Arthur Devere Thomas GC (EM non-exchanger)

b. 05/08/1895 Willesden Green, London.  d. 01/11/1973 Harrow, Middlesex.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 14/01/1931 King’s Cross Station.

Arthur Devere Thomas (1896-1973) was born on the 5th August 1895 in Willesden Green, London, one of two sons of William Nathanial Stallwood Thomas and Hannah Eleanor (nee Delaney). When Arthur was nine, his parents decided to emigrate the family to Canada arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 17th November 1904. His father’s occupation was listed as a labourer. After settling in Humbolt, Saskatchewan, Arthur attended school there before working on a farm just prior to the outbreak of World War One.

Arthur D Thomas GC

When war was declared, both Arthur and his brother George enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. During the war, some of his family returned to England, and Arthur sailed there on the 29th May 1915. Arthur was then to serve on the Western Front in France for the next year and a half. Tragically, on 6th May 1917, his brother George was killed in action in France.

On Christmas Eve 1917, whilst on leave, Arthur married Elizabeth Agnes Penney at St Mary’s Church, Willesden Green. They had four children in all, though their eldest daughter died at the age of 10. He then returned to Canada where in April 1919 he was discharged with the rank of Warrant Officer 2 at St John’s, New Brunswick. He soon returned to England, where he took up a position with the Metropolitan Railway Company as a plate-layer. Shortly afterwards, he was struck by a passing train and suffered damage to his spine, which curtailed his plate-laying. Fortunately, the Company stuck by him and gave him a job as a Flagman.

On 14th January 1931, he was at work at King’s Cross Station, when Ernest Percival, who was engaged in dismantling a wooden staging fixed across the track, slipped and fell onto the track below. He was unconscious and lying face down across one running rail, with his head close to the negative rail. Thomas saw him fall and at the same time heard a train approaching the station from around the curve. Realising that a signal would not be seen by the driver in time, he immediately jumped down from the platform, ran across two positive and two negative rails carrying 600 volts, snatched Percival up from almost under the wheels of the train, and held him, still unconscious, in a small recess in the wall while the train passed within a few inches of them.

Arthur’s actions were startling considering the spinal injury he had, and as a result was initially recommended for the Albert Medal in Gold. Despite the number of recommendations, the decision was to award Arthur the Edward Medal in Silver (a big difference at the time), on 31st March 1931.

After World War II, Arthur became an Inspector in the British Transport Police, before retiring in 1956. In 1971, following the change in the Royal Warrant, Arthur was given the opportunity to exchange his EM for a George Cross, but politely declined. He passed away on 1st November 1973 in Harrow, Middlesex, and was cremated at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip. His ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. There is no plaque to him. His EM, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45 and Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal are privately held.