b. 11/08/1905 Shadwell, East London. d. 22/11/1989 Chelmsford, Essex.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 26/01/1934 Middlesex Hospital.
Dorothy Louise Thomas (1905-1989) was born on 11th August 1905 in East London, one of three children for James Joseph and Louise Thomas (nee Long). Her father was a wharf checker, and at the time of Dorothy’s birth, the family were living in the St George and St John District. Soon afterwards, the family moved to Essex, after James got a job as an Immigration Officer at Harwich Docks, and Dorothy attended Dovercourt High School.
After school, she began her nursing training at the new Dovercourt Cottage Hospital, before moving back to London to work at the Chelsea Hospital for Women, and later the Middlesex Hospital in 1933. The Middlesex was a teaching hospital for both doctors and nurses and Dorothy, once she had become Sister, took her turn teaching the junior nurses.
On 26th January 1934, at work at the Middlesex Hospital, a porter was changing the reducing valve on a large oxygen cylinder in the anaesthetic room of the main theatre at the Middlesex Hospital when there was an explosion, probably due to a piece of grit impinging on the valve and causing a spark. Following the explosion, the issuing oxygen caught fire and a stream of sparks and flames shot through the open door for a distance of 15ft. The theatre was immediately vacated as it feared the cylinder would explode at any minute. Sister Thomas waited behind until everyone was clear and then removed the ether from the anaesthetic room and shut the doors, minimising the effect of the expected explosion. She decided to run into the room, and turned it off by the tap below the valve.
On 2nd March 1934, the London Gazette announced the award of the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Civil Division for Sister Dorothy Thomas. She was presented with her EGM in March 1934 when King George V visited the hospital to view the new Woolavington Wing. In 1938, she transferred from her stressful work in theatre to the ENT Department, but before long she was back as Theatre Superintendent in charge of the running of 6 theatres. In September 1940, she, like all recipients of the EGM, was automatically entitled to exchange the EGM for the newly created George Cross.
She worked at the Middlesex Hospital for 30 years, retiring in 1963. After her retirement she moved to Chelmsford in Essex where she was a member of the Trinity Methodist Church, and helped with the work of a local home for unmarried mothers. She sat on the executive committee of the VC and GC Association, and her favourite pastime into old age was swimming.
Dorothy passed away on 22nd November 1989 in Chelmsford, and she was cremated at Chelmsford Crematorium, and her ashes placed in Lawn 1. Dorothy’s GC, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal are privately held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: CHELMSFORD CREMATORIUM, CHELMSFORD, ESSEX.