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The life of Private John James Thomas, 4th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, was saved by his cigarette case at Suvla Bay, August 1915.on the Roy Noble Show, BBC Radio Wales, John had recounted the story of how his father had landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, on 9th August 1915, as part of the 53rd Welsh Division. Listening in Penygroes, where Private Thomas was born, was Mr. Adrian Davies, Chairman of Penygroes Historical Society. Adrian later recounted that he couldn’t believe his ears, as he had been given a collection of WW1 photographs in 2013, to help commemorate the men on the village War Memorial, but was at a loss as to whom the boy holding the cigarette case was. On hearing John’s account of how the cigarette case had saved Private Thomas’s life, and that he had come from Penygroes, all fell into place.
On Thursday afternoon, Adrian arrived carrying 2 photographs. Besides the photograph of John’s father holding the cigarette case, was a photograph of Private Thomas’s Sunday School class. The gentleman in the photograph was a Mr. David Rees, who had been the village photographer during the early years of the 20th Century. It was he who had taken John’s father’s photograph and whose grandson, Mr. Brian Lewis, had donated the collection to the Penygroes Historical Society. John James Thomas is the boy on the far right of the front row.
On Thursday, after much reminiscing of Penygroes, where John Thomas Jr. was also born, Adrian very kindly gave John the original photographs of his father and presented copies to Porthcawl Museum to be placed alongside the cigarette case, which will remain on display as the centerpiece of the ‘Welsh at Gallipoli’ Exhibition until Saturday, 30th August 2015.


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