Roy Thomas receiving the United Nations Mission in Haiti Force Commander's Commendation, July 1996.Roy Thomas
Map of Sarajevo marked with Bosnian Serb Brigade boundaries (black), frontlines (red), the total exclusion zone (green) where no heavy weapons to be deployed. Courtesy of Major (ret'd) Francis Roy Thomas, MSC, CD.Roy Thomas
UNTOS Report of Hijacking of UN military observer vehicle in South Lebanon in January, 1978. Roy Thomas was taken hostage in Bosnia for twelve hours (his name mispelled on this document as "Ron Thomas").Roy Thomas
Roy Thomas outside UN post on Pakistan/Afghanistan border near Parrachinar North West Frontier Province while serving with UNGOMAP in November, 1989.Roy Thomas
Copy of Meritorious Service Cross Citation for Major (ret'd) Francis Roy Thomas, MSC, CD.Roy Thomas
Medals of Major (ret'd) Francis Roy Thomas, MSC, CD. L-R: Meritorious Service Cross; SSM with NATO bar; Canadian Peacekeeping Medal; UNTSO medal; UNFICYP medal; UNGOMAP medal; UNMIH medal; UNPROFOR medal; Canadian Forces Decoration with two bars for 35 years of service.Roy Thomas
Francis Roy Thomas. But I'm normally called Roy. I joined the Canadian Military in 1962. And I retired in 1998. And during that period of time I served in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps in three different armoured regiments - the Fort Gary Horse, the Lord Strathcona's Horse and the 8th Canadian Hussars. Fortunately, or not so fortunately, during this same period I served in seven different United Nations missions.
My first mission was with a reconnaissance troop in Cyprus. Then, almost ten years later, in 1977 I served first on the Golan Heights, with UNDOF and then with United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization based in Jerusalem. And we did a lot of work in South Lebanon and that is where I was high-jacked. Then, twelve years later in 1989, at very short notice, I was deployed to Afghanistan to serve as again as a Military Observer.
From Afghanistan I returned to Canada, only to find myself in Macedonia in 1993. From Macedonia, I went to Sarajevo, Bosnia. And in 1993 it was a very exciting place to be. I was nine months in Sarajevo as the Senior Military Observer. My final United Nations tour was in Haiti where, in fact, the mission underwent a major change while I was there. The American Commander was replaced by a Canadian and our force shrank from 6,000 soldiers to 1,800.
Probably the most emotional and significant incident in my four and a half years of UN service was in South Lebanon. We had had a lot of hijackings. Vehicles were being taken and the parties that took the vehicles could be supporting either Israel or the Palestinian Liberation Organization or some of them were probably just thugs. But it was hard to identify. And as the Operations Officer working out of UNSO Headquarters in Jerusalem, I tried to be very familiar with every route taken by the observation post reliefs. So as a result I scheduled myself to go in with these reliefs and it was on one of these that I was high-jacked myself. We were driving down the road with the relief party in a convoy of two vehicles, very well spaced out, and there was a civilian vehicle that was obviously trying to pass us. We suspected that he didn't mean good, and when there was enough space for him to get by, he managed to get by, four people jumped out and they immediately stopped us at gun point and forced us to get out of the vehicle. We were forced back in at gun point, into the vehicle and we were taken up a side road and then kicked out.
I must admit I was very nervous during this whole incident. The guy that had his gun pointed at my head, had his hand on the trigger and it was shaking. If you could have seen my hands, it was probably also shaking. Fortunately for us, some civilians, who put themselves at risk, saw us being dumped on the road and they took us inside their house and kept us there until another UN vehicle came by looking for us and picked us up.
I still will remember this because of the kindness of those people who took us in and kept us out of sight, knowing full well that they could be accused of harbouring Westerners and people from North America. And this put them at risk with all of the belligerents in that area.