THOMAS, Edwin Laurence
(Service number 7/1938)

Aliases Edward Lawrence
First Rank Trooper Last Rank Private


Date 17 June 1894 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 26 August 1915 Age 21 years
Address at Enlistment Catherine Street, Timaru
Occupation Shepherd
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single. Married 1918, England
Next of Kin Mrs A. THOMAS (mother), Catherine Street, Timaru. Later Mrs A. M. THOMAS (wife), Albert Cottage, Forest Road, Romford, England
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 10½ inches. Weight 175 lbs. Chest measurement 35-38 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair light brown. Sight and hearing both good. Colour vision correct. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth fairly good. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits or serious illness.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 8th Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Canterbury Mounted Rifles
Date 13 November 1915
Transport Willochra or Tofua
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With 2nd Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Egyptian Expeditionary Force; Western European
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date 22 October 1919 Reason On termination of his period of engagement.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

10 January 1916 - admitted to hospital at Cairo - enteritis. 10 February 1916 - admitted to Pont de Koubbeh hospital - influenza. 12 February 1917 - admitted to Northumbrian Casualty Clearing Station - sick. 26 March 1917 - sent to hospital – sick; admitted to No. 3 N.Z. Field Ambulance; 2 April 1917 - admitted to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station. 7 April 1917 - admitted to hospital in France (Boulogne) - dilation of the heart. 11 May 1917 - transferred from 1st Convalescent Depot to 3rd Rest Camp. 27 August 1917 - admitted to No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in France - slight synovitis of right knee. 11 September 1917 - embarked for England per Hospital Ship “St David”. 12 September 1917 - transferred to Walton-on-Thames Hospital. 17 September 1917 - transferred to NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst. 25 September 1917 - transferred to Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch. 24 January 1918 - admitted to VD Section of No. 3 NZ General Hospital at Codford; 19 February 1918 - discharged to Convalescent section. 21 March 1918 - to NZ General Hospital at Codford. 2 April 1918 - transferred to Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch. 1 August 1918 - discharged. 14 April 1919 - admitted to VD Convalescent Section at Codford after blood test at Torquay. 18 April 1919 - discharged.

Post-war Occupations

Ranger; labourer


Date 1 August 1954 Age 60 years
Place of Death Timaru
Notices Timaru Herald, 2 August 1954
Memorial or Cemetery Timaru Cemetery
Memorial Reference General Section, Row 43, Plot 766
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Edwin Laurence Thomas was born on 17 June 1894 at Timaru, the fourth son of John Thomas and his second wife, Albina née Stevens. His Welsh-born father had come to New Zealand with his first wife who died very young, leaving a daughter and a son. He then married Cornish-born Albina in 1879 at Timaru. From very early on, the family lived in Catherine Street, Timaru. John Thomas was a shipwright, much of his work in the vicinity of the Landing Service. Edwin Laurence Thomas was baptized at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Timaru, on 21 January 1895, his parents the sponsors. On 5 September 1890, before either Arthur or Edwin was born, “John Thomas, shipwright, with a wife and seven children, was summoned at the instance of the wife, to show why a prohibition order should not be issued against him. Mrs Thomas stated that her husband was not in constant work, but when he did get work he went “on the beer.” She had had only 2s 6d from him the last three weeks, and for a good while past had not had enough to eat as she could not earn much herself with so many children to look after. Her husband said a prohibition order would not be much good, but she thought she would try it. She had told him often that she would do so. Defendant begged that the order be not issued. He would do better without it. His Worship said he always preferred to allow a man to exercise his own powers of restraint, and if defendant would promise to amend, he would adjourn the application for a mouth to see how he got on. Defendant gave a promise, and the case was adjourned accordingly.” In May 1892, little Albina Ivy Thomas, who had been sickly and subject to fits from birth, died at the age of three. Along with his siblings, Edwin was educated at Timaru South School, going out to work at the age of 14. In December 1899, John Thomas faced a truancy case for not sending his children to school. Mrs Thomas appeared for her husband but could give no valid reason for keeping her children at home. A fine of 2 shillings was imposed. “His Worship said that parents must thoroughly understand that they must comply with the Act. Their children must be sent regularly to school.” Caroline Thomas, known as Catherine or Carrie, the second daughter of John and Albina, died after a painful illness at Christchurch Hospital on 8 May 1901, aged 19 years, and was buried at Linwood Cemetery. His father, John Thomas, died in February 1914 at Timaru. He was survived by his widow, Albina, two children from his first marriage and seven from his second marriage.

Initially, his name was recorded as Edward Laurence Thomas on his military file, but later amended to Edwin. (His birth was registered as Edwin Lawrence Thomas; his baptism recorded as Edwin Laurence Thomas.) Edwin Thomas had registered for compulsory military training at Timaru. He was medically examined on 6 July 1915. He was 5 feet 10½ inches tall, weighed 175 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 35-38 inches. He had a fair complexion, grey eyes, and light brown hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all good, his limbs and chest well formed, his heart and lungs normal, and his teeth fairly good. Having had no diseases, fits or serious illnesses, and being vaccinated, he was in good bodily and mental health. E. L. Thomas was one of the South Canterbury men who received an enthusiastic farewell when they left Timaru for Trentham on 25 August 1915. Headed by the 8th Regimental Band, they marched from the Drill Hall to the railway station, where the mayor complimented them and assured them of a hearty welcome on their return. The crowds who thronged the station and its precincts, cheered the departing soldiers again and again. On 26 August at Trentham, he enlisted. Single and of Church of England affiliation, he named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs A. Thomas, Catherine Street, Timaru. His address was also Catherine Street, Timaru, although he had been a shepherd at Waimate.

Trooper Thomas was transferred to the Camp Military Police on 17 September 1915. Trooper E. L. Thomas embarked with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles of the 8th Reinforcements, departing from Wellington for Suez, Egypt, on 13 November 1915. After disembarking on 20 December, just three weeks passed before he was admitted to hospital at Cairo with enteritis. He marched out to duty on 20 January 1916 at Zeitoun. In mid-February 1916, Mrs A. Thomas, Catherine Street, Timaru received a wire from Mr Massey – “I regret that advice has been received that your son Trooper Edward Laurence Thomas, was admitted to Pont de Koubbeh hospital on 10th February with influenza. I sincerely trust that he will make a speedy recovery.” Discharged to duty on 27 February, he re-joined the 2nd Battalion of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment at Moascar on 11 March, before embarking for France on 7 April 1916.

On 12 February 1917, he was admitted, sick, to the Northumbrian Casualty Clearing Station, re-joining his unit on 18 February. Discharged to duty, he again re-joined his unit in France, from hospital, on 14 March 1917. But, he was sent to hospital again, sick, on 26 March 1917, and admitted to No. 3 N.Z. Field Ambulance. On 2 April, he was admitted to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station. The cable received by Mrs Thomas from the Minister of Defence in April 1917 stated that her Son (Private E. L. Thomas) had been admitted into hospital in France (at Boulogne) on 7 April, suffering from dilation of the heart. The official hospital report published in late April 1917, listed the case of Private Edward L. Thomas, Timaru, as not severe. He was transferred from the 1st Convalescent Depot to the 3rd Rest Camp on 11 May. Attached to Strength at Base Depot, he was classified P.B. by the Medical Board on 22 June. He was admitted to No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in France on 27 August 1917, suffering with slight synovitis of the right knee. He embarked for England per the Hospital Ship “St David” on 11 September 1917. On 17 September 1917, Mrs Thomas received word that Edwin had been transferred to Walton-on-Thames Hospital on 12 September. It was on 17 September that he was transferred to the New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst. Eight days later [25 Sep 1917] he was transferred to the Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch, where he was detailed “on command” on 30 November.

Admitted to the VD Section of No. 3 New Zealand General Hospital at Codford on 24 January 1918, E. L. Thomas was discharged to the Convalescent section on 19 February. In early April 1918, Mrs A. Thomas received word that her son, 7/1938 E. L. Thomas, had been admitted to hospital in England on 21 March. This was the New Zealand General Hospital at Codford. The hospital report again listed the case of Private E. L. Thomas as not severe. He was transferred to the Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch on 2 April 1918.

Edwin Laurence Thomas married Alice Maud Reed on 10 August 1918 at the Registry Office, Romford, Essex, England. Did they meet during his many hospital stays? Thereafter, his wife was added to the contact list - Mrs A. M. Thomas, Albert Cottage, Forest Road, Romford. Their son, Richard John Thomas, was born on 17 January 1919 at Romford. Edwin was discharged from Brockenhurst (or Hornchurch) on 1 August 1918 and, after leave, reported to Torquay on 16 August. It was at Torquay, on 5 December 1918, that Thomas was admonished and forfeited one day’s pay. Edwin was again admitted to the VD Convalescent Section at Codford on 14 April 1919 after a blood test at Torquay. He was discharged four days later.

The news in late August 1919 was that Pte E. L. Thomas was returning by the “Corinthic” which was due on 22 September. He embarked at Plymouth on 9 August 1919 and disembarked at Wellington on 23 September. His intended address was Catherine Street, Timaru. As of 1924 he was at St Andrews, South Canterbury. Edwin Laurence Thomas was discharged on 22 October 1919, on the termination of his period of engagement, after close to four years of service overseas – in Egypt and Western Europe, during which he was gassed at the Somme. He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Edwin and Alice settled at St Andrews where he was employed as a ranger. In October 1925, he lost a German collie bitch which answered to the name of “Lass” and offered a reward for its return. As of 1928, he was the secretary of the St Andrews Returned Soldiers’ Association which held their annual dance on 26 July – Grand March 8.15 p.m. Good Music. Good Floor. Gents 3/6. Ladies 1/6.

In March 1930, Edwin Laurence Thomas was fined 15 shillings and costs for driving a motorcar in King Street and not being in possession of a driver’s licence. The family moved into Timaru in the early 1930s, the three oldest girls entering Timaru South School in September 1933. The move may have been prompted by a bankruptcy adjudgment of Edwin Laurence Thomas of St Andrews, slaughterman, in August 1932. A lively meeting of creditors was held. His assets consisted of a motor-car held under hire purchase, furniture ad two cows. “He was a married man with five children, and was also a returned soldier. He regretted that he was not able at present to make any offer to his creditors.” He had leased a small farm at St Andrews in 1922 but his returns were poor. He worked at the Freezing Works in the 1931-32 season. But it was hard to see where his earnings had gone.

Edwin lost another dog in August 1937 – a liver and Spaniel puppy, in the vicinity of North Street and South Street, answers to the name of “Barney”. “Tragedy marred the return to Timaru at midnight last night [27 March 1938] of a special excursion train from Dunedin, when Joyce Thomas, aged 18, who resided with her parents, Mr and Mrs Edwin Thomas, at 5 South Street, fell under the train as it pulled into the platform, and was killed instantly.” Margaret Joyce Thomas was the eldest daughter. She apparently attempted to alight before the train came to a standstill, lost her footing and fell to the track. The chest and neck of Miss Thomas’s body were badly mutilated.

There was quite a good deal of Home Guard activity in Timaru in April 1941. D Company, of which E. L. Thomas was a member, was to parade at 7 p.m. on 6 May at the Bay Hall and undergo range practice (live ammunition) on 11 May. Twenty-nine appeals against Home Guard service in respect of members of various commercial fire units under the control of the Timaru E.P.S. were heard by the Armed Forces Appeal Board on 29 October 1942. Edwin Laurence Thomas was one whose case was adjourned sine die. Midst all this (7 June 1941), Irene Maud Thomas, the twin daughter of Edwin and Alice, married John Robert Kennedy at Chalmers Church. She was given away by her father, attended by her twin sister, Mrs P. J. O’Brien (Pearl June), and presented with a horseshoe by her youngest sister, Annette.

Mrs Albina Thomas, of 36 Catherine Street, died at the Timaru Hospital on 20 November 1928. Edwin’s brother, Arthur Frederick Thomas, also served in World War One. Arthur died in November 1918 at Timaru Hospital as a result of illness aggravated by his war service and was buried in the Timaru Cemetery. Edwin Laurence Thomas died suddenly on 1 August 1954 at Timaru, aged 60 years. He was buried at Timaru Cemetery, with his daughter Margaret Joyce Thomas. Members of the South Canterbury R.S.A. attended his funeral and a Services plaque marks his grave. He was survived by his wife, son and four daughters. Alice Maud Thomas died in June 1971 and was interred with Edwin and Joyce. Richard John Thomas (Dick), the only son of Edwin and Alice, served with the New Zealand Forces in World War Two. All the family of Edwin and Alice are buried at Timaru Cemetery.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [29 July 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK18805 W5553 0113367) [20 December 2015]; CWGC [20 December 2015]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [29 July 2012]; Timaru Cemetery headstone images (Timaru District Council) [2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [29 July 2014; 02 June 2023]; Family history notes supplied [October 2014]; South Canterbury Times, 5 September 1890, 27 May 1892, 9 December 1899, Timaru Herald, 10 May 1901, 26 August 1915, 18 February 1916, 26 & 28 April 1917, 18 September 1917, 5 April 1918 [x 2], 29 August 1919, 5 September 1919, 6 October 1925, 17 July 1928, 28 March 1930, 11 September 1931, 24 August 1932, 1 September 1932, 23 August 1937, 28 March 1938, 2 May 1941, 25 June 1941, 30 October 1942 [x 2] (Papers Past) [15 December 2014; 02 June 2023]; Timaru Herald, 2 August 1954 (Timaru District Library) [18 December 2015]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [20 December 2015]; St Mary’s Timaru baptism records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG records) [01 June 2023]; Notes supplied by maternal grand-daughter, Jeanette Andrew, & grandson, Barry O’Brien [October 2014]

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