A Policeman's Lot
Private Robert Rowland Thomas Machine Gun Corps & Royal Military Police
The Man Robert Rowland Thomas was born on 7th February 1898 in Putney, London. Son of Robert Rowland senior, a Bus Driver and Rosina Christina and had one sister, Lilian Maud Mary born in 1904. By the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 69 Gardner’s Lane in Putney, and on 20th April 1903 aged five Robert was admitted to St Mary’s School, Wandsworth to begin his education. By 1911 the family had moved to 57 Felsham Road, which was Gardner’s Lane, renamed by the local authority. It seems the family may have also lived at 19 Salvia Road and 2 Cardinal Place, Lacy Road and Robert’s occupation was given as a Porter. On 22nd July 1915 aged 17, during World War I, Robert lied about his date of birth, claiming he was 19½ and tweaked his name to Roland Thomas, in order to enlist into the 13th East Surrey Regiment as a Private with service number 13141. At the time of enlistment he was described as 5’.4” tall with a 32½” girth when fully expanded, weighing 8stone and 6lbs and a good physical development, his religion was Church of England and his address given was 2 Cardinal Place. The Army quickly discovered Thomas’ true age and he was discharged from the Army five months later on 21st December under Para 392 (vi) King’s Regulations - Having made a mis-statement as to age on enlistment (a) Soldier under 17 years of age at date of application for discharge or (b) Soldier between 17 and 18 years of age at date of application for discharge. As soon as he was 18, in February 1916, Robert enlisted again, this time into the Machine Gun Corps with service number 82357 as a Private. Following the Armistice on 11th November 1918, he remained in the Army with a new number 7809946, seeing service in India and then Iraq during the revolt against the British. For his service he was awarded the 1914-18 British War Medal, Victory Medal and General Service Medal with clasp ‘Iraq’.
Following demobilisation Robert lived at 41Festing Road in London and at Quill Lane, 2 Cardinal Place (the address given when enlisting too young) and during the third quarter of 1925 married Ethel May Victoria Biggins. The lived at 90 Chelverton Road, Putney, 50 Lower Richmond Road and later 38 Nowell Road in Barnes. Robert, following in his father’s footsteps became a bus driver working for London Transport. During the 1930s, Robert enlisted into the Territorial Army Royal Military Police as a Private, retaining the same service number. He was embodied during World War II and during the latter part of the conflict saw service in North West Europe being awarded the the France & Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45 and Efficiency Medal ‘Territorial’. Sadly Ethel died on 26th August 1951at West London Hospital, Hammersmith leaving £326 14s 8d to Robert. He re-married a year later during the fourth quarter of 1952 to Alice Louise Mowbray in Wandsworth and they continued living at 38 Nowell Road. Robert died on 6th December 1962, on the way to Putney Hospital having suffered a coronary occlusion by atheroma, his step son J A Ashman being listed as the informant. He left £463 5s to Alice.
The Story The medals awarded to Robert Rowland Thomas were acquired from The Medal Centre on 7th October 2015. They were of interest because of the slightly unusual combination of the General Service Medal with Iraq clasp followed by the World War II awards, lack of 1939-45 Star and Efficiency Medal, and the fact they came with a picture of Robert. Checks were completed on Ancestry.UK and following some confusion over Robert’s middle name Rowland, sometimes spelt Roland and cross referencing of addresses, it was possible to piece together a reasonable biography.
- 1914-18 British War Medal: 82357 PTE. R.R.THOMAS. M.G.C.
- Victory Medal: 82357 PTE, R.R.THOMAS. M.G.C.
- General Service Medal: 7809946 PTE.R.R.THOMAS. M.G.C.
- France & Germany Star: Unnamed as awarded.
- Defence Medal: Unnamed as awarded.
- War Medal 1939-45: Unnamed as awarded.
- Efficiency Medal: 7809946. PTE.R.R.THOMAS. R.M.P.
This page last updated: 28 Oct 15