Next of kin: sister, Sylvia M Bray, 2 Paterson St, Launceston, Tasmania
Prev. exp. 420 hrs
Tom was one of a number of Australians who came over to fly for the Yorkshire Aeroplane Club, but when all civilian flying was stopped on the outbreak of WWII in October 1939, he applied to join the ATA.
They rejected him on the basis of his flight test, but then contacted him again the following July and asked if he would like to be reconsidered; he replied that, in the meantime, he had taken a job with the Rapide Flight of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, but would indeed like to re-apply.
His next flight test in August 1940 assessed him as: “A pilot of limited experience, who has ability and may prove adaptable to modern aircraft, of which he has no experience.”
Thomas then started with the ATA and worked well for about a year at Hawarden, but then resigned as the situation in the Far East deteriorated and he became worried about things at home.
However, his C.O. ‘Wal’ Handley wrote to the ATA to say: “I do not want to lose him, as he is a good pilot”, and they agreed to release Tom in the event of hostilities arising between Japan and Australia.
He withdrew his resignation, but died in an aircraft accident a few weeks later.
d. 18 Mar 1942 (Died in ATA Service) – his Hampden X3130 went missing after taking off from Kirkbride at about 15:00, heading for Thorney Island. He and 2nd Officer Nathaniel Berry (joined 1941) were presumed lost at noon the following day when no sign had been seen of them.
His body was eventually washed up on the shore at Southport, on the 8th June 1942. Cause of death could not be determined. He was buried at Maidenhead Cemetery on the 13th:
As sometimes sadly happened, a final letter from home arrived after his death. It is dated 5 Feb 1942:
“Thursday morning thought I could pen you a few lines while I am waiting for my fruit and vegetable to come in.
Received money last Friday £24 18s 6d don’t know if that was right I haven’t had any letter to say how much you were sending. The last letter received from you was dated back to sometime in Aug and it arrived the first week in Dec. You said in that you would make arrangement and let me know later when and how much. Anyway thanks very much it arrived just in the nick of time. I ran myself a bit short last month paying £25 for wireless and I gave Stan £20, I had to pay £50 for vegetables for the Military for Feb. so you can guess I was just about on the rocks.
Well Tom the war gets closer every day. This is Monday the 9th and the paper says Japs are landing in Singapore. Mum seems to worry about it she is so helpless, and there all day on her own. She seems a lot better than she was last time I wrote, but said she felt crook this morning when she got out of bed.
Our petrol has been cut again so I don’t get out weekends at all, though we did run up to Mabel’s for a few hours yesterday. We have to black out the car lights and everything. What I can see we are going to have a cold black winter. The weather is terribly dry, and vegetables are very dear. But that is all the better for me, can always sell more when it is a good price.
Auntie A had a long letter from Bett. She is doing canteen work three days a week, and said she hadn’t heard any more of you but would write you in a few days. Edward is away a lot at night. Your letter must be hung up somewhere. I wonder if you are getting mine this is the third time since Xmas. We received greeting and it did your mother a lot of good.
Well Tom Rita, Dorothy and myself had a day at the Launceston Cup. Had quite a good day and it cost us 1 shilling for expenses, but it was a very poor meeting, no Melbourne horses, and very poor div’s. I wasn’t game to take my car, as they were checking up on all the cars registered for business, they are not allowed on pleasure trips, and for the first time I realised how hard it will be if I can’t get petrol.
Stan started on his new house this morning. He has two boys at work and they are going to school at night. So he should be alright now.
Business is going well so far, so I suppose I am lucky. There are quite a few shops closing up.
Well Tom it is time I did a bit of work. I have a boy and girl in the shop, they are only 14 years but they do a very good job.
That must be all for now so cheerio and heaps of love from Mum and Syl.”