Thomas Hibling-Keiller


About Thomas

  • Name
  • Initials
  • Surname
  • Date of Birth
    08 September 1889
  • Birth town
    Exeter, Port Adelaide, Australia
  • Resided town
    Great Yarmouth
  • Commemorated
  • Nationality
  • Place of death
    Lothingland, Suffolk
  • Date of death
    March 1967
  • Married
  • Occupation
    Civil Engineer (post war)

Service Information

  • Royal Navy

  • Service Number
  • Rank
    Air Mechanic
  • Army

  • Service Number
  • Rank
  • Regiment
    Royal Flying Corps


Thomas Hibling-Keiller was serving with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) when he passed through Peterborough East Railway Station and called at the tea room on 21 June 1916.  He wrote in the visitors’ book: “I might miss trains, but that you know is quite permissible, But I would fair my promise keep with good kind Christobel”.

Thomas Hibling-Keiller was born in Exeter, Port Adelaide, Australia on 8 September 1889 to parents Thomas Keiller and Annettie Hibling who married in December 1888. His Royal Navy service record is under the surname of Keiller whilst he signed himself Hibling-Keiller in the visitors’ book.

Although born in Australia, Thomas appears on the 1891 census aged one, living with his Aunt Harriet Jones (nee Hibling) in Portslade, Sussex. His father remained in Australia, and we are unable to trace his mother at that time.

Thomas joined the Royal Navy in 1905 at the age of 15, as a Signal’s Boy on HMS Firequeen, Portsmouth. Later that year he became a Ship’s Steward Boy on HMS Ganges, a training ship moored at Harwich and at the age of 18 he became a Ship’s Steward Assistant.

Just three days after his 20th birthday in September 1909, Thomas absconded from the navy and went missing for six months. He is reported back on 15 March 1910 and was subsequently tried and punished with 42 days in the cells. A couple of weeks after completion of his punishment, he ran away again, this time for more than three years! (This may explain why we could not find him in the 1911 Census).

However, in October 1914 he enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). His next of kin was his father Thomas, who was still living in Adelaide, Australia. Thomas listed his occupation as civil engineer.

His Royal Flying Corps (RFC) records indicate that on 13 December 1914, he was given up as a deserter from the Royal Navy and his 65 days service with the RFC would not count toward any pension.

The Navy took him back as a Ship’s Steward Assistant but a week later he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as an Air Mechanic and began retraining. A year later his records reveal another punishment of 14 days in the cells for an unspecified offence.

In 1917, he married Hilda Royal from Great Yarmouth, in Plympton, Devonshire, as Thomas was based in Plymouth at the time.

On 1 April 1918, on the formation of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Thomas became one of the founding servicemen of the modern RAF.

After the war Thomas returned to civil engineering and records of Thomas and Hilda returning from trips to Canada aboard cruise liners in 1930 and again in 1958. In 1930 they were living in North Denes, Great Yarmouth and in 1958 they were in New Costessy, Norwich. Between these dates we traced Thomas and Hilda to 11 The Bungalows, Strood, Kent, where Thomas was a structural mechanical engineer in 1939.

Thomas died at Lothingland, Suffolk, in March 1967 aged 77. We have been unable to trace any children.

Can you tell us more about Thomas and his family?  Please get it touch if you can help.


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