Thomas NEAME (1885-1973)
Sir Thomas Neame (1885-1973) was a colleague of Cyril Sladden in the 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.
Thomas Neame was born on 23rd December 1885 at Preston, near Faversham, Kent, the fourth of six children of Frederick Neame, a land agent and farmer, and his wife, Kathleen (née Stunt). The family lived at Macknade House, Preston. Thomas was educated at Cheltenham College and The University of Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge, he was gazetted as Second Lieutenant (Supernumerary) on 29th March 1905.
At the time of the 1911 census, Thomas was working as a dyer in the carpet manufacturing business, and was boarding at The Hostel, Manor Avenue, Kidderminster.
During the First World War, Thomas Neame joined the Worcestershire Regiment. Along with Cyril Sladden, his name appeared on the general list in The London Gazette of 25th August 1914. They trained together in England and, in October 1914 whilst at Tidworth, they shared a tent. Cyril described him as “the senior subaltern of my company, seems to be a highly efficient man”. Very early in the war, Thomas’ brother, Philip, was awarded the Victoria Cross and Cyril’s fiancée, Mela Brown Constable, referred to this in one of her letters.
Thomas Neame and Cyril Sladden were on the same boat out to Gallipoli in July 1915; both were injured in the fierce fighting in August but, whereas Cyril was sent to hospital in Malta, Thomas returned to England.
The London Gazette of 12th November 1915 said that Temporary Lieutenant Thomas Neame was transferred to the General List. In a letter of 17th November 1915, Cyril wrote: “I hear with great surprise that munitions have claimed Neame; his business has been with a firm of metal workers so he will undoubtedly be of great use there, but he is certainly a loss to us.” A letter of December 1915 revealed that he was perfectly fit again, but likely to be kept by the Ministry of Munitions as he was “working long hours with them turning out bombs, shells and gas apparatus as hard as possible”.
As he was now based in England, Thomas Neame took the opportunity to visit the Sladden family at Seward House on Boxing Day, which delighted Cyril very much. As he wrote to his father in January 1916: “He is an excellent fellow, and one of the most capable I know. It is the worst of luck that he wasn’t a captain ages ago. We could do well with him out here any time, but I don’t doubt that he is invaluable at his present job.” Mela Brown Constable had the opportunity to meet him at a fete in July 1916. In 1918, January Thomas was awarded the MBE for his services. He was described as “Lieutenant Thomas Neame, Works Manager, Messrs Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Birmingham”.
On 25th June 1920, Thomas married Gwendolyn Mary Thomson. (Gwendolyn was a contralto singer whose stage name was Astra Desmond; her career was mostly in concert and recital, but she made some operatic appearances.) They had three sons and lived at Colkins, Faversham. After the war, Thomas became a fruit grower and farmer. He was Chairman of East Malling Research Station from 1944-1959 and Sheriff of Kent in 1948. He was knighted for his services to fruit growing on 5th July 1960.
Sir Thomas Neame died, aged 87, on 28th August 1973, 12 days after his wife.