Walter Babington Thomas

Sandy Thomas
Nickname(s) "Sandy"
Born (1919-06-29)29 June 1919
Motueka, New Zealand
Died 22 October 2017(2017-10-22) (aged 98)
Beaudesert, Queensland, Australia
Allegiance New Zealand
United Kingdom
Service/branch New Zealand Military Forces (1940–46)
British Army (1946–72)
Years of service 1940–1972
Rank Major General
Commands held Far East Land Forces (1970–71)
5th Division (1968–70)
23rd Battalion (1944–45)
Battles/wars Second World War Mau Mau Uprising
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross & Bar
Efficiency Decoration
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Silver Star (United States)

Major General Walter Babington "Sandy" Thomas, CB, DSO, MC & Bar, ED (29 June 1919 – 22 October 2017) was a New Zealand-born British Army officer, who served as General Officer Commanding Far East Land Forces from 1970 to 1971.[1] He previously served with the New Zealand Military Forces in the Second World War, where he was decorated, wounded and, at age 24, became the youngest New Zealand battalion commander of the war.

Military career

Thomas was born in Motueka, New Zealand, on 29 June 1919. He was commissioned into the New Zealand Military Forces at the outbreak of the Second World War.[2] During his service in the Middle East, Thomas was wounded, became a prisoner of war in Crete, escaped from a prison hospital, fled to Syria,[3] and was awarded the Military Cross and Bar.[4] As a temporary major he received the Distinguished Service Order in 1943,[5] and rose to command the 23rd Battalion in Italy to become, at age 24, the youngest New Zealand battalion commander in the war.[6][7] Thomas ended the war as a lieutenant colonel, and was awarded the United States Silver Star.[8]

After the war Thomas obtained a commission in the Royal Hampshire Regiment and,[2] in 1955, he was mentioned in despatches while dealing with the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya.[9] He was appointed General Officer Commanding 5th Division in 1968,[10] and Chief of Staff at Headquarters Far East Land Forces in April 1970,[11] before being elevated to be General Officer Commanding Far East Land Forces in October.[12] Thomas was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1971,[13] and retired in 1972.[14]

Thomas died at his home in Beaudesert, Queensland, on 22 October 2017 at the age of 98.[15]


  1. ^ Guy Hardy Scholefield; Max Lambert (1991). Who's who in New Zealand. New Zealand: Reed. p. 629. ISBN 0790001306.
  2. ^ a b "No. 37669". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 July 1946. p. 3882.
  3. ^ Copyright Publishing
  4. ^ "No. 35697". The London Gazette. 9 September 1942. pp. 3948–3949.
  5. ^ "No. 36102". The London Gazette. 22 July 1943. p. 3313.
  6. ^ McLean, Thomas Owen (2016). "A Selection From the War Diaries of Dan Davin" (PDF).
  7. ^ Small, Jamie (24 October 2017). "Highly decorated New Zealand soldier Major-General Walter "Sandy" Thomas dies". The Press.
  8. ^ "No. 38459". The London Gazette. 19 November 1948. p. 6061.
  9. ^ "No. 40538". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 July 1955. p. 4154.
  10. ^ "No. 44558". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 March 1968. p. 3863.
  11. ^ "No. 45078". The London Gazette. 10 April 1970. p. 4173.
  12. ^ "No. 45219". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 October 1970. p. 11755.
  13. ^ "No. 45384". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1971. p. 5958.
  14. ^ "No. 45586". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 January 1972. p. 1271.
  15. ^ Highly decorated New Zealand soldier Major-General Walter "Sandy" Thomas dies


Military offices
Title last held by
Geoffrey Musson
General Officer Commanding the 5th Division
Succeeded by
Mervyn Janes
Preceded by
Sir Peter Hunt
GOC Far East Land Forces
Post disbanded