Thursday, 15 April 2021

W.G. Thomas, MC (1883 - 1960) - British WW1 soldier poet

Jim Maxwell of Harlech Old Library contacted me recently, via Professor Tim Kendall of Exeter University, asking if I had “further information about the WW1 poet W.G. Thomas.   The Library have acquired “Amateur Soldiers”, a WW1 collection by W.G. Thomas, published by Old Royalty Book Publishers, John Street, Adelphi, London in 1928 - in which year the publishers appear to have gone out of business.

The book was presented to Coleg Harlech in 1961 by Professor Stanton Whitfield and he seems to have noted the dates 1883-1960 under the author’s name.”

I put my thinking cap on.  Thomas is quite a common surname – even for WW1 poets as there are nine poets with that surname listed in Catherine W. Reilly’s “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography”, in which C.W. Thomas and his collection are listed on page 312.  As Professor Stanton Whitfield was from Walsall, it occured to me that he might have known W.G. Thomas, so I began to research and, in the 1939 Census, we find a W.G. Thomas and family living in Lichfield Street, Walsall, Walsall C.B., Staffordshire, England:

William G. Thomas 11 Mar 1883 Male Secondary Schoolmaster Married

Rita Thomas 01 Feb 1904 Female Unpaid Domestic Duties Married

John G P Thomas 11 Apr 1929 Male At School Single  

I then found that a William G. Thomas married a Rita Prentice in Walsall in June 1927 and thought this couldpossibly be the right man, so I sent my findings to Jim.

Jim picked up on that and found a “W G Thomas who taught at Queen Mary School, Walsall.  That was also the school that Professor Stanton Whitfield attended.    W G is listed as receiving the MC during the war when attached to the Machine Gun Corps .He seems to have had another book of poems entitled ‘Pass of the Acorn Cups’. “

If anyone can help with further information and a photograph of W.G. Thomas, please get in touch via lucywarpoems@gmail.com

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD

Catherine W. Reilly. “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Boar%27s_Head

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bazentin_Ridge

Photo kindly sent to me by Jim Maxwell.

Inside title page of the collection "Amateur Soldiers" 
by W.G. Thomas