TRIBUTES have been paid to a former chief fireman and merchant navy war veteran who died at the end of May.

Allen John Thomas, of Stonecroft, Portfield Gate, passed away aged 94 at Withybush Hospital on May 25.

His friends and family have remembered him as a principled, moralistic and hardworking man, who rose from humble beginnings to become the chief fire officer in Haverfordwest.

“Allen was a very disciplined and honest father, who only wanted the best for his children,” said his daughter Kerris.

“He was extremely well respected for his honesty on worldly matter that made sense,” she added.

Allen was born on August 15, 1924, in Hay-on-Wye, living in poverty in a tin shack in the village of Eardisley with his family.

His father Benjamin was a skilled stonemason from Hayscastle, who had moved to the Welsh borders for work.

He later went on to help build the old Eardisley bridge and Crew Control Tower.

As a boy, Allen won a scholarship to study at Hereford High School for Boys, a time he remembered with great sentimentality according to Kerris, who cared for him before his death.

At 14, he joined the fire service as a voluntary despatch rider and worked in Swansea and Brecon in the years leading up to the war.

In 1942, when he was old enough at 18, Allen enlisted in the Royal Navy and was commissioned to the merchant navy, and served as a crew member on a submarine.

Milford Mercury: Allen Thomas in his naval uniform during the second world war.Allen Thomas in his naval uniform during the second world war.

His service during the Second World War took him to the pacific theatre, including Sri Lanka, India, Burma and later Egypt.

On returning to the UK after the war, Allen and his brother Owen were sent to Scotland by the navy to demobilise, where he got a job with the fire service.

Allen later worked for the fire service in Birmingham and Hereford, and in 1950, he met his future wife Lillian Houghton while walking on the banks of the river Wye.

In the 1960s, Allen was promoted and sent to Pembrokeshire by the fire service.

During his time with the fire service, he fought fires on oil tankers at the Esso refinery, Milford Haven, and was in charge of the rescue efforts after the Cleddau Bridge collapsed during construction in June 1970.

By the end of his career, Allen was a fire chief and had been awarded the fire service medal for bravery.

Milford Mercury: Allen Thomas was a chief fire officer in Dyfed.Allen Thomas was a chief fire officer in Dyfed.

After retirement he become the curator of Haverfordwest Museum, based at the medieval castle.

He loved the outdoors, including angling, sea fishing and caravanning, and was proud of his country and his roots.

His close friend and neighbour Roy Whitfield said it had been a privilege to have met him and to hear his stories of his time at war and as a firefighter.

“He was very well-respected in the fire service and a disciplinarian, but he knew his men and had a lot of time for them. He was always interested in how they were getting on.”

“It was a wonderful experience for me to have met Allen Thomas,” he said.

Roy also described him as very generous: through him membership of the Burma Star Association, Allen sponsored a Gurkha soldier and his family from Nepal.

Allen is survived by his three children: Graham Thomas, Kerris Humood, and Dawn Fry, and has five grandchildren.

Allen’s grandson, Reef Al-Lahiq, said he was one of the most inspirational, hardworking people he had ever met.

“He lived in a whole different time and taught me a lot about how lucky I am. He taught me about things such as waste, food and resourcefulness as he remembered the era of rationing well during the war. Any plate we were served was to be licked dry or face being scorned upon,” said Reef.

“He taught us the hard way although it could be criticised today,” said Kerris. “It did us no harm, all of us have been successful one way or another through good, hard, solid work.”

Kerris is holding a small memorial gathering at Stonecroft, Portfield Gate, SA62 3LS, at 11am on Saturday, June 15.

Please call 07508 091223 if you wish to attend.