Reverend D. G. Thomas
Sir William Beach Thomas


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Helen Dorothea Vernon-Harcourt

Sir William Beach Thomas 548

  • Born: 1868, Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire 10
  • Marriage: Helen Dorothea Vernon-Harcourt in 1900 in Oxford 27
  • Died: 12 May 1957, Wheathampstead, Hertfordfordshire aged 89

bullet  General Notes:

From The Times, May 14, 1957

Sir William Beach Thomas, K.B.E., who died on Sunday at his home at
Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire, was one of the most distinguished
journalists of his generation, and was equally well know for such
diverse attainments as war correspondent for the Daily Mail in the War
of 1914-18 and as a writer on country subjects for the Observer and
the Spectator.
He was a partisan of Lord Northcliffe, and was one of his most trusted
lieutenants. He was one of the original regular reviewers for The
Times Literary Supplement from the supplement's foundation in 1902.
He had been a fine athlete (he was a former President of the Oxford
University Athletic Club) in his youth but was opposed to the "tyranny
of games".
William Beach Thomas was born in 1868, the son of the Rev. D. G.
Thomas, rector of Hamerton, Huntingdonshire. He was educated at
Shrewsbury, where he was in the football and cricket XIs and where his
running brought him the honour of being appointed huntsman to the
Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he
was a scholar. For four years in succession he represented the
university in the hundred yards, quarter-mile, and mile, and in 1890
and 1891 was President of the O.U.A.C. He also played both cricket
and football for his college. Beach Thomas started life as a
schoolmaster, and was for five years at Bradfield, and later at
Dulwich, but in 1897 he turned to journalism by becoming one of the
writers of the "By the Way" column in the Globe. For some time he was
on the staff of the Saturday Review. As a contributor to Outlook he
worked under J.L. Garvin and it was Garvin who brought him to the
Observer, for which he wrote a regular and neverfailingly pleasing
nature article (albeit in an obscure hand) for man years until April,
Writer on Nature
In 1908 some 40 or 50 of Beach Thomas's essays were published under
the title From a Hertfordshire Cottage. These showed his power of
observation, which was later to make him so well known as a writer on
nature and rural subjects. In 1912 he entered authoritatively into
discussion as to whether England should send a strong team to the next
Olympic games at Berlin or not, and rather surprisingly, in view of
his thesis that games should be played for fun, came out as an
opponent of the school, chiefly of Oxford rowing men, who considered
that athletes who specialized and underwent rigorous professional
tutorship stained their amateur status. One of Beach Thomas's
arguments was that nothing was said about the cricketer, who, probably
from boyhood upwards, had constant professional coaching.
During the War of 1914-18 Beach Thomas was a war correspondent in
France for nearly four years, representing the Daily Mail. On one
occasion he was sent at a moment's notice to America to find out for
Northcliffe what the Americans were doing and thinking.
In the year of Northcliffe's death Beach Thomas was sent, again at a
moment's notice, on one of his most important missions, a tour of the
British Empire, which resulted in a series of most entertaining
articles which appeared anonymously in The Times under the title of
"The Round World". They were described as the diary of a
"well-informed traveller", and had all the interest and intimacy which
a journalist of the first rank can give to his writing. Three years
later Beach Thomas had published his A Traveller in News, in which he
wrote of "the Chief", Northcliffe, according to The Times reviewer,
"as some favoured marshal might have written of Napoleon". In fact
his main reason for issuing these reminiscences was because he held
that Northcliffe had been misrepresented since his death. In 1928
there fel the centenary of the Spectator, and Beach Thomas had the
honour of writing the commemorative volume - The Story of the
"Spectator". He was created K.B.E. in 1920.
Among Beach Thomas's other works were: The English Year, With the
British on the Somme, Athletics, in the Isthmian Libray, The Happy
Village, A Letter to my Dog, The Yeoman's England, Village England,
The Squirrel's Granary, Hunting England, The English Landscape, The
Way of a Countryman, The Poems of a Countryman, A Countryman's Creed,
The Way of a Dog, and Hertfordshire.
Beach Thomas married in 1900 Helen Dorothea, daughter of the late
Augustus George Vernon-Harcourt, and there were two sons and one
daughter of the marriage. The second son, Lieutenant-Commander
Michael Beach Thomas, R.N., was killed the late war.


bullet  Noted events in his life were:

1. Census UK 1911: 1911, The Old Cottage, Kimpton, Welwyn, Hertfordshire. 10

2. Resided: 12 May 1957, High Trees, Gustard Wood, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire. 13

3. His funeral was held on 15 May 1957 in Wheathampstead Parish Church, Hertfordshire.

4. He had an estate probated on 5 July 1957 in London. 13


William married Helen Dorothea Vernon-Harcourt, daughter of Augustus George Vernon-Harcourt and Rachel Mary Bruce, in 1900 in Oxford.27 (Helen Dorothea Vernon-Harcourt was born in 1876 in Oxford 10.)

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