The funeral service for Major-General WB “Sandy” Thomas, 98, was held on November 10 at St Thomas Anglican Church, Beaudesert, with more than 200 people in attendance.
Maj-Gen Thomas was a well-documented war hero of both the New Zealand and British armies and had been a beloved member of the Beaudesert community for more than 40 years.
During the war, Major-General Thomas’ courage under fire was rewarded with a Military Cross. He was just 22. Just two years later he became the youngest battalion commander in the New Zealand Army.
His daughter Joanna Brown said it was a fitting send-off with military honours for a man who was so well respected by all.
“The service went really well, with a really amazing bunch of people and it made me realise what a really special man my father was,” she said. “You feel he’s just your dad but he was so much more than a man with lots of medals.
“The New Zealand and British armies did a fabulous job of researching my father’s history right up to his retirement from the military.
“Even on the front line and under massive duress he was very popular with everybody. Every day he was up before dawn and would go to the danger areas to talk to soldiers before first light.”
Ms Brown said the service was scheduled to run for one hour but lasted for two and a Maori contingent performed a haka outside the church.
She said Bob Ryan, who had been her father’s best mate since the family moved to the area, gave the main eulogy followed by her two cousins who spoke about Maj-Gen Thomas’ personal and professional history.
Besides his wartime exploits, the service acknowledged Maj-Gen Thomas’ post-war achievements up to his retirement soon after the withdrawal of British military forces from Singapore in 1971.
“One of the British officers spoke about his career in the British military up to and including his role in the handing over of Singapore,” she said.
“He had a wonderful card from the Singapore government, saying they appreciated how he handled the handing over.
“I was amazed at how it all came together with such a variety of activity. There were local RSL members there, all wearing their medals and the service was filmed for New Zealand TV.”
Ms Brown said at the conclusion of proceedings her father was afforded a guard of honour comprising 10 soldiers from the New Zealand and British military as bagpipes and Father Tony Swansson escorted the coffin from the church.
He is survived by three daughters, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.