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NOTICE OF DEATH - GWYN EDWARD WARD THOMAS CBE, DFC, CROIX DE GUERRE (1923 - 2019)

It is with great regret that we have to advise Members of the death of Life Member Ward Thomas who passed away on 4 February at the age of 95.  He was one of the BRDC’s longest-standing Members, having been elected in 1952.  Motor racing was a relatively brief period in Ward Thomas’s long life, essentially comprising a season of 500 cc racing in 1952 with a Cooper-Norton Mk V (T16) which had been previously raced by John Cooper himself.  Ward’s principal successes were winning the Prix de la Province de Namur in Belgium and, a few weeks earlier, the Junior final at Brands Hatch after finishing second to Reg Bicknell’s Revis in the first heat.

During World War Two Ward flew Lancasters with Bomber Command making some 36 sorties over occupied France and Germany.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for ‘utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty in air operations’ and the Croix de Guerre for his part in bombing raids on the German Panzer training camp at Mailly-le-Camp in advance of the D-Day landings.  After leaving the RAF in 1946 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant, Ward flew for Swiss Air before taking up motor racing.

It was in the world of television that Ward Thomas became best known, first with Granada selling airtime to advertisers.  He was a member of the consortium which bid successfully for the Grampian Television franchise of which he became CEO.  In 1967 he became Managing Director of Yorkshire Television which became part of Trident Television in 1971 as the holding company of both Yorkshire and Tyne Tees Television.  Ward became Chairman of Trident in 1976.  Programmes such as Emmerdale, Rising Damp and Whicker’s World were launched by YTV during Ward’s time at the helm.  Later Trident diversified into casinos with the acquisition of Playboy Casinos from Hugh Hefner, the deal bringing with it the Clermont Club and the Victoria Sporting Club.  Trident also acquired Windsor Safari Park at this time.

After retiring in 1984 when Trident had just made its highest-ever pre-tax profit of £10.3 million, in 1993 Ward was lured back from retirement to save Yorkshire TV from financial disaster which had been successfully achieved by 1996.  A year later he steered through a merger of YTV with Granada before retiring for the second time.  Although his time in motor racing was brief, Ward was for ever proud of his BRDC Membership.  To his wife Janice, daughter Christina and son Guy the BRDC extends its most sincere condolences.

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