Arthur Evan Thomas, son of a schoolmaster, was brought up in Springfield, Little Baddow and Danbury, latterly working as a gardener. He married in 1911 and had no children, He joined the army in 1916 and later served in the Royal Air Force, spending most of his time overseas. Two days after arriving home on demobilisation he became ill and died in April 1919 from septic pneumonia. His home was in Lady Lane.
THOMAS, ARTHUR EVAN,
Private, Royal Air Force
Arthur was born on 9th March 1885 in Springfield, the third son of the schoolmaster William Thomas and Elizabeth Catherine Thomas. His father had been born c1842 in Dafew, Camarthenshire; his mother c1844 in Grosvenor Square, London. In 1881 the family had been living at Springfield Villa in Springfield.
Arthur was baptised at `All Saints’ Church in Springfield on 5th June 1885, at which time his father was a schoolmaster living in Springfield.
Arthur’s nine siblings were William H. Thomas (born in 1876 in Woodchurch, Kent), Elizabeth Lilian Thomas (born in 1879 in Springfield and baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 1st June 1879), Rosina Maud Thomas (born in 1881 in Springfield), Frederick Llewellyn Thomas (born in 1883 in Springfield, died in 1951), Margaret Frances Thomas (born on 17th July 1887 in Springfield and baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 11th September 1887, died in 1971), Harry John Thomas (born in 1889 in Little Baddow), Catherine Violet Thomas (born in 1891 in Little Baddow), Harold Claude Thomas (born in 1883 in Little Baddow, died in 1974) and Kenneth Evelyn Thomas (born in 1897 in Little Baddow, died in 1978).
Arthur’s family is thought to have moved from Springfield to Little Baddow around 1889. The 1891 census found eight year-old Arthur living with his parents and six siblings at the National School in Little Baddow, where his father was a certified school teacher. A decade later the family were still at the schoolhouse, with Arthur, aged 16, employed as a non-domestic gardener, his brother Frederick as a rural postman, and his father as schoolmaster.
Arthur’s father died on 15th September 1910, aged 59, having spent twenty years as the Headmaster of Little Baddow Schools, and formerly 11 years at Springfield.
In 1911 the census found 26 year-old Arthur living with his widowed mother and four siblings at Park View in Danbury. He was a domestic gardener; his brother Harry was an auctioneer’s clerk; sister Catherine was a general domestic servant, and brother Harold was a postman.
Arthur married Agnes Kate Sitch on 11th November 1911 at St. Mary’s Church in Great Baddow. At the time Arthur was aged 26, was a gardener and lived at Baddow Hall Lodge in Great Baddow. His bride was the 28 year-old daughter of the gardener Walter John Sitch and also lived at Baddow Hall Lodge. She had been born in Great Burstead in 1883 and had been living with her mother at Great Baddow Hall Lodge, Maldon Road in Great Baddow at the time of the 1911 census.
Arthur enlisted into the army in 1916 and subsequently served in the Royal Air Force.
The 1918 register of electors listed an absent Arthur, and his wife at 4 Lady Lane, Chelmsford (today’s number 9, pictured).
Arthur died from septic pneumonia on 11th April 1919. He was buried at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery in grave A1448 on 16th April 1919.
News of Arthur’s death was covered by the Essex County Chronicle two days later:
“Soldier's Sad Death - - Leading Mechanic Arthur Evan Thomas, R.A.F., of 4 Lady Lane, died on April 11 under sad circumstances. He had been in H.M. Forces for three years, most of which time was spent abroad, and two days after arriving home on demobilisation he was taken ill, death being due to septic pneumonia. Deceased, who was 34 years of age, was the third son of the late Mr. W. Thomas, schoolmaster, of Little Baddow. He formerly worked for Mr. Betts, yeast merchant, and was widely known and highly esteemed. He was one of six brothers who served in the Forces and came through the war safely. Deceased leaves a widow.
The funeral took place with military honours at the Borough Cemetery on Wednesday, the Rev. R.F. Burnett officiating. The mourners were: Mrs. Thomas, widow; Mrs. W. Thomas, mother; Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Thomas, brother and sister-in-law; the Misses L., R. and K. Thomas, sisters; Messrs. H., C. and E. Thomas, brothers; Mrs. Sitch, mother-in-law; Mr H. Sitch, brother-in-law; Mr. and Mrs. W. Carter, aunt and uncle of the widow, and Nurse Hales. The first part of the service was held at St. John’s Church, whence the coffin, covered with the Union Jack, was transported on a Flying Corps tender truck to the Cemetery. A firing party, under Sgt. Marsh, of No. 61 Squadron, R.A.F., from Rochford, preceded the cortege. At the graveside the Rev. R. F. Burnett, vicar of Moulsham, concluded the service; the R.A.F. firing party fired three salutes over the grave and the bugler sounded the ‘Last Post’.”
Arthur is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham.
He is not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
His cousin Arthur Rawlinson also lost his life in the First World War. His nephew, Bertram Thomas Arthur Ewers, was killed in the Second World War.