Doris Myfanwy Thomas born 1907

Doris Myfanwy Thomas was born in Wrexham, North Wales, on 27 March 1907, and her parents were David Thomas and Lilian Cluton.   At the time of the 1911 UK Census she aged 4 and was living with her parents and older sister, Lilian Winifred Thomas, at Wern Cottage, Llandulas, Abergele, where her father was a 35 year old police constable.

Doris Head and Shoulders 1940  Doris head and shoulders in 60's

After leaving school she left home and spent a lot of time travelling. She eventually became the governess (nanny) to Christopher William Godfrey Seymour, the son of Alfred Wallace Seymour, and she accompanied the Seymour family when Alfred Wallace Seymour was appointed Colonial Secretary (Deputy Governor) of Trinidad and Tobago in 1935.  She later became the governess 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.  She accompanied the daughter and her mother, Hillary Vines, from England to Singapore in 1937 and 1939.  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.

Doris Thomas in Trinidad 1935-

Doris traveled on the ‘Ariguani‘, a ship owned by Elders & Fyffes Ltd., out of Avonmouth on 26 March 1935 bound for Kingston, Jamaica, when she was 28 years old.

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.

It also shows the last UK address of the whole party.  It appears to be Ellesmere House, but the rest of the address is unreadable

Shipping passenger list closup
Close up of Shipping Passenger List (click to enlarge in new tab)
Shipping passenger list full page
Shipping Passenger List full page (click to enlarge in new tab)

Alfred George Seymour had previously been Colonial secretary in Fiji between 1926 but it is not known if Doris had been governess to his children then.

She also 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.

Doris Thomas in Singapore 1939-1942

1937 Doris traveled from Southampton to Singapore on the M.S. Boringia which sailed on the 8th November 1937.  She is listed on the passenger list as Nurse and Governess to Delvine Eyre Vives, but that is a spelling mistake as the family name was Vines, not Vives (the error is corrected in the following transcript).

The passenger list shows the party as:

Hilary Mary Vines, 33 years.
Delvine Eyre Vines, 5 years.
Doris MyfanwyThomas, 32 years, Nurse and Governess.

It also shows the last UK address of the whole party as 179 Queens Gate, London S.W.7.
Hilary Mary Vines was later to be Doris Underwood‘s matron of honour at her wedding.

Doris Thomas Passenger list 1937
Passenger List 1937 Doris Thomas (click to enlarge in new tab)
top of 1937 passenger list
Top of 1937 Passenger list (click to enlarge in new tab)

1939 Doris traveled on the ‘Jutlandia‘, a ship owned by East Asiatic Co. Ltd., out of Hull on 26 September 1939 on a ship bound for Bangkok, Thailand, although she herself was bound for Singapore.  She was again traveling with the Vines family.

The passenger list shows the party as:

Hilary Mary Vines, 35 years.
Delvine Eyre Vines, 7 years.
Doris MyfanwyThomas, 33 years, Governess.

It also shows the last UK address of the whole party as Hunts Barn, Mayfield, Sussex.

1939 passenger list
1939 Passenger list (click to enlarge in new tab)

On 18 May 1940 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.

Wedding Picture
Straits Times 19 May 1940 (click to enlarge in new tab)
Wedding Newspaper Article
Straits Times 19 May 1940 (click to enlarge in new tab)
Straight Times page 1940
Straits Times 19 May 1940

Their first son, Christopher David Underwood, was born in Singapore.

On 30 January 1942 Doris Underwood 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 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, and their second son Richard Anthony Underwood 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) engaged in voluntary work for them, and 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.

Birth of Doris Myfanwy Thomas:

Birth Certificate Doris Myfanwy Thomas
Birth Certificate For Doris Myfanwy Thomas (click to enlarge in new tab)

UK Index of Births.  Wrexham 11b, 257, June 1907
Thomas Doris Myfanwy

UK Census Entries for Doris Myfanwy Thomas:

UK Census 1911.  Wern Cottage, Llandulas, Abergele.
David Thomas, head, aged 35, married, police constable, Denbigh constabulary, born: Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire.
Lilian Thomas, wife, aged 29, married, born: Wrexham, Denbighshire.
Lilian Thomas, daughter, aged 7, school, born: Denbighshire.
Doris Thomas, daughter, aged 4, school, born: wrexham, Denbighshire.

Marriage of Doris Myfanwy Thomas

UK index of marriages.
Overseas Marriages – Army Returns1936 to 1940.
Underwood, RichardThomas – Singapore, 1940, page 349

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.

Marriage Certificate Doris Thomas
Marriage Certificate for Richard Underwood and Doris Myfanwy Thomas (click to enlarge in new tab)