Doris Myfanwy Thomas, 1908–1989 (aged 80 years)
Doris Myfanwy Thomas was born in Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales, on 27 March 1908.
Her parents were David Thomas born at Borth, Aberystwyth, Wales in 1873 and Lillian Thomas (nee Clutton) born at Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales in 1882, who married in Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales in 1902.
Her paternal grandparents were David Thomas born at Taliesin, Cardigan, Wales in 1850 and Mary Thomas (nee Evans) born in 1850, who married at Aberystwyth in 1872.
She married Richard Underwood, born at Derby in 1914, and they married at Singapore in 1940. They had two children.
After leaving school she left home and spent a lot of time travelling, eventually becoming the governess (nanny) to Christopher William Godfrey Seymour, the son of Alfred Wallace Seymour.
When she was 28 years old she accompanied the Seymour family when Alfred Wallace Seymour was appointed Colonial Secretary (Deputy Governor) of Trinidad and Tobago in 1935, and she travelled out of Avonmouth on the ‘Ariguani‘, a ship owned by Elders & Fyffes Ltd., on 26 March 1935 bound for Kingston, Jamaica. , when she was 28 years old.
Alfred George Seymour had previously been Colonial secretary in Fiji between 1926 but it is
She later became the governess (nanny) of Delvine Eyre Vines, the daughter of Squadron Leader Duncan Stratford Eyre Vines the Aviation Manager of the Asian Petroleum Company based in Singapore and the Commander of the Singapore Strait Settlement Air Force.
On 8th November 1837 she accompanied the daughter and her mother, Hillary Vines, from England to Singapore in 1937, travelling on the 'Boringia' from Southampton. She was listed as a nurse and governess.
It is not known when she returned to the UK, but on 26 September 1939 she again accompanied the Vines family to Singapore, travelling on the 'Jutlandia' from Hull. She was listed as a governess.
In March 1940 she was still in Singapore when Squadron Leader and Mrs Vines had a son, Timothy Cambell Eyre Vines, and she remained employed as a governess and nurse of both Delvine Eyre Vines and Timothy Cambell Eyre Vines.
In May the same year she got married in Singapore to Richard Underwood, a Batallion Quartermaster Sergeant with the West Yorkshire Regiment who was then stationed in Singapore. Hillary Vines, the mother of the children she had been looking after, was her maiden of honour.
Confusingly, the marriage certificate states that the wedding took place in St Andrews Cathederal but the local newspaper reported that the wedding took place in the Missions to Seamen Chapel. It is possible that the Missions to Seamen Chapel was not registered for weddings, and that the ‘official‘ wedding with the registrar took place in the Cathederal, but that there was then an ‘unofficial‘ wedding and reception at the Missions to Seamen.
Her first son was born in Singapore, and on 30 January 1942 Doris Underwood and her son escaped on the SS Duchess of Bedford one of the last ships out of Singapore before the surrender to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.
Her husband was captured by the Japanese and after a short time in Changi prison he was forced to march up country to worked on the notorious Burma railway as POW.
Doris arrived back in Liverpool on the SS Duchess of Bedford on 2nd April 1942 and settled in Colwyn Bay in North Wales and was living at Llys Eirias, Groes Road, Colwyn Bay, at the time of her husband’s return at the end of the war. Her second son was born there.
Because of changes to her husband’s jobs, Doris and their family moved from Colwyn Bay to Wolverhampton in December 1956, and they moved from Wolverhampton to Colchester in Essex in January 1958
Whilst living in Colchester Doris was an active member of the Royal Women’s Voluntary Service (RWVS) and engaged in voluntary work for them. She also did voluntary work at Severals Hospital, Colchester, and for various other charities.
Her husband died in 1965, after which Doris’s own health deteriorated. Whilst her husband had been the Town Sergeant in Colchester they had been living in Colchester Town Hall in a flat provided with his job, but after her husband’s death she had to move out. By this time both son’s had left home and she moved into a one bedroom flat (4 Handy Fisher Court, The Commons, Prettygate, Colchester) and as her health continued to deteriorate she later moved to a flat attached to a sheltered housing scheme.
She suffered for some time with coronary heart disease (Ischaemic Heart Disease) caused by atherosclerosis, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, resulting in several regular spells in hospital.
Because of her failing health she she moved to a care home in Blackpool, close to where one of her sons and his family were then living, eventually dying in 1989 after a short stay in hospital.
Future Research Needed
It is believed that when the 'Duchess of Bedford' arrived in Liverpool on 2 April 1942 after the fall of Singapore, a picture appeared on the front page of the 'Picture Post' magazine which showed Doris and her son coming down the gangplank. It would be nice to have the picture but have not yet been able to obtain it.
Future Research Needed
Doris spent some time as a governess in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) but currently I have been unable to find evidence so I do not know the dates
Future Research Needed
Doris is known to have been the governess to the Seymour family when Alfred Wallace Seymour was appointed Colonial Secretary (Deputy Governor) in Trinidad and Tobago in 1935. He had earlier held the same position in Fiji from 1926 so it is possible Doris also worked for the family then, but no evidence as yet.
1907 Birth UK Birth index 1907. Wrexham Apr-June, vol 11b, page257, Thomas Doris Myfanwy
1911 UK Census Piece34147, Schedule 65, District 623 Wern Cottage, Llandulas, Abergele, Denbighshire.
1935 Journey to Kingston, Jamaica National Archive Embarcation records: ‘Ariguani‘, Owned by Elders & Fyffes Ltd., From Avonmouth on 26 March 1935 To Kingston, Jamaica The passenger list shows the party as: Alfred George Seymour, aged 53, Colonial Secretary. Ruth Rosa Charlotte Seymour, aged 42, wife. Christopher William Godfrey Seymour, aged 6, son. Doris Thomas, aged 28, Governess.
1937 Journey to Singapore National Archive Embarcation records: ‘M.S. Boringia‘ Owned by East Asiatic Co. Ltd. From Southampton on 8 Nov 1937 To Bangkok and Straits Settlements The passenger list shows the party as: Hilary Mary Vines, 33 years. Delvine Eyre Vines, 5 years. Doris Myfanwy Thomas, 32 years, Nurse and Governess. Last UK address of party, 179 Queens Gate, London S.W.7.
1939 Journey to Singapore National Archive Embarcation records: ‘M.S. Jutlandia‘, Owned by East Asiatic Co. Ltd., From Hull on 26 Sept 1939 To Bangkok, Thailand. The passenger list shows the party as: Hilary Mary Vines, 35 years. Delvine Eyre Vines, 7 years. Doris MyfanwyThomas, 33 years, Governess. Last UK address of party, Hunts Barn, Mayfield, Sussex.
1940 Marriage** UK Marriage index Overseas Marriages, Army Returns, 1936 to 1940. Singapore 1940, page 349. Underwood, Richard Thomas, Doris
Marriage Certificate. Command 2nd Echelon Malaya at Singapore. 18th May 1940 at Singapore SS. Richard Underwood (English), aged 27, Batchelor, CQMS West Yorkshire Regiment Soldier. Tyersall Park Camp Singapore. Father: Percival Harry Underwood, retired. Doris Myfanwy Thomas (Welsh), aged 33, Spinster, Holland Road, Singapore. Father: David Thomas, retired. Married in the St Andrews Cathederal according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England by A. V. Wardle in the presence of A. Smith, Sgt. Royal Signals and D. Vines, R.A.F.
↑ UK Birth index 1907. Wrexham Apr-June, vol 11b, page257 ↑ 1911 UK Census, Piece34147, Schedule 65, District 623, Wern Cottage, Llandulas, Abergele. ↑ National Archive Embarcation records: ‘Ariguani‘, a ship owned by Elders & Fyffes Ltd., out of Avonmouth on 26 March 1935 bound for Kingston, Jamaica ↑ National Archive Embarcation records: ‘M.S. Boringia‘, a ship owned by East Asiatic Co. Ltd., out of Southampton on 8 Nov 1937 bound for Bangkok and Straits Settlements ↑ National Archive Embarcation records: ‘M.S. Jutlandia‘, a ship owned by East Asiatic Co. Ltd., out of Hull on 26 Sept 1939 bound for Bangkok, Thailand. ↑ UK Overseas Marriages - Army Returns 1936 to 1940. Underwood, Richard - Thomas - Singapore, 1940, page 349. ↑ Marriage certificate in possession of their son Richard Underwood. ↑ Information from her son, Richard Underwood, from conversations with his mother.
Marriage: December 31, 1902 — Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales
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