Ernest (Blondie) Thomas
17 April 1943 – 9 September 1944
Service No JX 287130
Leading Seaman Ernest (Blondie) Thomas
This page is dedicated to the Memory of
Leading Seaman Ernest (Blondie) Thomas.
May his name live forever more
and be remembered with affection and honour.
25 January 1922 to January 1973
My Father and Ernest served on this magnificent little warship, (H.M.S. Scarab) for over 16 months
Ernest 17 April 1943 - 9 September 1944
Frank (my dad) 11 April 1943 to 15 September 1944
Blondie was part of the crew manning the 6" gun forward of the bridge and my father was on 3" gun just below the bridge.
Other duties were manning the 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns.
The photos below may be enlarged by clicking on them.
In January 2018 we received the following letter from the Grand-daughter of Ernest Thomas. For many years we have attempted to trace the family
but due to some confusion on our
Then out of the blue we received the following:
From: Haley Cassidy
Sent: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 9:47 AM
Subject: HMS Scarab
We are the family of Ernest (Blondie) Thomas Service number JX287130. Just before Christmas we accidentally stumbled upon your website (http://www.frankstaylorfamilyandroyalnavyhistory.net/) and are absolutely thrilled and delighted to see all the information, especially the photos some of which we have never seen before. We were looking for a book which we know was published about HMS Scarab called ‘Insects with Stings’. We did have a copy years ago but this was unfortunately lost over time, we have tried many times since to get a copy but have been unsuccessful.
Ernest is survived by his wife Betty (96), his sons David (71) & Glyn (70), Grandchildren Richard & Haley (David’s) and David & Paul (Glyn’s) plus numerous Great Grandchildren and 2 Great-Great Grandchildren
Reading through the piece about Fred (Kiwi) Lemberg (Ern’s best mate) we remember fondly the visit he made to us back in 1980. Betty kept in touch with him, for a number of years afterwards but as time moved on, and a house move, contact was unfortunately lost.
Lofty Evans, Blondie, Kiwi and shipmate
Blondie (at front)
Buck Taylor (back row on right)
Betty remembers a tale where Ern & 2 others (possibly Kiwi) pinched an Egyptian
flag and they were chased by the police. They either fell or hid in roadworks to get away from them. She seems to think it
was about the time when the photo was taken of them sitting on camels in
front of the pyramids. (
David (Ern’s Son) who was in the Merchant navy visited Kiwi and his family in their home in Palmerston North in 1966.
It has been interesting especially to us younger members of the family to read about the friendship between Ern (Blondie) & Kiwi that is included in Kiwi’s diary. (http://frankstaylorfamilyandroyalnavyhistory.net/HMSScarab/KiwiLemberg.html) Ern never discussed his time during the war other than an odd anecdote or two of the happier times.
Would it be possible for you to please pass on our details to Kiwi’s family in the hope that they would like to re-establish contact between our families?
If you feel that any of the above information is useful in any way for the website then please feel free to use it.
All the best
Haley, on behalf of the Thomas family
Operation Husky 1943
Allied Invasion of
Grandad (as I call him in the pieces below) was Ernest Thomas (also known as Blondie) Leading Seaman. Service number JX 287130
Background on Grandad
Grandad wild fowling – Pre-war
This was taken pre-war on the River Dee marshes. Along with sailing this was one of his main hobbies.
Over the years he had 2 small sailing boats, he spent many hours on the river along with his brothers and his dog both sailing and hunting.
On one occasion during war R&R whilst out shooting he shot a duck and as the water (in Grandad’s opinion) was too cold for the dog, Grandad stripped off and went into the water to retrieve the duck himself, much to nan’s disgust when he got home dripping wet, minus the duck but, at least with a warm dog!
Grandad returned home from the war in October 1944 and was demobbed May 1946
Order for Release - 10 May 1946
Grandad with his male relatives at his wedding.
Left to right: His brothers Eddy (a paratrooper), & William,
His father Sam, Grandad, & his brother Sam. (in the Army)
Nan & Grandad’s Wedding Photo 1945
In February 1946 David was born. (my Dad) At this time they were still living in the family pub in Northop hall but not long after, they moved to Connah’s Quay, back to where Grandad had grown up. In 1948 another son Glyn was born.
He started work as an overhead crane driver on the pickling lines in John Summers Steel Works in Shotton, the next town along from Connah’s Quay where he lived.
Next to the bungalow there was a local Tennis club & courts
which Glyn & David used to play in, along with Grandad on a few occasions.
In 1963 Nan & Grandad
got to visit
In March 1965 (my brother) Richard was born. He was their first grandchild
In Dec 1967 I was born (Haley), the first female on Grandad’s side of the family for 53 years
Richard & I enjoying time with
Grandad with his sail boat in 1971
In Aug 1972 Glyn’s first son David was born followed by Paul in Nov 1979.
Grandad continued working in the steel works until he sadly passed away in Jan 1973.
We have all gone on to have children of our
Written by Haley Cassidy but compiled by all of us on behalf of the Thomas family in loving memory of Ernest Thomas.
Wartime photos & Service
The wartime segment was written by Blondie’s son David. He refers to his father as Dad.
In July 1941 Ernest
Thomas volunteered to join the war rather than wait to be enlisted, as he
wanted to be in the navy, along with a large proportion of Connah’s Quay the small town in Flintshire,
Dad never talked in detail about his war time experiences so I have had to look up on the internet so see what was happening on the various ships he served on in accordance with the dates given in his service record.
HMS Raleigh. July 1941 – October 1941
Joined HMS Raleigh, a training establishment, on the 30th July 1941 at the age of 19 years to start his training as an Ordinary Seaman.
HMS Drake. October 1941 – January 1942
Joined HMS Drake, shore establishment (naval barracks), Devonport, on the 7th October 1941 where he stayed until the 10th January 1942.
HMS Inconstant. January 1942 – January 1943
From the 11th
January 1942 until the 24th January 1943 he served on HMS
Inconstant, initially as an Ordinary Seaman and from the 30th June
1942 as an Able Seaman. HMS Inconstant (H 49) was a modified I-Class Fleet
Destroyer. It appears that Dad joined HMS Inconstant in Vickers Armstrong,
Barrow, just before
she carried out her acceptance trials. On completion of the trials she took
on stores and proceeded to
H.M.S. Inconstant 1941
In March 1942 HMS
Inconstant took part in escorting duties with Russian convoys before being
appointed to serve overseas with the Eastern Fleet. Towards the end
March she was part of the anti-submarine screen for the aircraft carrier HMS
Illustrious which was escorting convoy WS17 towards South Africa when she,
along with HMS Javelin, prevented the U-587 from attacking the convoy. In
mid-April she was detached from convoy escort duties and proceeded to
On the 12th
May 1942 she was detached for duty in the Eastern Mediterranean and took
During July and
August, she deployed, along with the 12th Destroyer Flotilla, in
On the 23rd
September she was released from Operation Stream and for the rest of the year
she continued her defence role in the
Dad left HMS
Inconstant in January 1943 just before she returned to the
HMS Assegai. January 1943 – April 1943
HMS Assegai, which
was the shore base at Simonstown,
HMS Nile. April 1943 – June 1943
HMS Nile, which was
the shore base at
An old and obviously well-loved photo.
From the creases it may have lived life in Ernie’s wallet
Rider is Charlie Wells – Sparker
HMS Scarab. June 1943 – September 1944
June Dad and Fred Lemberg (Kiwi) joined HMS Scarab sitting in dry dock in
From Kiwi’s diary, dad was in hospital from 3rd to 15th February 1944 with tonsillitis (in Ismalia?). Mum knew that he had been in hospital but did not know the reason why only that dad told her that he was to be taken off the ship on a stretcher as per regulations but because of the narrow gangways on the lower decks he had to get off and walk up them himself and then get back on the stretcher.
H.M.S. Scarab 1943
Crossed guns refer to successful bombardment duties
(i.e. Shelling targets from close inshore)
Plane and Nazi symbols refer to enemy aircraft shot down
Scarab crest (above gun) 6-inch gun & Turret
Bridge: ‘Doc’ gets a haircut.
Man at top signalling via semaphore to shore.
Probably Operation Husky
The Invasion of
For Film Footage see this website:
Thomas was with the Special Operations Group (SOG) Task force 80.4 aboard
H.M.S. Scarab. Lieutenant-Commander Douglas Fairbanks Jnr
was on her sister ship H.M.S. Aphis in command of operations. There was one
hell of a battle with 2 Nazi Corvettes with
his part in the assault on Southern France, Lt. Commander Fairbanks was
On the morning of August 17, when two hostile vessels attacked a group of smaller craft, he courageously led the ships of his unit into action and, aggressively directing the combat operations with expert seamanship against heavy odds, greatly aided in the ultimate sinking of the two vessels. By his brilliant leadership and steadfast devotion to duty throughout this vital period, Lieutenant Commander Fairbanks contributed materially to the successful invasion of a highly strategic area.
Excerpt from interview with Douglas Fairbanks Jnr
WWII: While you engaged in this diversion, I think you got a surprise of your own, didn’t you?
WWII: What did you do?
WWII: In the heat of action, I suppose your fear had been overcome by the need to fight and to survive?
Fortunately, Aphis’ skipper was as calm as if he were on a peaceful exercise. Although damaged, the two gunboats had not taken any casualties thus far. At last the gunnery officer announced that our 6-inch guns were cool enough to use again. Then, when we emerged through a thin spot in the smoke screen, we found ourselves at right angles across the bows of the oncoming Germans – “crossing the enemy’s T.”
It was a classic manoeuvre accomplished through sheer luck. I don’t recall whether or not I gave the order, but in any case, Aphis fired a point-blank salvo without the benefit of any targeting device, and by golly, we scored a direct hit on the UJ-6083, while Scarab scored a damaging near miss. UJ-6083 began to list, while Kemid Allah seemed to hesitate.
WWII: Didn’t the destroyer Endicott arrive to help you out?
This photo is the only one showing active wartime action.
Here are two vessels one of which shows exploding ammunition.
We believe that Ernie Thomas or a Scarab crew member somehow managed to take the shot during the conflict.
There is another photo from Ernie Thomas.
German Survivors about to be picked up.
Photo taken from Scarab.
After action 1944 – South of France
Dimly visible in the poor light which was hampered by low clouds and drizzling rain, the enemy ships were in fact an ex-Italian corvette Capriola, which had been taken over by the Germans in July and was now manned by a Nazi crew and the armed auxiliary Kemid Allah, also a unit of the German Navy. The Capriola was the more powerful of the two. A diesel driven vessel of 565 tons, she mounted two 3.9 -inch and 8 37-mm guns, and boasted as many as ten depth-charge throwers. Not so heavily gunned as her escort the Kemid Allah nevertheless mounted a useful armament. The German ships immediately turned to pursue the fleeing small craft, showering them with salvoes of shrapnel.
As soon as they had received the enemy sighting report from the P.T. Boat the two Insects worked up to full speed and heading for the reported position of the encounter. Twenty minutes later they sighted the German ships and at once engaged them from a range of 12,000 yards. It was then becoming daylight. Despite the heavier guns of the Insects the protagonists were by no means evenly matched. The corvette and her escorts were far more speedy than the two old gunboats, and their modern armament control equipment enabled them to maintain a rapid rate of fire.
Their shelling was heavy and accurate and their salvoes were soon falling within 50 yards of the Aphis, which was leading, hosing her decks with splinters and shrapnel. With their vibrations agitating every part of her elderly frame the Scarab’s engines were thrusting her through the water at fifteen knots, faster even than the originally designed speed of the Insect at her launching 28 years earlier; and her consort was no less nimble.
The USS Endicott was
now coming up fast, but until she could join them,
By now the action has lasted for over an hour, but a few minutes later a shell from one of the gunboats scored a direct hit in the boiler-room of the Capriola. In a colossal gout of flame the corvette blew up. At the same time another hit from the gunboats landed on the fore part of her consort. The enemy captain decided he had had enough and made off to westward at high speed.
With battle flags streaming triumphantly destroyer and gunboats pelted in pursuit, all guns blazing. Their quarry had no hope of escape, and in less than an hour the Kemid Allah was lying on her beam ends, spewing exploding ammunition from her burning decks in all directions.
The victors circled round to pick up survivors. A total of 211 Germans were fished out of the water from the wreckage of both German ships. The only allied casualties in this two-hour dawn sea battle were three men of Endicott who were wounded when the destroyer sustained a number of shrapnel hits.
The gun-boatmen’s elation at this unexpected and victorious conclusion to the successful part they had already played in the launching of Operation Dragoon was crowned when they were given signalled permission to splice the main brace. That night the three ships dropped anchor in the main assault area and the gunboats transferred their captives to the destroyer. On the following day Task Force 80.4 was dissolved and the Insects once more became units of the British Mediterranean Fleet.
In recognition of
their good work the Aphis and Scarab were sent to
The damage was caused by a “dud” shell which failed to explode.
HMS Drake. September 1944 – March 1945
HMS Drake, which was the shore establishment in Devonport. Initially as Able Seaman and then from the 1st January 1945 as a Leading Seaman.
HMS Onslaught. March 1945 – May 1946
From the 14th March until the 10th May 1946 Dad served on HMS Onslaught as a Leading Seaman.
HMS Onslaught (G 04) was an O or Oribi-Class Fleet Destroyer ordered from Fairfield of Govan on 3rd September 1939 and construction started on the 14th January 1940. She was originally to be called Pathfinder but her name was changed to Onslaught during construction. She was launched on the 9th October 1941 and was commissioned on the 19th June 1942 when she joined the 17th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Home Fleet.
H.M.S. Onslaught – Crew Members
Early March 1945 HMS Onslaught was in collision with RFA Black Ranger, during a passage to join a Russian convoy, in which she sustained serious bow damage and had to return to the Clyde for repair and then onto Belfast on the 23rd March to complete these. This is where Dad joined the ship.
Early June 1945, on
completion of repairs, she re-joined the Flotilla at
Crew Members on H.M.S. Onslaught
H.M.S. Onslaught Funnel Maintenance
Photograph taken in the Steamer Inn in Shanklin last week whilst I was on holiday.
For more detail on Warship Weeks refer to:
Dad was released from Royal Naval Service on the 10th of May 1946 at the end of his demob leave which started on the 6th March 1946.
Certificate of Service Papers
Though out Earnest (Blondie) Thomas’s War Service his character was regarded by his superior officers as Very Good.
Thanks to Blondie’s family we are able to include the following photos of his family.
Blondie’s wife Betty standing proudly with her two boys David (left) and Glyn (right)
Taken at Betty’s 90th Birthday in 2011
Front Rows: Aliced, Mike, Phillipa, Emma, Betty (Blondie’s Wife), Haley, Hazel, Sheena.
Back Row: David, Richard, Andrew, Terry, Glyn.
Taken as a surprise photo from Dave & Sheena's 50th wedding anniversary 2014 (hence they are not in the picture)
Front row: James, Megan, Betty (Blondie’s Wife)
Middle row: Alice, Emma, Phillipa, Haley.
Back Row: Mike, Richard, Terry, Andrew
Below, for identification purposes we have included Blondie’s family.