Lord Thomas of Remenham
Lord Thomas of Remenham, formerly Sir Miles Thomas, died last month, at the age of 82. With his passing goes one of the great formulators of the British Motor Industry in pre-war and post-war times and one of the world’s most visionary airline executives.
After service in the RFC in the First World War, Thomas joined Temple Press, working on the editorial side of The Motor. This took him to Brooklands and many other speed-venues and he flew with Raynham in a Sopwith Antelope biplane to cover an early race at Le Mans and competed with the same pilot in a King’s Cup Race in a Martinsyde. They also attempted to report the 1922 French GP at Strasbourg, in a Martinsyde F4. It was Thomas who saw an experimental Rolls-Royce Twenty in Chichester and had the initiative to get a chemist to loan hirn a Box-Brownie Camera and a film, with which he photographed this then secret and very exciting new car for his paper. (I wish I knew who was posed as if cranking the car up, in that historic picture; or did “Uncle Rowe’s” photographic department fake the result?)
Anyway, Thomas became Editor of The Light Car & Cyclecar, after he had disposed of his 25 h.p. Talbot and bought a “Speed Model” Hillman, like Raymond Mays. It was by his not seeming to notice much but nevertheless turning out a first-class report of new Morris cars, when other writers had made mistakes about the specifications of the new 14/28 h.p. Morris-Oxford, that Thomas was noticed by William Morris (Lord Nuffield), who offered him the job of producing The Morris Owner. Note that at the time back in 1922, Thomas was earning £800 a year plus expenses, and that T.P. tried to stop him leaving, by offering him £1,200 a year. From running Morris’ house magazine Thomas progressed to becoming Lord Nuffield’s Personal Assistant and eventually, in 1940, Managing Director of the entire Nuffield Organisation. (It has never happened to me but those who try for Sir William Lyons’ motoring-journalist’s scholarship should be thereby greatly encouraged!)
After a disagreement, Thomas severed connection with Lord Nuffield and ran the Colonial Development Corporation for the Government, from 1947, until, by 1949 he had become the Chairman of BOAC, putting it quickly out of debt. In 1966 Thomas became a Director of Britannia Airways and he was on the Main Board of Thomson British Holdings.
A man who enjoyed life to the full, and who had all the quick-thinking and the great stamina required to hold down key-positions in tough industries, Lord Thomas will he remembered by us primarily as a motor industry leader in the times when Morris, Wolseley and Austin were great independent concerns, soon to be merged.
His was an exceedingly-interesting life. Fortunately he set it all down, up to 1963, in that exceedingly-interesting book of his “Out On A Wing” (Michael Joseph, London, 1964), in which it is all there, the war-years, working for the motor journals, Brooklands, where he had a shed, as a top-executive with the great tycoons of the pre-war and early post-war motor industry etc., and the anxiety of being head of BOAC at the time of the mysterious losses of the DH Comet airliner. I would think this fine book most rate as Lord Thomas of Remenham’s best obituary. — W.B.
It is with sadness that we have to report the death of Patrick Waldron Cobham Griffiths, who held important posts in the Motor Industry, having been Chairman of Turner & Newall for three years, after that Company had taken over the family business of Engineering Components in 1966, and he was a Vice-President of the SMM&T. Educated at Bryanston School, Mr. Griffiths served during the war in the Fleet Air Arm, seeing active service in the Far East aboard HMS Victorious. He will be remembered also for his motor racing activities, during which he was a co-driver with the late Peter Collins when they won the 1953 TT in an Aston Martin, and the 1952 Goodwood Nine Hours Race, and finished second in that race in 1953, again in Aston Martins. — W.B.
Sir Ronald Gunter, Bt.
Sir Ronald Gunter, Bt., aged 75 years, has died at his home near Chichester. He was active on the motor racing scene fifty years ago. His most noteworthy success was in 1929 when he was second in the JCC Double-Twelve hour race at Brooklands when he partnered S. C. H. Davis in a 4½-litre Bentley.
He was a close friend of Dr. J. D. Benjafield with whom he shared a Speed 20 Alvis in the 1933 International Trophy at Brooklands. In 1935 in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race Sir Ronald Gunter and Dr. Benjafield drove a splendid race in a 4½-litre Lagonda, supporting the winning team Lagonda driven by Hindmarsh and Fontes.