Thomas Besant was born in Liverpool on 22 December 1883, the son of Mr Edgar Besant, a Naval Storekeeper. He joined the Royal Navy in 1898 and in 1900 was appointed to the cruiser HMS ENDYMION and then to the cruiser HMS AMPHITRITE in 1902 where he served until 1903. After his Lieutenant’s Courses he served in destroyers HMS HEARTY, HMS FAIRY and HMS VIXEN before being appointed to the battleship HMS RUSSELL in 1904.
Thomas Besant was first appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS THAMES at Portsmouth ‘for Training in Submarines’ in 1905. He was promoted to Lieutenant and re-appointed ‘for Command of Submarines’ in 1906. In 1907 he took command of HMS C12. In 1910 he returned to the Surface Fleet for his ‘Big Ship’ time with an appointment to the battleship HMS KING EDWARD VII and, in 1911, to the battleship HMS HERCULES.
His next Submarine appointment came in 1912, in command of HMS C30. In 1913 he was ‘loaned to the Royal Australian Navy for Submarine Service’ to take up his new appointment to the Submarine Depot Ship HMAS PENGUIN ‘for Submarine AE1 in Command’.
Thomas Besant was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in December 1913 and, after a ‘Commissioning Ceremony’ at Portsmouth, HMAS AE1 made the passage to Australia, arriving in Sydney in May 1914. After refitting at Sydney HMAS AE1 joined the Australian Forces at the Bismarck Archipelago but disappeared with the loss of all hands off the Island of New Britain in the Pacific on 14 September 1914.
Thomas Besant is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval War Memorial on Panel No. 4