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British Industrial History

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William Miles Webster Thomas

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(William) Miles Webster Thomas (1897-1980), Baron Thomas, known as Sir Miles Thomas, or Lord Thomas, DFC was Managing Director of Morris, 1940–1947 and Chairman of BOAC

1897 March 2nd. Born in Cefn Mawr, Wrexham, Wales, the son of a property owner who died the following year. He went to Bromsgrove School in Worcestershire, England.

After school, during which time his major interests were engineering and transport, in World War I, he joined an Armoured Car Squadron. After fighting through the German East African Campaign, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps qualifying for his wings in Egypt. He subsequently served with an operational squadron in Mesopotamia, Persia and south Russia, being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for aerial combat and low ground strafing.

After the First World War, he became associated with William Morris, Lord Nuffield and in 1941, became Chairman of the Cruiser Tank Production Group and a member of the Government's Advisory Committee.

He was knighted in 1943.

1947-48 President of the SMMT

He was chairman of BOAC during the de Havilland Comet crashes of 1954.

In 1956 he resigned after a row with Harold Watkinson, then Minister of Transport; Thomas was elected as chairman of the board of Monsanto Chemical Ltd. The company had just opened a new UK Head Office at Monsanto House , 10-18 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0NB and had acquired a large chemical plant in Cefn Mawr, Thomas' birthplace. HRH Prince Phillip opened the building and a plaque still remains on the ground floor on what has been occupied by the Board of Trade partially since the late 1960s and wholly since Monsanto relocated its UK offices to Basingstoke in the late 1970s. He later took other board appointments including Britannia Airways.

In 1962 he was invited to deliver the MacMillan Memorial Lecture to the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. He chose the subject 'Air and Sea Transport-Friends or Foes?'.

His autobiography was published in 1964.

On 29 January 1971, Thomas was created a life peer as Baron Thomas, of Remenham, in the Royal County of Berkshire.

On 2 June 1924 he married Hylda Church, who had been William Morris's secretary. They had a daughter, Sheila, (1925), and a son, Michael (1926).

1980 February 8th. Died

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