John Thomas

1751-1810. He was born at Cefncoed, Llanllwni on 26 October 1751, the third of five sons of the Rev. John Thomas, vicar of Llandyssul, Cardiganshire, and of his wife, Sage Thomas.

Thomas joined the navy in 1762 aboard the Hero 74, Captain Hon. Samuel Barrington, which flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Hardy in the Channel prior to being paid off in December. From August 1763 he served on the Solebay 28, Captain William Hay, fitting out at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Sheerness before sailing for Newfoundland in the spring of 1764. He left her at the end of November following her return home, whereupon his name was entered to the books of the Ocean 90 to gain him additional sea-time.

In the early summer of 1770 Thomas rejoined Captain Hon. Samuel Barrington aboard the Albion 74 which that officer commanded in the Falkland Islands dispute, and then as a guardship at Plymouth. Thomas retained his berth on this vessel when she transferred to the command of Captain Hon. John Leveson-Gower in 1773 before leaving her two years later.

From September 1775 Thomas was in the Leeward Islands on board the Argo 28, Captains Francis Grant-Gordon and William Garnier, which vessel came home to Portsmouth and was paid off in the following year. He then transferred briefly with Garnier to the Southampton 32 in the late autumn of 1776 before rejoining Captain Hon. Samuel Barrington aboard the Prince of Wales 74, serving in home waters and receiving his lieutenant’s certificate on 4 April 1777.

In 1781 Captain Thomas fought an action with the French frigate Surveillante – seen here in her defeat of HMS Quebec two years earlier.

In July 1777 he joined the Burford 70, Captain George Bowyer, and on 10 September 1777 was commissioned lieutenant. He saw further service with Bowyer aboard the Albion 74 from May 1778, going out to North America in June with Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s reinforcements before sailing south to the Leeward Islands at the end of the year. Here, in the new year, he transferred to Barrington’s flagship Prince of Wales, Captain Benjamin Hill, as a supernumerary.

Thomas was promoted commander on 9 April 1779, and joined the sloop Barbadoes 14 which underwent a refit at Antigua throughout May and into the first week of June. Following the Battle of Grenada on 6 July she was sent to monitor the movements of the Comte d’Estaing’s French fleet and then reported back to Byron at St. Lucia. The French preferred not to seek another engagement, and with the two fleets parting the Barbadoes was sent to patrol the Anegada Passage in the north of the station.

On 23 November Thomas transferred with the officers and men of the Barbadoes into a French prize, the Ménagère, which was commissioned as the Albemarle 28, and he was posted captain with seniority from 11 December. After undergoing a refit at Antigua in the winter of 1779-80 she assisted forces provided by the governor of Anguilla in capturing the nearby French island of St. Martin in March, and after patrolling off the Virgin Islands she rejoined Admiral Sir George Rodney’s fleet at St. Lucia, being present in the partial action with the French fleet on 15 May.

In July 1780 Thomas removed to the Trident 64 in Leeward Islands fleet, sailing for Jamaica with Rear-Admiral Joshua Rowley’s reinforcements that month. During September he was ordered to exchange with Captain Thomas Dumaresq into the Ulysses 44, but before the transfer could take place this vessel was dismasted in the Great Hurricanes that swept through the Caribbean in October. After assuming command of the Ulysses on 10 November, Thomas took her to Port Royal, Jamaica, where she emerged from a refit in March 1781. She was then sent to cruise off the west coast of Cuba, and amongst other captures she took a Spanish troop ship on the 24th.

Thomas fought the French frigate Surveillante 40, Captain de Villeneuve Cillart, in the West Indies on 5 June 1781 but was carried below, as were a lieutenant and the sailing master, having lost his leg in the early stages of the action. Both sides suffered a great deal of damage in a four-hour engagement fought at point blank range before the Frenchman took off. Thomas was later awarded a pension in respect of his wounds.

He thereafter commanded the Pallas 36 at Jamaica from March until July 1782 where he exchanged with Captain Christopher Parker into the Diamond 32, a frigate he retained until October. He then exchanged with Captain Bartholomew Rowley into the Resource 28, with which vessel returned home to be paid off in January 1783.

Thomas remained unemployed for the years of the peace and the initial stages of the French Revolutionary War until he joined the Impregnable 98 in July 1795. He commanded her in Rear-Admiral Hugh Cloberry Christian’s squadron that departed Plymouth for the Leeward Islands on both 16 November and 9 December but had to put back after encountering freak weather on both occasions. The Impregnable thereafter remained in home waters and was eventually paid off in August 1796.

Thomas was promoted rear-admiral on 14 February 1799, vice-admiral on 29 April 1804, and admiral on 25 October 1809. He died at Llanfechan on 26 September 1810, being buried in Llanllwni Church, Carmarthenshire.

He married Letitia Maria Lloyd in 1788, but does not appear to have had any issue.

Thomas had been renowned for being a lively, spirited youth. During his career he made a great deal of prize money which allowed him to buy Llanfechan Mansion in Carmarthenshire. He became deputy-lieutenant and a justice of the peace for the counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen.

special thanks to Mike Contratto for providing much of the information for this biography.