Ralph William Haslem Thomas

First Name: 
Ralph
Middle Name: 
William Haslem
Last Name: 
Thomas
Mother's Name: 
Mary Thomas (nee James)
Father's Name: 
Harry Thomas
Date Enlisted: 
Friday, April 14, 1916
Rank at Enlistment: 
Private
Rank at Discharge: 
Private
Unit: 
17th Battalion
Company: 
18th Reinforcement
Service: 
Infantry
Awards: 
1914/15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Details: 

Ralph William Haslem Thomas (Service No 6374) at his parents farm, ‘Clover Hill’, Macquarie Pass, N.S.W. The Thomas family, Harry, Mary and their children moved to Dunmore and farmed ‘St Ives’ named after Ralph's maternal grandfather's birthplace in Cornwall.

Ralph worked on his father’s dairy farm until he enlisted in the AIF. He served his country with distinction, serving in the infantry in France where he was wounded twice before being invalided as medically unfit and sent home. Of his regiment of nearly 400 men, he was one of only 90 who returned.

After the war Ralph moved to Queensland and worked droving sheep. He married Jessie Roberts and had three children, Arthur, Alison and Owen (who died as a baby). Jessie drew ‘Army Downs’ in a soldier settlement ballot in 1923. They moved on to the property and lived in a galvanised iron hut. Ralph sheared his own sheep with no help from other shearers. The Depression years and severe drought took their toll on the marriage and Ralph and Jessie eventually divorced.

In 1926 Ralph discovered a fossil entombed in limestone boulders on his property. Ralph contacted Dr. William Schevill, a graduate student from Harvard University about his find. The fossil, later to be known as the Harvard Kronosaur dinosaur skeleton,is one of Australia’s most significant fossil discoveries.

In 1934 Ralph returned to Europe and wrote a letter to his friend from Amiens, France;

…I am back on the old stomping grounds and it is all very interesting. It is hard to remember the place being all shells holes and mud, now it is an intense farm with farm houses of brick…the people seem happy an prosperous and well-dressed though the farmers have to work hard…

…there is a small obelisk marking ‘Hell Fire Corner’. I went through Zonnebeke, through Broodiers to Passchendaele, where there is a big cemetery at Lyncot, where many Australian are buried. I found many of my mates names on the Memorial Gates where Menin Road leads out of Eyres. All those who have known graves are remembered every evening at 9.00pm; two Belgian buglers sound the last post. I went down a couple of nights to hear it, the police stop all the traffic and quite a few people gather to hear it…

...I came down to Amiens then and had a look at Villers Brettoneaux. The big Australian memorial on a hill between the town and the Somme is well kept too. I recognised all the country where the shells chased us, also out artillery had a go. Glisy and Blangy Troaville, where Billy Hughes addressed us in 1918…

Ralph moved to ‘Kareela’ near Springsure, Queensland, in 1948. He married Nancy Achison in 1978 and lived on the property until his death on 22 April 1994 aged 97 years.

Sources: 
Thomas, Stan 1968, One Hundred and Thirty Years
NAA: B2455, THOMAS R W H

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