Born into a family of artists and craftsmen, he was apprenticed to his father, a gem-engraver. While still working in the family workshop, he studied at the Central School, Heatherley’s and the Slade. His exhibits at the Royal Academy, between 1909 and 1914, were all gems and cameo portraits. In the First World War he served with the Middlesex Regiment in Belgium and was severely wounded. After the war, a commission from Lord and Lady Forster of Lepe, for a memorial to their two sons, who had been killed in action, led on to a series of commissions for tomb effigies for cathedrals and churches throughout the country. Through his friendship with its founder, Revd ‘Tubby’ Clayton, Thomas became the main sculptor to the Christian organisation TOC H. His work is much in evidence in its ‘guild church’, All Hallows Barking. In the Second World War Thomas served throughout the war and was finally demobilised at the age of 60. He enjoyed a long association with the Royal Mint, designing medals and coins. With the accession of Elizabeth II, he designed the Coronation Medal, and the crowned effigy used on the coins of many of the Commonwealth countries. In the last two decades of his life he produced a number of public sculptures for New Zealand, including Peter Pan statues for parks in Dunedin and Wanganui. His bust of the architect John Nash (1956, after one of 1831 by William Behnes) is in the exterior colonnade of All Souls, Langham Place. Thomas was a prominent member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, and in 1970 he founded the Dora Charitable Trust, which enabled the Society to take over for its own purposes his home at 108 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington. Thomas was made an OBE in 1953.
Source: Obituary in The Times, 20 September 1976.
Philip Ward-Jackson February 2023
Cecil Thomas, 1925 (photo: National Photo Company Collection; public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)