Basil L. B. Thomas
Lieutenant, Royal Welsh Fusiliers and attached to the 27th Company Machine Gun Corps, 9th (Scottish) Division
Aged 12, Class II Middle: 'An excellent boy in every respect. Very sound. Prizes for English and French'
Basil Llewelyn Boyd Thomas was born 18 November 1895 in Wigan, the only son of William John Thomas. He arrived at Alleyn’s on 16 September 1907 from Rathgar in Dublin. He was a pupil at Alleyn’s in forms II and III, living at Ethelburga, Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, and left in July 1909. Thereafter he attended Cheltenham College from September 1909 until December 1913, where he appears on the 1911 census living in a senior boys boarding house, having been born in Wigan.
At Cheltenham College Basil entered the Classical Department and joined Leconfield House. He was undecided about his destined profession but he had taken additional Latin classes at Alleyn’s. His new masters felt he might be suited to the Civil Service once he had left school. Basil's obituary in the Gloucestershire Echo 21 April 1917 reveals that he first matriculated from London University and eventually went to work for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.
Basil was particularly known for his prowess at Rowing. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 28 April 1917 reported that Basil had been in the College Four at Cheltenham in 1913 and had rowed bow in three four-oared matches. He was a member of the Anglian Boat Club at Chiswick and was very capable in eight-oared racing. He had been in many winning matches with the Anglian Club and was considered to be a remarkably successful oarsman.
He joined the war effort as part of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and served as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Regiment after being granted a commission. After receiving his officer training, he was sent for service overseas on the Western Front and was attached to the regiment’s Machine Gun Section. After clearly displaying his courage and leadership at the front, he was promoted to Lieutenant in time for the launch of the British Arras Offensive in April 1917. It was hoped that this attack would provide the Allies with a breakthrough to win the war. The Company War Diary held at the National Archives [WO 95/1773/3 records the weather that day as being cold and wet with heavy snow. Unfortunately, Basil was killed in action on the first day of the operation in April 9th 1917. He is buried Roclincourt Valley Cemetery, grave number IV.H.3.
With thanks to Cheltenham College, and Laurence Marsh of Herne Hill for the information they have provided. The photograph is provided courtesy of Cheltenham College Archive.