KENNETH HART THOMAS
1921 - 2014
Ken was born in Cathays Cardiff and at an early age had an urge to go to sea, which he did at the age of 17 when he joined South American Saint Line. It would appear this enthusiasm and his application resulted in him being appointed to the S.S. “Chaucer” as 3rd Officer as he was holding this Rank when the vessel was sunk by the German Raider “Orion” off the Cape Verde Islands on the 29th July 1941. Together, with the other 47 men who made up the complement of the ship he was taken prisoner and transported to Milag Nord Prison Camp which was used by the Germans for Merchant Navy captives. His actions in this incident gained the award of the “King’s Commendation”, specially introduced to acknowledge acts of bravery by civilians.
He hardly ever spoke about the difficult four years he spent in captivity but when he did, it was mainly on the brighter things which happed with performance of Musicals, the comradeship at the time and friends made, which in some cases became lifelong. The musical experience must have influenced him as music always seemed to fill his house when you called.
After the war he re-joined South American Saint Line and in due course was appointed as Captain of the mv “St Essylt”. This vessel became special to him, as it was on a voyage in 1950 that he met a young lady passenger, Peggy Irvine, whom he married within six months of their meeting. Unfortunately their happiness together, including the birth of their two children Graham and Susan, was cut short just before their 40th Anniversary with Peggy’s death, from which he never recovered..
It was in 1956 that he left the sea to assist his father run the family Shipbroking & Agency Company, J. F. Thomas & Co.Ltd., in the Cardiff Coal Exchange and it was whilst engaged in these activities that he qualified for the position of Master Mariner. Following the death of his father he opted to set up his company, K.H..Thomas & Co. Ltd. as a subsidiary of Lambert Brothers Ltd., where he and our Hon. Sec, John Iles, worked together to make a successful partnership and valued lasting friendship.
Following his early retirement on his 60th birthday in March 1981, Ken remained active as Surveyor for Canadian Timber Importers Northwood Mills (later Noranda) and Marine Surveyor, undertaking draft and cargo inspections in a Company he formed with his brother and nephew.
Ken will be remembered for his friendship, loyalty, generosity and caring interest in people. No one is perfect and although his direct approach could sometimes surprise those he met for the first time, they were soon won over when he revealed his true self, which they came to appreciate.
Life calls us to be givers. Ken fulfilled this and gained his reward with the love of his family, friends and those who came to know him. In his business activities he earned the respect of the Shipping fraternity and regard of his Staff for his method of working, acumen and integrity. A worthy life and a worthy man.
M.V, St Essyllt
German Raider Orion