University of Oxford
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My Father in South of France in WW2

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 19:51 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Johnny (Jack) Thomas 1913-1961

My father, known at home as Johnny, but at work as Jack, enlisted in the RAF at the start of the war in September 1939. He trained at RAF Melksham, now the site of an Industrial Estate, and the home of the Forces War Records Office.

After embarkation leave, he was posted to France and served in Air-Sea Rescue in the south of France, Corsica and Malta. When not on rescue duty, he acted as a cook, having served his apprenticeship as a butcher when he left school. He seemed to enjoy his service - from the photographs, he doesn't appear to have been overworked or to have suffered undue privation - but I remember he was very thin when he came home after demob. He maintained his fondness for France and all things French all his life, although he didn't think much of our pronunciation (ours was a kind of French RP, and he spoke with a strong southern accent). He was delighted when my sister and I learned French when we went to Grammar School.

It was only when he became very ill, the summer that he died, that he talked sometimes about the hair-raising times on duty in rough seas, crews under fire themselves as they tried to rescue men who had been shot down. Some were so badly burned and others so shocked that they had to be restrained once on board the boat, to stop them from jumping straight back into the sea. One man did this a couple of times, almost capsizing the boat when all the crew leaned over the side, trying to hang on to him.


Item list and details

1. Photo of J Thomas in uniform 2. Photos with colleagues on- and off-duty in France 3. Photo of Chateau where Unit was billeted 4. Photo of Quayside "Scoreboard" 5. Photo of Service Medals

Person the story/items relate to

J Thomas RAF Service Number 1000018

Person who shared the story/items


Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

He was my father

Type of submission

Shared at Ahmadiyyah Mosque Hall, Warwickshire on 7 October 2023. The event was organised by Leamington History Group.

Record ID

95620 | LEA017