Brigadier William Bain Thomas, C.B.E., D.S.O.

Brigadier William Bain Thomas C.B.E., D.S.O spent the majority of his army career with The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and is best known for commanding the 1st Battalion during the 1942 Burma campaign. Thomas, or “Tomasso” as he was known in the regiment, was commissioned into The Cameronians in April 1916 from Sandhurst, one month before his 18th birthday. He then served on the Western Front from March 1917 until he was wounded in March 1918.

After the war and recovered from his injuries, Brigadier Thomas accompanied the 2nd Battalion to India where he served for 8 years, including their famous expedition into Kurdistan in 1923. After a short period serving as an adjutant for an Indian Regiment, he was posted to Secunderabad, India as 2nd in Command to the 1st Battalion in April 1940, and a few months later he took over command.

In early 1942 when the Japanese began their push into Burma, the 1st Battalion were sent to join the British forces fighting there. The Battalion suffered heavy losses during the campaign and subsequently withdrew, however Thomas was commended for his able and calm leadership during the campaign and awarded a DSO for conspicuous gallantry.

In October 1942 he was appointed to the 49th Indian Infantry Brigade and led them back to Burma two months later. He was sent to command the army in India Tactical School at Poona in May 1943 because of his expert knowledge in jungle tactics.

Brigadier Thomas returned to the command of the 1st Battalion in Malaya in 1945 where he had the proud distinction of receiving the swords of Lieutenant General Senechi Tazaka, the commander of the Singapore Defences when the Japanese forces surrendered in December 1945. When the regiment returned home, Thomas stayed on in Malaya where he was appointed as Commander of the North Malaya Sub-Area.

In June of 1946 Brigadier Thomas was awarded a C.B.E in the Birthday Honours List which he received from the King in January 1947 at Buckingham Palace. His final posting was to Witley in Wiltshire where he commanded the Polish Resettlement Corps until his retirement from the army in 1952, after 36 years service. Brigadier Thomas died on the 22nd of November 1967 at the age of 70.

Brigadier William Bain Thomas magnify
Brigadier William Bain Thomas

Brigadier William Bain Thomas.