Thomas Melville Dill

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Thomas Melville Dill
Major Thomas Melville Dill Bermuda Contingent RGA.jpg
Thomas Melville Dill
Born(1876-12-23)23 December 1876
Devonshire Parish, Bermuda
Died7 March 1945(1945-03-07) (aged 68)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1895-1928
UnitBermuda Contingent, Royal Garrison Artillery (Bermuda Militia Artillery)
Battles/warsFirst World War
AwardsOfficer of the Order of the British Empire
RelationsNicholas Bayard Dill, Diana Dill, Michael Douglas, Joel Douglas, Mary Lea Johnson Richards, John Seward Johnson II, Diana Firestone

Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Melville Dill OBE (23 December 1876 – 7 March 1945) was a prominent Bermudian lawyer, politician and soldier.

Early life[edit]

Dill was born in Devonshire Parish, in the British colony of Bermuda, the son of Mary Lea (née Smith) and Thomas Newbold Dill. The Dill family had been established in Bermuda in the 1630s. Thomas Newbold Dill (1837-1910) was a merchant, a Member of the Colonial Parliament (MCP) for Devonshire Parish from 1868 to 1888, a Member of the Legislative Council and an Assistant Justice from 1888, Mayor of the City of Hamilton from 1891 to 1897, served on numerous committees and boards, and was a member of the Devonshire Church (Church of England) and Devonshire Parish vestries (the latter is now termed a Parish Council). Thomas Melville Dill was named for his seafaring paternal grandfather, who had lost his master's certificate after the wreck of the Bermudian-built Cedrine on the Isle of Wight, which had been returning the last convict labourers from the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda to Britain in 1863.[1][2][3]

Military career[edit]

Thomas Dill entered the fledgeling Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1895 as a rifleman, before transferring to the Bermuda Militia Artillery, a reserve of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, as a lieutenant. The British Army maintained a large Bermuda Garrison of regular and part-time artillery and infantry units to guard the Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda, and other strategic assets. By 1914, then-Captain Dill was the Commandant, but he handed that position to a subordinate in order to lead the unit's First Contingent to the Western Front, receiving a temporary regular commission as a Major.[4] Serving as part of the larger Royal Garrison Artillery draft to the front, the Bermudian contingent was strongly praised by Field Marshal Douglas Haig.[5][6] After the war, Major Dill returned to Bermuda, resuming his command of the BMA.[7][8] His substantive rank was still Captain 'til he was promoted to substantive Major in 1921, though dated 12 November, 1919.[9] He retired on 21 April 1928 with the honorary-rank of lieutenant-colonel (substantive rank of major).[10][11]

Legal and political careers[edit]

In addition to his role as a military officer, Dill pursued a legal career, becoming Bermuda's Attorney General.[12] He entered politics, and served as a Member of the Colonial Parliament (MCP) for Devonshire parish from 1904 until 1938. He was also appointed to the Executive Council.[13] He was an avid historian, whose articles were published in the Bermuda Historical Quarterly.

Personal life[edit]

Dill married Ruth Rapalje Neilson (1880-1973) on 15 October 1900, and they had several children, some of whom followed him to positions of prominence in Bermuda or abroad. Their children were Ruth Rapalje Dill (1901-1986), Thomas Newbold Dill (1903-1970), Nicholas Bayard Dill (known as Bayard Dill) (1905-1993), Laurence Dill (1907-1984), Helen Dill (1912-2004), Frances Rapalje Dill (1915-2009) and Diana Dill (1923-2015). Sir Bayard Dill was an officer in the Bermuda Volunteer Engineers, a founding member of the Conyers, Dill & Pearman law firm (that played an important role in Bermuda's development as an offshore business centre),[14] and a prominent politician who was knighted in 1951. He also played a key role in negotiating the agreement with the USA for its military and naval bases in Bermuda during the Second World War.[15][16][17][18] Ruth Dill was married to John Seward Johnson I, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune. Their children included Mary Lea Johnson Richards, John Seward Johnson II, and Diana Firestone. Diana Dill moved to the USA, becoming an actress. She was married to actor Kirk Douglas, with whom she had two sons, actor and producer Michael Douglas,[12][19][20] and producer Joel Douglas. His grandson, the Right Reverend Nicholas Dill (of the Anglican Church of Bermuda), was installed as Bishop of Bermuda on 29 May 2013.[21][22][23]


Dill died of a heart attack on 7 March 1945, following injuries sustained during a fall in February. He was eulogised on the front page of The Royal Gazette.[12]


  1. ^ Bermuda's Architectural Heritage: Hamilton Parish, Author: Diana Chudleigh, Editor: David L. White. Published by: The Bermuda National Trust, 2002
  2. ^ Genealogy Forum: Dill Family of Bermuda starting with Lawrence in 1631
  3. ^ Bermuda's History from 1800 to 1899, Bermuda Online
  4. ^ ROYAL GARRISON ARTILLERY: Captain T. M. Dill, Bermuda Militia Artillery, to be temporary Major. Dated 30th March, 1916. The London Gazette. Publication date: 28 March 1916. Supplement: 29525. Page: 339.
  5. ^ BMA History, by Jennifer Hind, of The Royal Gazette.]
  6. ^ Bermuda Online: Bermuda's War Veterans
  7. ^ To be Officers of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order: Dill, T./Maj; Thomas Melville, B.M.A. and R.G.A. The London Gazette. Publication date, 5 June 1919. Issue: 13457. Page: 2002.
  8. ^ BERMUDA MILITIA ARTILLERY. Maj. T. M. Dill to be Comdt. 12th Nov. 1919. The London Gazette. Publication date: 2 September 1921. Supplement: 32445. Page: 703.
  9. ^ BERMUDA MILITIA ARTILLERY: Capt, T. M. Dill to be Maj. 12th Nov. 1919. The London Gazette. Publication date: 1 March 1921. Supplement: 32244. Page: 176
  10. ^ POTSI: Commanders and Adjutants since formation of the BMA by Jennifer Hind
  11. ^ The London Gazette. Publication date, 15 June 1928. Issue: 33394. Page: 4109 (erroneously named as D. M. Dill. Corrected in issue of 17th of July, 1928)
  12. ^ a b c Colonel Tom Dill O.B.E.: Lawyer, Soldier & Statesman, by Lloyd Mayer, The Bermuda Book Stores, Hamilton Bermuda. Printed by Robert MacLehose & Company Ltd, The University of Glasgow Press. 1964.
  13. ^ Downing Street, 23rd April 1919. The KING has been pleased to give directions for the appointment of Major Thomas Melville Dill, Royal Artillery, to be an Unofficial Member of the Executive Council of the Bermudas or Somers Islands. The Edinburgh Gazette. Publication date: 29 April 1919. Issue: 13438. Page: 15
  14. ^ Conyers Dill & Pearman
  15. ^ Supplement to The London Gazette, January, 1951
  16. ^ The Royal Gazette: Sir Henry Tucker - one of the Island's two most important leaders of the 20th Century
  17. ^ The Royal Gazette: Family tradition still going strong at law firm
  18. ^ The Royal Gazette: Archived 8 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine They made a difference – One hundred people who made a significant contribution with lasting effect on the affairs of Bermuda
  19. ^ The Bermudian: Bermuda and Hollywood. March 1946 Archived 11 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Bernews: Diana Dill
  21. ^ Nicholas Dill becomes youngest Bishop of Bermuda, The Bermuda Sun
  22. ^ Anglican communion Office. Provincial Directory: Bermuda
  23. ^ Movie stars congratulate new Bermuda bishop. Anglican Communion News Service. 31 May, 2013

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