Johnstone History Museum
Johnstone History Society • Scotland

Captain Thomas Stevenson Craig M.C.
While searching the London Gazette I found the following entry in a Supplement dated 24 Feb. 1942, page 894 - The Military Cross awarded to Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) Thomas Stevenson Craig (85709), Royal Tank Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps (Johnstone, Renfrewshire).

His recommendation for the award was found in National Archives -
32nd Tank Bde., 70th Infantry Division.
Unit - D Squadron, 7th Btn., Royal Tank Regiment
Name - Lt. (T/Captain) Thomas Stevenson Craig.
Place - Tobruch. Date - 21st & 28th November 1941..

During the preliminary advance from Tobruch (today known as Tobruk, North Africa) and the attack on the first strong point, two of the tanks in Capt. Craig’s Troop ran on to a minefield. Both these tanks remained in action throughout the day, bringing intense fire to bear on enemy positions within range. As soon as darkness fell, he set about recovering both vehicles and did so before midnight in spite of the fact that all work was performed in the open and under heavy enemy fire.

On 28th November, in another action, his tank was penetrated by a shell, but he remained in action for two hours, supporting the infantry and eventually succeeded in destroying the crew of an anti-tank gun which had caused the Squadron several casualties.

By his coolness in action and his remarkable courage, Capt. Craig has been a magnificent example throughout a weeks continuous action.
(Signed) Neil Ritchie, GOC in C, Eighth Army.

But what of his connection with Johnstone ?

A clue came during a search of Ancestry UK in which a newspaper cutting, dated 22.1.1941, in the Andrews Newpaper index Cards 1790-1976 :-

Craig - In Jan. 1941, killed in action, Thomas Stevenson Craig, 2nd Lieut., Royal Tank Regiment, only son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Craig,
Glendyne, Jersey, Channel Isles and nephew of Miss M.R. Stevenson, Ravenswood, Johnstone, Scotland, aged 22 years.

Thomas Stevenson Craig may have been reported killed in action, but he survived the war. It must have been devastating news for the family, to find out later he was still alive must have been a great relief.

Jersey, together with the rest of the Channel Islands, was under German military occupation from 30 June 1940 until liberation on 9 May 1945, so it would explain why he was living with an aunt Miss M.R. Stevenson, Ravenswood, Johnstone, during the war. She has been identified as Margaret Russell Stevenson, b. 19 Feb., 1877, at 74 High St., Johnstone, daughter of Thomas Stevenson, Grocer and Flesher, and Elizabeth Stevenson m.s. Stevenson, according to her birth certificate. She was the sister of Thomas Stevenson Craig’s mother.

The father, Thomas Stevenson, General Merchant, died on 8th August 1906 at Ravenswood, Johnstone, as mentioned in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 11 Aug. 1906, page 4.

The 1927 Paisley and District Directory shows Miss M.R. Stevenson residing at Ravenswood, High St., Johnstone. The same directory shows her as a Wine and Spirit Merchant, The Railway Inn, Overton Cres., Thornhill, Johnstone - House, Ravenswood.

The 1939 Rates Valuation Roll shows Margaret R. Stevenson as the occupier of Ravenswood, so this is clearly her.

But what of Thomas Stevenson Craig’s mother and father, the mother being the sister of Margaret Russell Stevenson, who was his aunt.

A search of the Jersey Heritage site revealed that both parents of Thomas Stevenson Craig remained on Jersey when the island was occupied by the Germans. Registration documents and cards compiled by the occupation authorities reveal that Jenny Craig nee Stevenson, b. 23.6.1884, Scotland resided at Glendyne, La Ruelle des Canons, Mont a’ l’Abbe, St Helier, Jersey. Her husband was Thomas Craig, b. 24.3.1877, Scotland, residing at the same address.

Although known as Jenny, her birth certificate revealed that her birth name was Janet Stevenson, b. 23 June 1884, at 74 High St., Johnstone, daughter of Thomas Stevenson, Grain Merchant, and Elizabeth Stevenson m.s. Stevenson, she being the sister of Margaret Russell Stevenson and mother of Thomas Stevenson Craig. The marriage certificate of “Jenny” Stevenson and Thomas Craig has not yet been found, but it is known that they moved to the Channel Islands a number of years before the war.

In 1942 deportations of foreign nationals from the Channel Islands began, which included those from the U.K. mainland. The Deportees List held by Guernsey Museums reveals that Jenny Craig and Thomas Craig we’re deported from Jersey to Biberach Internment Camp, Germany, where they remained until after the liberation. After the war was over they returned to Jersey and documents held by Jersey Heritage show that they resided at Passchendaele, Mont a l’Abbe, St Helier, formerly of Glendyne.

The Army List 1969 (Officers on Retired Pay) reveal that their son Thomas Stevenson Craig, was a career soldier, born 29th Nov. 1918, having been commissioned into the Army on 26th Jan.,1939.

The London Gazette confirms this, stating that he was a Gentleman Cadet from the Royal Military Academy (Sandhurst) graduating to be a 2nd Lieut. In the Royal Tank Corps, re-named the Royal Tank Regiment. When Jersey was invaded he could not go home, and stayed with his aunt Margaret Russell Stevenson at Ravenswood, Johnstone. Promoted to the rank of Captain, he was awarded the M.C., 24 Feb. 1942. At the end of the war, according to Jersey Heritage, Captain Thomas Stevenson Craig, late of Glendyne, Mont a l’Abbe, St Helier, Jersey, made application to return to Jersey after the occupation. He remained in the Regular Army. On 28th Jan. 1957 he was awarded the MBE. On 13 March 1961 he was promoted Colonel, and retired 30th Oct. 1967.

According to the England & Wales Death Index 1989-2021 (Ancestry UK) , Thomas Stevenson Craig, b. 29 Nov. 1918, died 10th Jan. 2000, age 82. His last residence was in Oxted, Surrey, England.

Further information regarding him was found in the Monte SAN Martino Trust (UK website) which states that Tom S. Craig (later Col. T.S. Craig, MBE, MC) was captured in Tobruk. Libya in June 1942, and then moved to Benghazi, before being flown to Lecce in South Italy. He was then transferred to an Italian POW Camp PG49 near Fontannello in North Italy. Following the Italian Armistice in Sept. 1943, he and several other prisoners escaped from PG49 and headed south through German occupied Italy. Their escape took several months eventually ending up at Casoli in Central Italy after crossing the enemy front line to the allies in Jan 1944, then leaving Naples in a troop-ship for England.

A document on the website describes his escape and mentions his parents interned in Germany, as they lived in Jersey.

J.S. Craig’s own version of events (on the website) states he was taken prisoner “during the ill fated attack by 32 Tank Bde on the Sidra Ridge, South west of Tobruk in Libya, 6th June 1942.

The ridge was held by 21st Panzer Division and a screen of 88mm anti-tank guns. I was commanding D Sqn. of the 7th R.T.R., which regiment, together with 42nd R.T.R. and C Sqn. of the 8th R.T.R.made up this ‘ad hoc’ Bde. at the time. They were equipped with Matilda and Valentine tanks, about 80 before the battle. Only 12 survived. My own tank was hit and on fire, and a breech loading 3 inch mortar was its only armament. I had no option but to surrender. We were lucky to survive. Many did not.”

After his escape, “on landing at Liverpool, Feb. 1944, I went straight up to Scotland to stay with my aunt Meg (Margaret Russell Stevenson), who was my next of kin, my mother and my father having been interned in Germany, taken away from Jersey, Channel Islands. All my kit had been sent home from Egypt to Scotland, and after a week or two there, I went down to London and was met by Daphne, who I hadn’t seen for four years....We we’re engaged a few days later and married on 5th April 1944.”

The England and Wales Civil Reg. Marriage Index identifies Daphne C.M. Coutts, married to Thomas S. Craig, Kensington, London, April 1944.
According to the England and Wales Death Index 1989-2021, his wife Daphne Cynthia Marion Craig, age 91, b. 1922, died 26 June 2013, at Oxted, Surrey, England.