Wadestown - Thomas Lomas

Thomas Lomas departed Wellington for Gallipoli in 1915. He made a full tour of all the major theatres of war, and survived to return home in 1919.

 

Thomas was born on the 29th of March 1883, in Wellington. In 1891 he was in Standard One at Wadestown School.

When Thomas enlisted to fight on the 19th of April 1915, he was still living in Wadestown and was working for Blundell Bros, the printing firm that published the Evening Post newspaper.

This paper, which was founded by Henry Blundell in 1865, was merged in 2002 with the Dominion to become Wellington’s current daily paper – the Dominion Post.

I never knew fear after that.

Thomas Lomas

From his diary, after his boat was torpedoed during its approach to Gallipoli in 1915

Service in Gallipoli, Egypt and France

Thomas’s unit when he left New Zealand with the 5th Reinforcements in June 1915 was the New Zealand Field Artillery. They arrived in Gallipoli at the beginning of September, missing the worst of the fighting, although Thomas’ boat was torpedoed as it approached land. Despite being unable to swim, Thomas escaped unscathed. Many of his comrades were killed, however, as were horses that had been part of the boat’s cargo. Recalling that moment, Thomas reflected, “I never knew fear after that.”

Thomas was subsequently posted to Egypt, then France. He also had periods of leave in England. He survived both heavy bombardment and gas attacks, recording the horrors of war in brief sentences in his diary: “Our position was heavily bombarded. Crossroads badly shelled. Wagons and teams blown into the air… Gas put over, had to don helmets. Plenty of rain and up to your neck in mud.”

When the war ended in November 1918 Thomas was among the lucky minority of soldiers to have avoided death or injury. He had had the “grand tour” of Europe many young New Zealanders thought they would be getting when they left enlisted.

After the War

Thomas left London for New Zealand on the 1st of February, 1919. He had been away from home for three and a half years. He returned to Wellington and resumed his job at the Evening Post, and in 1922 married Florence Stansell at All Saints’ Church in Kilbirnie.

They lived in Ngaio, where Thomas was heavily involved with the local Returned Services Association. During World War Two, Thomas was a member of the Wellington Reserve Battalion.

Thomas Lomas died on the 2nd of February, 1973, shortly before his 90th birthday.

Lomas family archives

 

Find out more

  • Details of New Zealand soldiers’ activity in World War One can be found by examining their digitised defence personnel file, most of which can be accessed online via the Archives NZ catalogue.
  • More about the history of the Evening Post newspaper can be found on Papers Past.
  • Information about the Dominion and the Evening Post and their role in exposing New Zelanders to the reality of war can be found on our Story Map.
  • A timeline of New Zealand's involvement in the First World War, including the New Zealand forces' engagements at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, can be found on NZHistory.net.

Image references

  1. Portrait of Thomas in lemon squeezer, bottom right-hand corner, The Onslow Historian, World War I Supplement (vol 15 no. 2; 1985), p. 13.
  2. Wellington District Education Board Class Schedule, Wadestown School, 1891. Accessible at Archives NZ.
  3. Evening Post masthead, inaugural issue.
  4. Willis Street circa 1885, showing the Evening Post Chambers building and a sign advertising the “Steam Printing Office” of Blundell Bros.  Willis St, Wellington. Burton Bros. Ref: PA7-04-23. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  5. The record of Thomas’ wartime movements, taken from his digitized defence personnel file.
  6. Mud on the Western Front. A mule bogged down in the mud on the Western Front. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-012931-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  7. Courtesy of the family of Thomas Lomas.
  8. Marriage notice in the Evening Post, Volume CIV, Issue 145, 16 December 1922, Page 1.