SIR GEORGE THOMAS – A Legend as a Player, Administrator and Gentlemen

Written by Geoff Hinder

                                  SIR GEORGE THOMAS

The measure of the extraordinary qualities of this man goes far beyond the number of badminton championships and tournaments that he had won during one of the longest playing careers of any badminton player. He was a gentleman, writer, administrator, benefactor, a doughty soldier, International Master at chess, international tennis player and an athlete of note in several other sports.

George Alan Thomas was born in Istanbul, Turkey, on 14 June 1881, to parents who were both wealthy and members of the British Empire aristocracy that graced that period of time. He never denied his background yet never flaunted it. His shyness hid a great intellect and, in spite of his confidence in almost everything that he undertook, he was a person of wonderful modesty and humility.

George Thomas in 1908.

Click on images to enlarge


He began his badminton career at the Southsea Club and within three months was in the semi-finals of the All-England in 1900. He was to compete every year for the next 28 years except for the five-year period of the First World War. During his playing career, he won 78 national titles in the United Kingdom and a further 12 French titles; he also competed in 29 out of 30 English internationals matches, winning 50 in the process, Sir George retired from international duties at the age of 47.

George Thomas’s successes at the All-England did not begin until 1903 when he won the mixed doubles, partnered by the early ladies ‘great’, Ethel Thomson. He really started to make his name in 1906 when he again won the mixed doubles with Ethel Thomson and achieved the first of nine men’s doubles titles; this was also the first of four he won with Dr. Henry Norman Marrett. He was to dominate the championship scene in Ireland, Scotland and France until the outbreak of the First World War.

Sir George Thomas in 1929

During the early part of his career, he edited the Badminton Gazette from 1907-12 and was the joint editor with Lavinia Radeglia from 1913-15. Later he was to write several additions of his book The Art of Badminton.

In the First World War, he served as an army officer and in a daunting fashion marched with his troops across more than 240 miles (385 km) of Mesopotamian Desert. It was also said that he rejected the opportunity to ride his horse, choosing rather to footslog with his troops.

It was in 1918 on his father’s death he inherited the baronetcy and became Sir George Thomas Bart, the 7th Baronet of Yapton. A baronet is above a knight, but below a baron. It is a hereditary title and is passed down to the eldest son.

On the resumption of the All-England after the First World War in 1920, it must have appeared to all that at nearly 39 years of age Sir George Thomas’s life as a top badminton player was over. However, the redoubtable Sir George astonished everybody by winning the first of four successive All-England singles titles and three successive mixed doubles titles with Hazel Hogarth (he had previously won with Hogarth in 1914). He was to win three more men’s doubles with Frank Hodge in 1921, 1924 and 1928, the last at the age of 47. Sir George holds the record of the most All-England titles with 21 in total, 4 men’s singles, 9 men’s doubles and 8 mixed doubles.

For more information on the history of the All-England Badminton Championships – Click Here.

George Thomas played in the very first international badminton match, Ireland versus England in January 1903 in Dublin. For the next 26 years, he would represent England achieving a total of 29 international caps.

For more information about the first-ever international badminton match – Click Here.

Sir George Thomas in 1929 ready to play for England v Ireland in his last international match, at the age of nearly 48 he won both his matches.




Sir George Thomas chess International Master.

Sir Georges’s sporting life was not restricted to badminton. He had achieved a very high distinction in at least two other sports, he was one of the very few who could claim to have been a triple international. At chess, his reputation was nearly as great as at badminton,

George at the age of 15 defeated Dr. Lasker, a world champion and two years later, when he joined the Portsmouth Chess Club, he won their championship at his first attempt.

He first represented his country in 1910 in an international match against America, and thereafter continued to be one of the first choices to represent Britain, whose international teams he had captained continually until 1930. Twice, in 1923 and 1934, he won the British Chess Championships, and played all over the world and was Vice President of the British Chess Federation.

His greatest chess success was in 1935 at Hastings when he defeated former world champion Capablanca and future world champion Botvinnik in successive rounds. He is the only English player ever to have beaten Capablanca, who is still regarded by many as the greatest chess player of all time.

Sir George was a stickler for punctuality, but there was an occasion in Scotland when he was challenged to chess by 29 inmates of the local prison. After easily vanquishing 28 of them, he was delayed by the 29th, a convicted ‘con-man’. This breach of punctuality was overlooked by the Badminton Championship organisers.


Sir George Thomas International and Wimbledon tennis player. 

Lawn Tennis was his other great sport, in four successive matches, between 1912 and 1920 he represented England against Ireland. Sir George played at Wimbledon Tennis Championships from 1906 to 1926. In 1911 he reached the quarter-finals of the men’s singles and in 1912 he reached the semi-finals in the men’s doubles with the All-England Badminton Champion Albert Prebble, he also played mixed doubles tennis with his badminton partner Hazel Hogarth. Sir George also played inter-county hockey and was an accomplished equestrian.

He took badminton teams to Canada and Europe and this increased his desire for badminton to be an international sport. To this end, he encouraged the Badminton Association (England) to help establish the International Badminton Federation in 1934. The Badminton Association (England) had organised world badminton since it was formed in 1893. Sir George was the first President of the International Badminton Federation (now called Badminton World Federation – BWF) which he held for 21 years, he never missed a meeting, rewrote the badminton laws and was a frequent umpire at major events. He was Vice President of The Badminton Association of England from 1930-50 and its President from 1950-52.

The Thomas Cup

It was Sir George Thomas who proposed the Men’s World Team Championships and in 1939 gave a magnificent presentation cup for this. The Thomas Cup was first played in 1948-49, the first final was played on 25th and 26th February 1949 at the Queens Hall, Preston, England and Sir George was there to make the presentation to the Malayan team which beat Denmark 8-1.


Sir George Thomas with the Thomas Cup


The draw for the inaugural Thomas Cup competition made by Sir George Thomas on June 30th 1948 from the trophy he had presented to the International Badminton Federation. The draw was made at the Charing Cross Hotel with representatives of many of the competing nations.


Sir George Thomas, President of the International Badminton Federation and donor of the Cup, hands the Thomas Cup to Mr Lim Chuan Geok, captain of the Malayan winning team in 1949.

For more information about ‘The First Thomas Cup Final’ – Click Here.

Sir George Thomas was a truly remarkable man with an impeccable record on and off the court, he was never known to quibble over an umpire’s decision and even stood down from the Badminton Association Selection Committee chairmanship when his position in the England team was under challenge.
Sir George Alan Thomas died on 23 July 1972 at the age of 91- a legend as a player, administrator and gentlemen.
Visitors are welcome to look around the Museum unescorted at any time – The National Badminton Centre is normally open 9am to 8pm every day.
National Badminton Museum, National Badminton Centre, Bradwell Road, Loughton Lodge,

National Badminton Centre 

Lodge Hotel.

For more information and to book a room – Click Here.
If you have any badminton memorabilia, archive material, or any other items and would like to donate them to the National Badminton Museum please contact us at: –
Thank you to all the ‘Friends of the Museum’ and people who have made donations to the National Badminton Museum, your support enables us to purchase extremely rare badminton artefacts for the National Collection as they become available.

The National Badminton Museum is a small charity administered by volunteers. Help preserve the history of badminton by making a donation or becoming a ‘Friend of the Museum’. Any donations to the National Badminton Museum will help us to expand the collection of memorabilia, books, and documents to make these items readily available to all.
To become a ‘Friend of the Museum’ or to make a donation to the National Badminton Museum online or by cheque go to: – ‘Home’ – ‘Friends and Donations’.  –  Click Here.      or use the QR Code  – Thank you.

2025 Yonex All-England Badminton Championships
Tuesday 11 March 2025 to Sunday 16 March 2025.
At the Utilita Arena, Birmingham.
error: Content is protected !!