Thomas West was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford. He later served in the army under Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and was subsequently charged with supporting Essex's insurrection against Queen Elizabeth. He was acquitted of those charges. West succeeded his father as Baron De La Warr in 1602 and became a member of the Privy Council, a non-executive body of advisors mostly comprised of former members of Parliament. Lord De La Warr was appointed governor-for-life and captain-general of the Virginia Colony which replaced the governing council under the presidency of Captain John Smith.
In November 1609, the Powhatan Indians attacked James Fort killing John Ratcliffe, captain of the Discovery, one of the three ships to have landed at Jamestown in 1607. This attack by the Powhatan Indians became known as the First Anglo-Powhatan War. Ratcliffe was the Colony’s Council President. As part of England's response, De La Warr recruited a fighting force of 150 men and outfitted three ships at his own expense. They sailed from England in March of 1610. They arrived at James Cittie on June 10th just in time to persuade the original settlers not to give up and go home to England.
As a veteran of English military campaigns against the Irish, De La Warr employed "scorched earth" tactics against the Native Americans. His troops raided villages, burned houses, torched cornfields, and stole provisions. These tactics, identical to those practiced by the Powhatans themselves, proved most effective.
Lord De La Warr returned to England due to illness in the spring of 1611 leaving his deputy, Sir Samuel Argall, in charge of the colony. After receiving complaints from the Virginia settlers about Argall's leadership, Lord De La Warr again set sail for Virginia in 1618 to investigate the charges of tyranny. He died at sea in route to Virginia.
It was thought for many years that Lord De La Warr had been buried in the Azores or at sea. By 2006, researchers had concluded that his body was indeed brought to Jamestown for burial. Digs currently going on inside the Memorial Jamestown Church has unearthed the remains of bodies buried in the chancery. As was the custom in England, only the most important people were buried in a church chancery. It is speculated that the remains of Lord Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, may have been found. DNA analysis may soon confirm this suspicion.
It is a very exciting time for those having a keen interest in our Nation’s earliest history as James Cittie, or Jamestown as it became to be known, is the birthplace of America and the archaeological digs are unlocking her secrets.