Thomas, Walter Babington "Sandy"

Date of birth:
June 29th, 1918 (Motueka/South Island, New Zealand)
Date of death:
October 22nd, 1917 (Beaudesert/Queensland, Australia)
Service number:
9234
Nationality:
New Zealander (1907-1947, Dominion UK)

Biography

Being seriously wounded during the Battle of Crete Thomas was taken prisoner by the Germans.He spent many months recuperating in a prisoner of war hospital in Greece. During this time he made several unsuccessful attempts. Determined to escape he managed to convince the doctors to pass him as ‘fit’ and was sent to the transit POW camp Thessaloniki in northern Greece where he made a final successful escape.
He evaded capture for over a year as he made his way to neutral Turkey and then onto Syria, reaching the Allies and going on to command the 23rd New Zealand Infantry Battalion, fighting in North Africa and Italy.
At the end of the war Thomas transferred to the British Regular Army and rose through the ranks. He finished his career as Britain’s final commander of Far East Land Forces in Singapore in the 1970s.
Thomas published a number of books detailing his wartime adventures including ‘Dare to be Free’ and ‘Pathways to Adventure’.

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Lieutenant
Unit:
23rd Rifle Battalion, New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Awarded on:
September 9th, 1942
Action:
“Lt Thomas led his platoon in an attack on enemy parachute troops who had landed and established themselves in strong positions.
His platoon accounted for 25 enemy dead and 3 prisoners. Of that number Lt Thomas personally dispatched five. On the following day when his platoon was being shelled by a Bofors gun, Lt Thomas brought into action a captured mortar, getting a direct hit on the gun and putting it out of action. He then bombed the aerodrome and led a counter attack on the village of Galatea. He was an inspiration to his men, setting an example for cheerfulness, initiative and courage seldom surpassed.”
Military Cross (MC)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Lieutenant
Awarded on:
September 9th, 1942
Details:
Second MC awarded as a bar.
Military Cross (MC)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Temporary Major
Awarded on:
July 22nd, 1943
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Lieutenant-Colonel
Awarded on:
November 19th, 1948
Silver Star Medal (SSM)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Major-General
Awarded on:
June 12th, 1971
Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Lieutenant
Unit:
New Zealand Forces
Awarded on:
September 9th, 1942
Action:
In recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the Middle East during the period November, 1941 to April,. 1942
Mentioned in Despatches

Sources