley in Herefordshire. During most of the 1920s the children's father was frequently at home, with local responsibilities as a Justice of the Peace and County Councillor. But from 1929, when he was elected Member of Parliament for Birmingham King's Norton div­ision, he was increasingly in London, an estrangement that was to lead to the breakdown of his marriage, divorce, and as a consequence his decision not to stand again for Par­liament in 1935.

    Though he suffered acutely from asthma, Nigel was adventurous. Once, with his brothers, he climbed on to the roof of Great Brampton when his parents were away for the day and played up there for some time, defying the appeals of an unfortunate Nanny who pleaded tearfully and in vain for them to come down.

    After preparatory school at Heath Mount, Hampstead, Nigel was sent at the age of 13 to Harrow, where he was in the Head Master's house (the Head Master throughout his schooldays was Cyril Norwood). He was a good scholar, winning his Form Prize twice and earning commendations for mathematics, science, languages and geography: he finish­ed in the Mathematical Sixth. He was an enthusiastic rather than a skilled sportsman, representing his house at rugby and at association football, boxing and gymnastics. His place in sports teams was not consistent, because of his asthma, which caused him to spend periods in the sanatorium. There were early signs of his independence of mind. He was not automatically submissive to the ideas and beliefs of his elders: he thought for himself and was not hesitant to articulate his thoughts. When Nigel was seventeen, a conventionally-minded cleric preached a sermon in Harrow School chapel in which he inveighed against the 'four curses of modern civilisation: speed, mass production, materialism and nationalism'. In an essay, Nigel took up the challenge. He already enjoyed fast driving:

    Speed is not so harrowing as may generally be supposed. The effects on the nervous system in the average man is negligible ... I can often recollect times when, having made a particularly swift and speedy journey, I have felt slightly out of sympathy with my surroundings (although I may have known the place well). After a day or two my brain has freed itself of the atmosphere of the place. Have people time to stop and think? Surely the answer is 'yes'. Quick transport and speed in operations shortens the time spent on routine matters, and man has more leisure in which to ponder (but then he must estrange himself from the rush of others). The world's workers, who lead a com­paratively uninteresting life, want to make their life as full as possible, and do not want to have to spend much time in travelling and at the office.
    'Mass production was a curse because goods lost their individuality and became stereotyped: all scope for individual expression was eliminated.' But does one require individuality or artistic expression in a sauce­pan? The great majority of mass-produced goods are of this character, and therefore they are better from all points of view. Any loss of individuality in goods is easily compensated for by the tremendous reduction in labour, and subsequently cheapening of articles. In fact, the standard of living has been raised by mass-production. The objection to mass-production is really a sentimental one that has been handed down for gen­erations. It must have required much persuasion before the ancient Britons changed from their coracles to the Viking ships. Similarly some still maintain today that motored ships should be abolished and that we should return to 'The Great Days of Sail'.

    At this point the cynical reader might comment that many well-to-do seventeen-year-olds might share that thrill of speed; and that the grandson and great-grandson of tinplate and steel barons would naturally use the saucepan as an illustration of benevolent mass-production (though there can be little doubt that the irony would have escaped Nigel at that time). However, it is illuminating to note that at seventeen he was well aware of 'the world's workers', even if he visualised them as office workers rather than tinplaters or steelmen. Having demolished the clerical arguments about the curse of speed and mass-production, however, Nigel was prepared to admit his ignorance in other matters:

    I know nothing about materialism worth writing.

    On nationalism, his views like those of so many of his generation (including those who, the previous year, had voted at the Oxford Union against defending King and Country) was pacific:

    There is no doubt that nationalism is a curse ... [In] considerations of war and other similar matters [man] must place the importance of the world before that of his unit (or individual) country. Patriotism at the sacrifice of the world as a whole is a false principle, and when people in general begin to realise this it will be the first step to 'the Parliament of man, the Federation of the World...'

    Nigel's passion for argument led his father into writing him a letter suggesting that he was becoming opinionated. Typically, Nigel wrote back, in a tone implying that he was not immune from some elements of that self-righteousness that afflicts many adolescents:

    I should be pleased if you could give me your reasons when you say I am intolerant. I ask for these, not as a challenge to the validity of your statement, but because I know I shall not give much consideration to the assertion unless I am logically convinced thereon. This is because, although I have respect for your statement, I have unfortunately been educated in the modern mathematical way.
    If by your statement you mean that in the expression of my opinions I do not sufficiently consider the feelings of others, then I am quite prepared to earnestly think about the matter. But this is not the definition of intolerance.
    I often express opinions that are not my own in order that their logic may be challenged, and in order that I may hear other peoples reasons for their own conclusions. I am quite prepared to admit that I express my opinion perhaps more than other people; I find that a large majority of people do not express their opinions because (a) they haven't got one, or (b) they don't want one even if they haven't got one, or (c) they have stood by a certain opinion for years, and are frightened to submit it to trial lest it should be defeated and their dignity of council [counsel?] destroyed, or (d) their actions do not reflect their real opinion because they have not the guts to live up to it.

    Fortunately Nigel had an innate politeness, and the sense to end his argument with his father:

    I am sorry to write at length, but all these matters are of concern to me, and I am glad when you criticise. You are always kind in helping me, and I very much respect what you say.

    By this time it was assumed that Nigel would join the family firm in some capacity after coming down from Cambridge. In the summer of 1934 he spent some time in a Richard Thomas foundry, lodging with Mrs Eveline at Gilwern.

    In the summer of 1935 he drove with a friend from the Cambridge engineering faculty, lan Debenham of Caius College, to the south of France. They went in Debenham's car, sleeping in tents on the way, and finishing up in Antibes where they stayed on the yacht of an American family, the Hoes. Nigel had become friendly with the Hoe daughters. From this time on, though his breathing problems recurred from time to time, Nigel became particularly active in outdoor pursuits. He particularly loved climbing, although he had more than his share of accidents and indeed tragedies. Once climbing on Snowdon he failed to hitch himself prop­erly, fell, and broke his shoulder as he hit the ground. In December 1936, climbing in Norway with six companions, he was too far away to help when one of the party, stooping to pick up his sun glasses, fell over a precipice and dis­appeared.

    While working in Germany, Nigel went climbing on the Matterhorn, was overtaken by bad weather and obliged to spend a night on the mountain during which he almost froze to death. But as always making the most of every experience he took a series of magnificent photographs of the next morning's sunrise.

    By this time, continuing his practice of independent thought, Nigel had become attracted to the ideas of Ouspen-sky. He had also begun to think seriously about his con­tribution to Richard Thomas & Co. He had learnt about the Peckham Health Centre, a pioneering centre in South London concerned with community medicine, and as much involved with the prevention of disease as with its cure. He became convinced that the best thing he could do for the workers of Richard Thomas & Co, once he was in a position of authority, was to introduce such comprehensive health protection to the company.
    The scheme that led to the Peckham Health Centre was started in South London in 1926 by Dr G Scott Williamson and Dr Innes Pearse. Their argument was that the animal world demonstrated that infection only became rife when living conditions were bad enough to make the animals susceptible. Therefore if the standard of general health and hygiene among human beings could be raised, there would be less sickness. This implied that groups of people must submit to periodic monitoring so that they could be encour­aged to live healthily. A 'Family Club' was therefore started in the Peckham district, and by 1929 some 112 families (about 400 individuals) had joined the scheme and were coming forward to have periodic health checks.

    In 1935 the Peckham Health Centre was opened to serve 2000 families. In the four years that followed, before the Centre's operations were curtailed at the outbreak of the war, research showed that of those attending the Centre, 32 per cent had some form of health disorder; 59 per cent had a health disorder but managed to compensate for it and so appear to be 'well'; and those in whom neither disease, disorder nor disability were detected - the 'healthy' - was 9 per cent.

    An interim report on the work of the Pioneer Health Centre, Biologists in Search of Material, was published in 1938 (Faber). Nigel read the reviews of the book and was impressed, realising the potential of such a scheme for South Cymru with its high incidence of industrial diseases. He par­ticularly marked in the margins of a report in The Times two ideas:

    The conception of disease as a failure to react and so of health as complete reaction, which has informed much medical thinking in these last years, differs from [the statements of this book] only in respect of the use of words ... Environment, in short, exerts an effect which, if it is not met fully by body and mind together, gives rise to symptoms of distress ... This is the approach to health by the gates of health as opposed to the gates of disease. The mortuary, so long dominant in medical thinking, is side-tracked in favour of life in action. And immediately it is obvious that life in all its activities is indivisible.

    In late October 1938 Nigel set off for America, sailing from Liverpool and taking his car. This was an Atalanta, a custom-built British sports car (built in Staines) of which he was immensely proud, having taken a close personal interest in its engineering and construction, and having himself pro­vided (as a trained engineer) much of its technical speci­fication. He had been undecided whether to order an Atal­anta or an autogyro; they would have cost much the same, and he finally decided on the car. He would have flown the autogyro himself, for he had qualified as a pilot during his Cambridge years. He was indeed greatly drawn towards a flying career, and as war neared he wondered whether he should join the Royal Air Force as a 'death or glory boy', or the army as an engineer. His training and family background finally clinched the decision in favour of engineering. This was the sort of dilemma that he was able to put on one side during his American trip. He began with a few days in New York, where his friend lan Debenham also passed through on his way to the Middle West. 'The people are hospitable and the ice-cream is stupendous ... I went to the hottest swing club in the world last night and am now deaf!' he wrote home to his sister. Then he flew across the continent to take in Los Angeles and San Francisco before travelling north to Seattle for a short skiing holiday with friends. Then he began his return trip east, with a most important stop-off at Detroit to visit the great American steelworks. He had travelled some 8000 miles around the States and was exhilarated by the experience.

    By January 1939, and the approach of his 23rd birthday, Nigel had decided that he would join the company. He found the 'landed gentry' life of his father's Herefordshire estate tedious; he had put out soundings to see whether he could get a regular army commission, but found that it would probably be ten years in the peacetime Army before he could expect to be promoted to Captain. (In the event, ironically, he was to be promoted Major within three years.) So he began seriously to think about getting a job in Ebbw Vale. 'I will be very small fry for at least ten years,' he wrote to his sister Pearl, 'after which I may be able to do something, not necessarily as an engineer, but for the poor devils who are born into the narrow environment that the industrial and mechanical revolution has placed around them ...'

    If he found the formal routines of county society irritating, Nigel was profoundly moved by the countryside, and could well describe his feelings and, indeed, link them to the scientific world that fascinated him.

    Lovely sunny day and hot like summer [this was Feb­ruary 1939]. I don't think I have ever seen the country looking more beautiful: quiet browns, blues and greys, with the expectancy of Genesis, of spring ... The things of nature seen on any scale are intensely beautiful: electron, molecule, hydrocarbon, cells, tissue, leaves, branches, trees, woods, fields, landscapes and hills, sky and distance, earth and universe ... The smell of the firs in Brampton Wood took me in flashes: toiling up foothills in the Alps, picking primroses up Stonystreet in childhood; evanescent flashes that cannot be grasped. In the wood they have made an awful mess: all those places reeking with mystery and fairies have been des­ecrated in the interests of 'sport'. The monkey puzzle crater, the rhododendrons, the darkness and needles under the firs. All the fairies have gone. There may be new ones, but it will be many years before they can speak to me ... If ever I inherit this place I will make it a sanctuary, where pigeons can coo, and moorhens walk on the lawns, without someone in the humans' house reaching for a rifle. Of course the rest of the county will think it mad. Let them!

    Despite this deeply felt romantic streak he was equally fas­cinated by engineering. He persuaded his father to order from the United States a wind generator. It was a success, and was put to work charging car batteries and running a model railway. He proposed to ask the manufacturers whether the British rights were available. 'It is great fun sitting tight in the house with a gale outside and feeling it is not going to waste,' he wrote to an engineer friend in Norfolk, John Moore. To him also he described his experiments flying an auto­gyro (the pioneer of the helicopter):

    The chief snags are that they have no better take-off characteristics than an ordinary light plane, and also immediately after landing they still have lift in the rotors and if you are not careful a gust of wind might lift you over, and a new set of rotors costs £185 and if you so much as touch one blade on the ground it means having a new set ... A vertical sink landing is perfectly possible but nobody ever does it because it is apt to bend the undercart... Vertical descent about 11 ft per second, comparing with an ordinary parachute of about 18 ft sec.

    Nigel worked at Ebbw Vale during the summer of 1939. He produced a series of reports for the management on the causes of delays in production. If the nature of these reports suggests that in some way the local management was being asked to invent a job for 'the boss's son', the result may have pleasantly surprised them. One of the surviving reports (numbered 3) is strong on data, full of accurately observed detail assessed by the trained eye of an engineer, and set down without any flavour of criticism. Dated 1 July 1939, the report indicates that at least two of Nigel's ideas put forward in previous reports had already been adopted:

    I suggested that the scales on the weighing output tables of the Hot and Cold Mill Coil Cut-up Flying Shear Lines be moved to the side to enable the Ross Carriers to remove sheets from these lines. This is being done now at the Cold Mill Flying Shear Line and it is expected that it will also be done in the Hot Mill.

    And again:

    Following the recommendations of my first two reports that one more Ross Carrier be bought for use in the Hot Mill Sheet Section, a requisition (No.H.C.146) for this was sent in by the Sheet Pro­duction Department on 22nd June. He recorded that in the Hot Mill between 16 per cent and 21 per cent of delay time was due to scrap metal jamming in the rotary shear scrap feed boxes, and analysed why.
    This is partly due to the shortage of good side trimming and scrap shear knives (orders for more knives are taking care of this matter), and occasionally due to faulty shape and positions of the scrap boxes; but these two causes only account for about 20% of the trouble. The trouble is mainly due to the width of scrap to be side trimmed from the coil becoming at times too small: the width of the strip of scrap side trimmed off the coil should in no case be less than \ inch for if at any time it falls below this value then it is very liable to twist and cobble in the scrap boxes. It is up to the Production Department to see that the coils are hot rolled to a width which allows a sufficient margin for satisfactory side trimming, if they wish the delays due to cobbles in the scrap boxes to be minimised.

    A professional diplomat could scarcely write a sensitive despatch more delicately. If the shop floor had convinced Nigel that they were being asked to work to tolerances that were at times much too fine (no doubt they put it more bluntly), then he expressed their view clearly, on a basis of technical knowledge and an informed appreciation of the problem: and he managed to put it on paper in a form of words that could not offend anybody. On the other hand, when he looked at the Cold Mill, while noting the same problem with side trimming knives, he added:

    There does not seem to be any engineering man on the plant who has had actual experience of the satisfactory operation of scrap boxes on this type of machine.

    Finally, Nigel made a study of the chock and bearing pos­itions for all mills in the plant, looking particularly at the spares position; following a meeting of all departmental heads and the works manager, requisitions were put in to cover the shortages he found. It was a most professional piece of'trouble-shooting', and very satisfying for his father who as Deputy Chairman of Richard Thomas & Co was ambitious for his son to do well in the firm. Nigel was living in South Cymru at this time; the rather dramatic sports cars of his later teens (including an MG Midget which he supercharged) had been replaced by a more modest Ford Eight. Like most of his contemporaries, he was well aware that war might come, despite the temporary peace achieved by Neville Chamberlain in his dealings with Hitler the previous summer. Nigel Beaumont-Thomas was on the Reserve of Officers of the Royal Monmouthshire Engineers.

    On the outbreak of war in 1939 he was immediately called up, and drafted in November 1939 to India, as an officer in King George V's Bengal Sappers and Miners. There he learnt Hindustani, 'essential in dealing with Indian troops'. A year later he was in North Africa, with a diversion to the Italian Campaign in Abyssynia and Ethiopia where he was wounded, and spent some time in hospital. Then it was back to the North African desert, and the long tussle to and fro along the Mediterranean coast under Wavell, Auchinleck and Montgomery, against Rommell. It was during that weary and often frustrating campaign that he was awarded the Military Cross.

    The citation recorded that he was commanding two par­ties of engineers who were being held in readiness to clear obstacles in the path of a tank advance through the Halfaya Pass (known to all British soldiers as 'Hellfire'). Some of the tanks penetrated a minefield and, coming under heavy bombardment, stopped. Nigel was ordered forward to rec­onnoitre.

    He reached the tanks which were under heavy fire from machine guns and anti-tank guns at close range. He made his way under heavy fire to the subaltern commanding the tanks, found out the situation from him and then coolly and deliberately and still under fire examined the minefield, bringing back valuable information as to its layout. Later he returned to the tanks with the Brigade Commander's orders. Any movement at once attracted heavy fire. He made his way again to the tank commander's tank and spoke to him. The latter was killed while Lieut. Thomas was still there. He then went on according to orders and gave instructions to the carriers of the infantry battalion which had been supporting the tanks. During the 16th and 17th of June [1941] Lieut. Thomas remained in the area removing mines and marking the minefield still under fire. This officer's work was of the greatest value. His cool courage and determination to carry out his task at whatever cost was exemplary.

    Just one year later, on 20 June 1942, promoted to Major, Nigel was captured at the fall of Tobruk. In the first con­fusion he managed to escape by coolly marching past the German guard with a friend, coat collars turned up in Ger­man fashion and prattling away in his fluent and colloquial German, while other prisoners created a diversion in the camp. The two of them lived in a cave for some days but were then discovered and recaptured. When it became clear that they were to be flown to a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy, Nigel devised a plan to take over the aircraft in mid-flight: he, a qualified and experienced pilot, would then fly it back to the Allied lines in North Africa. Several fellow-prisoners agreed to participate, but the scheme misfired when they were put on to different planes, and the new passengers refused to go along with the plan. So Nigel found himself incarcerated in Italian prisoner-of-war camps, first in the south and later, for most of 1943, in the north. Major Philip Tower, who with Andy Howard was the closest to him in the Italian prisoner-of-war camp, remembers him as 'far the most impressive person I've ever met'. He was infinitely patient, unless made angry: the archetype of the 'dis­passionate gentleman'. Well-built, physically strong and agile, he was remarkable for the depth of his thought. If a friend made some apparently unsupported assertion, he would question the statement, and politely but insistently probe until it had been sustained with evidence, or qualified by doubts. He read a great deal, and involved his friends in debates about philosophy and metaphysics, often saying that in their circumstances as prisoners, they were rich in nothing else but time.

    'He was always most interested in things that were going to happen - in taking the long view,' says Philip Tower. While in the camp he worked away in his mind at questions of philosophical and religious truth, with a curiosity and fascination that had led him before the war to study the works and teaching of Ouspensky, and had developed fur­ther and perhaps matured in India. He saw clearly the philo­sophical and political conflicts that were present in world development. In some notes he put on paper in 1943 appears the following:

    In the future; continental federations (giving bigger and better wars between federations!) and finally world peace from world federation. But those bigger groups form social systems which can only survive with more and more planning, and without more intense planning bigger groups will not even be able to come into existence. This planning means objectivising destinies for groups: 'democracy' is the last surviving effort to cling to destiny directing by summating individual wishes and emotions, i.e. muddling through with the integrated mood or emotion of the moment. Long term planning is necessary because
    a) science has altered the values of time and space so that
    1 Communities are closer knit within themselves and are therefore more susceptible to infectious internal influences;
    2 Communities are closer to each other and inter­action is fiercer and more likely;
    3 Geographical factors giving military strategic immunity have been reduced.
    b) Science has increased the destructive power, range and speed of weapons.
    c) War has become total owing to the increased importance of science and machine-made weapons. Long term planning can only be done by the highest intelligences of the community. Therefore govern­ment has to be directed by an intellectual group, preferably an oligarchy and not an autocracy. Plan­ning means an object. An object means a decision on this Destiny of Man.

    The idea of achieving world peace by a comprehensive grouping of nations was, of course, widely held at this time: the concept of the 'United Nations' as a forum for such supranational discussions was coined in 1942. But Nigel Beaumont-Thomas was acutely aware of the tension between individual freedon and corporate action. Later, in a discussion of religions, he came back to this theme:

    We cannot have world peace without global planning. We cannot have global planning without controlling what communities, and in the end individuals, do. But we cannot have individual 'freedom' without abol­ition of war, i.e. world peace.
    Therefore is individual 'freedom' impossible of attain­ment?
    No, because the freedom we want is not freedom in what we do but how we do it. No other kind of freedom is
    1 materialistically possible,
    2 philosophically defensible.

    He spoke seldom about his personal future with the family company. Certainly he gave the impression that while he was interested in the business and money-making aspects of such a future, he was no less concerned about the humani­tarian possibilities in being in a position of responsibility and control in such an enterprise. He did talk to his friends about the Peckham Health Centre experiment. It was the view of his friends that he was far more interested in what he could do for his fellow men. He acknowledged that he was for­tunate in his inheritance, which had provided him with a solid financial base and might well give him the opportunity to put his ideas into practice.

    In September 1943 the Allied forces under the command of the then General Dwight Eisenhower invaded Italy, soon afterwards accomplishing a second landing at Salerno. The prisoners in the camp in Northern Italy gathered together to listen to a radio announcement by Eisenhower. Most of the prisoners were senior officers and no longer young; they had a strong sense of the proprieties (and younger officers who stripped to the waist on one sunny afternoon were reprimanded for appearing improperly dressed). The con­ventional wisdom of the older prisoners was that Italy was collapsing (the Italian Government surrendered uncon­ditionally in early September) and while the German troops in Italy continued to resist bitterly, it seemed inevitable that the Allied armies would soon be victorious. The possibility that the prisoners might be transferred to Germany to see out the war inside Hitler's Reich, and perhaps become the victims of a final purge, did not appeal to Nigel. With his friend Philip Tower he determined to escape. Some of the older officers considered this a most ungentlemanly breach of prisoner-of-war conventions.

    Nigel Thomas and Philip Tower walked out of the camp (by trampling down the wire at the perimeter fence) and made for the mountains. It was a hard journey of some 600 miles. They kept as far as possible to the high mountain ranges. As they approached the war zone north of Naples the November nights became bitterly cold. They took to sleeping by day and walking at night. Eventually on 15 November they passed through the German lines and arrived at an Allied unit. Unfortunately on the last leg of the journey Philip Tower was wounded, and on their arrival he was immediately flown for treatment to hospital in Algeria. Nigel spent a few frustrating days waiting for a ship in the south-eastern port of Bari, and was appalled by its urban squalor. He noted:

    Walking the streets of Bari. Disgusted by the Italian people there. What an apologia for human beings; what a contrast to the contadini. Fault - city environ­ment. All emotional satisfaction is ersatz, second hand; books, cinema, harlots: man, designed for first hand adventure, has lost the opportunity. He also has not the education to a level to enable him to re-find personal adventure and wonder in his drab environment - only the children can still find this, and they do. Solution - change the environment (education included in environment); but for the masses this means planning.

    Then, as soon as he could obtain a berth, Nigel sailed for home. He arrived back in the United Kingdom in January 1944 (to his regret, too late to be present at Philip Tower's wedding in mid-December) and went to recuperate at his mother's house in Norfolk where his friend Thyrza Pelling (formerly Thyrza Hoe) joined him. One of his first and most urgent tasks was to travel up to the War Office. He had devised an engineering improvement to the British tanks that he knew would save numbers of lives, and he was determined to take it to the top and get it introduced. His reception at the War Office was not warm. He was told that as a mere Major any proposals he might have for the improvement of equipment should be submitted' through the proper hierarchical channels of his regiment. It was further pointed out to him that he was improperly dressed, since he was not carrying the swagger-stick that was obliga­tory for officers in service dress. The importance of carrying a swagger-stick became for him a symbol of the Blimpishness of so much of the British Army.

    During the spring and early summer of 1944 the British Isles became a fortress, filled with military hardware and men preparing for the liberation of occupied Europe. Soldiers like Nigel, returning from other battlefronts, were more than frustrated to discover that there seemed to be a sugges­tion that the 'real war' was about to begin, and that the campaigns they had fought bloodily elsewhere in the world were only a prelude to the final battles now in prospect. Once he had finished his convalescent leave and returned to military duties, Nigel found himself posted to various re­training courses. While he did not undervalue the standards of training - 'I am very impressed with the standard and methods of training in this country' - he was frustrated, having fought his way across North Africa, to be put back on a parade ground being drilled, in a squad of newly-commissioned young officers, by a sergeant-major. He was even more irritated at his second posting, to another training unit at Preston where 'everything depended on carrying gloves and a swagger stick'. He noticed that most of the staff officers seemed to have been with the units throughout the war, and to be determined to remain with their wives and families rather than risking the hazards of action for which they were preparing their trainees. It was not an attitude he shared. He wrote to a Norfolk friend and fellow-engineer, John Moore:

    I found out that getting a job even in the army is still on the 'old boy' system. So by contacts I got an interview ... to CRE [Commander, Royal Engineers] of an Airborne Div.[Division]. Was accepted gladly ... Very hot show: all jeeps, radio, etc. and highest priority on equipment, live keen young personnel and little red tape. So here I am at the moment becoming a parachuting engineer!

    John Moore had written to him asking about his post-war plans, and on these Nigel responded:

    I find myself so busy with war affairs I find it difficult to think much of post war, as I was able in prison and on leave. My mind for post war runs a lot along lines of social service improvement rather than improve­ment of the machine world, though I know the latter is v.necessary for England to keep her head above water materially. I feel few of us are old enough to handle the machine filled world we have inherited. I am par­ticularly interested in things after the line of the 'Peck-ham Experiment' which I feel go nearer than most to the root of our troubles...

    A week after that letter was written, Allied forces landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944: the 'second front' was launched in Europe. By the autumn, and as the cold winter began to draw in, the German armies were still holding the British and American troops in northern Europe. It was decided to attempt a daring advance in Holland by parachuting airborne troops into Eindhoven and Arnhem in an effort to encircle a considerable enemy force. Tragically, the force had been strengthened. The First Airborne Divison went in on 17 September, and Nigel Thomas with them as a 'parachuting engineer'. All too soon the troops at Arnhem found them­selves encircled by a numerous and heavily equipped enemy.

    In the third day of fighting, on 20 September 1944, Nigel Nigel Thomas was severely wounded in the leg. No medical attention was available and as he could not be moved in the increasingly bitter fighting, he died from loss of blood. He was 28 years old. He lies buried, with some hundreds of his comrades who were killed before the remainder of the First Airborne Division could make their way out of the trap five days later, in the Airborne Forces military cemetery at Arnhem. The village of Oosterbeek was almost totally destroyed during the fighting. When in 1950 the village had been restored, a communion table and font were presented to the village church by the First Airborne Division and the First Polish Independent Parachute Group in com­memoration of their action.

    In The Times of 6 October 1944 appears a photograph of a group of young women, posing in slacks, battledress blouses and forage caps in front of the van they were oper­ating as a mobile canteen for the Fourteenth Army in Burma. They were known as the WASBEES (Women's Auxiliary Services, Burma) and in the back row of the group the tallest girl is Pearl Beaumont-Thomas, daughter of Lionel Beaumont-Thomas.

    On the facing page of the same issue of The Times, by a poignant coincidence, appears an obituary of her brother, killed at Arnhem a fortnight earlier. It reads, in part:

    His personality was an inspiration to all who knew and loved him. Everything that he undertook was done with thoroughness and zest, and the amount of knowl­edge and achievement he packed into his short life was astounding. He was an expert mountaineer and photographer, had travelled extensively and read widely, and could talk with authority and insight upon very many subjects. His gift of description, his appreci­ation of beauty, and his great sense of humour seemed to bring everything to life as he told it. But, in spite of his many interests in the things of this world and his intense capacity for friendship, his spirit ever lived on the heights. Now he has reached the goal of all his striving, but his gay, vivid, and gallant personality lives on in the hearts of those who loved him and will always cherish his memory.

    The tribute, endorsed by all who knew him, was written by his mother.

    Men of Steel, The History of Richard Thomas and his Family, David Wainwright, Quiller Press, 1986

    ?I know nothing about materialism worth writing? N.B-T. 1933

    Nigel Beaumont-Thomas born 17 April 1916 at Hyde Park Mansions, London, son of Lionel Beaumont-Thomas and Pauline Grace Marriott . Nigel attended prep school at Heath Mount, Hampstead, London, at the age of thirteen enrolled at Harrow and thereafter read Engineering at Cambridge.

    Nigel throughout his life indulged in many sporting activities, the more notable considering his asthma problem was mountaineering. Mountain climbing produced highs and lows for Nigel. When climbing Snowdon, he failed to hitch himself properly and fell and broke his shoulder. Climbing in Norway during 1936 with six companions, one of the party, attempting to retrieve a pair of sunglasses, fell over a precipice and disappeared. While employed in Germany, Nigel went climbing on the Matterhorn, was overtaken by bad weather, spent the night on the mountain during which he almost froze to death, to rise the following morning and photograph a magnificent sunrise.

    After a much traveled time spent in Europe and the Americas, Nigel decided to join Richard Thomas and Co. during 1939. His engineering background was put to good use at Ebbw Vale, where he produced and implemented improvements to production within the Hot and Cold Mills.
    Nigel lived in South Cymru during his employment at Richard Thomas and Co Ltd, and was on the Reserve of Officers of the Royal Monmouth Engineers . With the outbreak of war in1939 he was called up and drafted in November 1939 to India, as an Officer in King George V?s Bengal Sappers and Miners , his linguistics improving with his master of Hindustani.

    A year later he was in North Africa, with a diversion to the Italian Campaign in Abyssinia and Ethiopia where he was wounded and spent some time in hospital. Then it was back to the desert of North Africa engaged in actions along the Mediterranean Coast, under Wavell, Auchinleck and Montgomery against respected foe Field Marshall Rommel. It was during this campaign Nigel was awarded the Military Cross.

    The citation recorded that he was commanding two parties of engineers who were being held in readiness to clear obstacles in the path of a tank advance through the Halfaya Pass (known by all British troops as hellfire). A few tanks had penetrated a minefield, were stationery and under shellfire. Nigel was ordered forward to reconnoiter.

    ?He reached the tanks which where under heavy fire from machine guns and anti tank guns at close range. He made his way under heavy fire to the subaltern commanding the tanks, found out the situation from him and then coolly and deliberately still under fire examined the minefield, bringing back valuable information as to its layout. Later he returned to the tanks with the Brigade Commanders orders. Any movement at once attracted heavy fire. He made his way again to the Brigade Commanders tank and spoke to him. The latter was killed while Lieutenant Beaumont-Thomas was still there. He went on according to orders and gave instructions to the carriers of the infantry battalion which had been supporting the tanks. During the 16th and 17th June (1941) Lieutenant Beaumont-Thomas remained in the area removing mines and marking the minefield still under fire. This officers work was of the greatest value. His cool courage and determination to carry out his task at whatever cost was exemplary?.

    A year later, promoted to Major, Nigel was captured at the fall of Tobruk. In the first confusion he managed to escape by coolly marching past the German guard with a friend, prattling away in fluent German. He was re-captured some days later, then flown to Italy to be incarcerated in Italian prisoner-of-war camps, firstly in the South and later in the North were he stayed for most of 1943.
    September 1943 detainees of the prison camp were notified of General Dwight Eisenhower?s invasion of Italy, Nigel and friend Philip Tower determined to escape trampled down the perimeter wire fence. A 600 mile journey lay ahead through the high mountain ranges of Northern Italy, to reach Allied Forces on 15 November 1943. Philip Tower was wounded on the last leg of the journey, on reaching Allied Forces was flown to Algeria for hospital treatment. Nigel spent a few days at the south eastern port of Bari before embarking aboard a ship bound for England. Amusingly Philip Tower irrespective of injuries arrived home and married prior to Nigel?s arrival on January 1944.

    Once he finished convalescing, Nigel returned to Active service consisting of re-training courses, parade ground bashing and the correct use of a swagger stick, which was not his ?cup of tea old boy?. Using connections he applied for a posting to Commander, Royal Engineers, Airborne Division, his request was accepted and he joined the 1st Airborne Division, 4th Parachute Squadron-Royal Engineers on 28th May 1944, his squadron was based at Uppingham.

    On 22 June 1940 Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for the formation of a corps of at least five thousand parachute troops, suitably organized and equipped. A parachute training school was formed at Ringway Manchester and No 2 Commando chosen for training in parachute duties. As the scope of training increased, the title of No 2 Commando was first changed to 11 Special Air Service Battalion and then to 1 Parachute Battalion and subsequently 1, 2 and 3 Parachute Battalions of 1 Parachute Brigade which had been formed under the command of Brigadier RN Gale, OBE MC in the previous month. In October 1941 Major General FM Browning DSO was ordered to form an Airborne Division. Under his guidance the Parachute Regiment was formally established as a regiment on 1 August 1942. By the end of the war it comprised 18 Battalions and a number of independent pathfinder units. Not all the Battalions were raised at home in the UK, three were formed in India and two in Egypt.
    A briefing dated 13 September 1944 concerning Operation Market Garden took place, the outcome being 1st Airborne, with 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade would seize and hold the bridges at Arnham.

    September 18 the squadron took off from Spanhoe Airfield aboard 9 C47?s (Dakotas) and 4 Horas from Keeval Airfield at 1210 hrs. After taking off the aircraft circled the airfield once to formate and then set off . The flight was largely uneventful. The men in 1 Troop in the C-47 with Captain Beaumont-Thomas recalled that he gave a running commentary in a calm and reassuring manner as he stood in the door looking at the ground below, more notably when an adjacent aircraft was shot down, he stood in an open doorway shouting ?steady there chaps, stand ready?. He is remembered with great pride for his coolness, efficiency and confidence as if it were a regular occurrence for him. Parachute elements were dropped 1420 hrs on drop zone Y West of Arnham. Two other men aboard the flight were a BBC reporter and his phantom carrying large packs with huge antennae. On landing C.O. Major Aeneas Perkins received arm injuries, Captain Beaumont-Thomas was ordered to take command and Captain Smith became 2 I/C.

    September 19th. The majority of the squadrons containers were lost during the drop, Capt. Thomas ordered the men to try to find them, much was lost to opposing forces. 1900 hrs, Capt J.G Smith 1 Troop joined ½ 3 Troop, all under command of Capt N. Beaumont-Thomas in support of 21 Indian Parachute Company. Captain Beaumont-Thomas seemed to be the only one who knew what was happening and soon got everything organized.
    Nigel was hit during a mortar attack at about 1000 hrs on September 20th 1944 and badly wounded, he was taken to Ommershof House for treatment, Sapper Leonard administered medical treatment but Nigel died from his injuries.

    September 22 Ommershof, Capt N Beaumont-Thomas RE, Lt Eden RE & 4 O R?s buried at Ommershof 69379. In total 155 men went in, 64 were evacuated, 19 died with 72 missing. A more detailed account of the battle of Oosterbeek may be found in the war diaries of 4th Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers and The Battle of Arnhem Archive .

    In the London Times of 6th October 1944, an obituary in tribute written by his mother Pauline Grace Marriott reads in part :
    ?His personality was an inspiration to all who new and loved him. Everything that he undertook was done with thoroughness and zest, and the amount of knowledge and achievement he packed into his short life was astounding. He was an expert mountaineer and photographer, had traveled extensively and read widely, and could talk with authority and insight upon very many subjects. His gift of description, his appreciation of beauty, and his great sense of humour seemed to bring everything to life as he told it. But in spite of his many interests in the things of this world and his intense capacity for friendship, his spirit ever lived on the heights. Now he has reached his goal of all his striving, but his gay, vivid, and gallant personality lives on in the hearts of those who loved him and will always cherish the memory?.
    1 2 3 4 5
  • Change Date: 19 Mar 2014 at 00:00:00

    Father: Lionel Beaumont-Thomas M.P., M.C., of Brampton House b: 1 Aug 1893 in Moorlands, Lydney, Gloucestershire, England
    Mother: Pauline Grace Marriott b: 1892 in Fitz, New Zealand c: in Paddington, London

    1. Title: Turner-Thomas Genealogy
      Author: Arthur Edwyn Turner-Thomas
      Publication: Turner-Thomas Genealogy.ged
    2. Title: Brewis document
      Author: Pearl Brewis
      Publication: Extracted from lineage document produced by Pearl brewis, daughter of Lionel Beaumont-Thomas
    3. Title: Men of Steel, The History of Richard Thomas and his Family
      Author: David Wainwright
      Publication: Quiller Press, 1986
    4. Title: Will of Nigel Beaumont-Thomas
      Author: Nigel Beaumont-Thomas
      Publication: Probate granted at Llandudno 25th May 1945
    5. Title: Will of Nora Constance Beaumont-Thomas
      Author: Nora Constance Beaumont-Thomas
      Publication: Proved at Lewes District Probate Registry, 12 June 1944
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