Solid-state neutron detectors with high performances are urgently sought after for the detection of fissile materials. Until now, direct-conversion neutron detectors based on semiconductors with a measureable efficiency have not been realized. We have successfully synthesized hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) epilayers with varying thicknesses (0.3 μm - 50 μm) by metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) on sapphire substrates. In this paper, we present the detailed characterization of thermal neutron detectors fabricated from h-BN epilayers with a thickness up to 5 m to obtain insights into the h-BN epilayer thickness dependence of the device performance. The results revealed that the charge collection efficiency is almost independent of the h-BN epilayer thickness. By minimizing h-BN material removal by dry etching, it was shown that detectors incorporating an isotopically 10B-enriched h-BN epilayer of 2.7 μm in thickness exhibited an overall detection efficiency for thermal neutrons of 4% and a charge collection efficiency as high as 83%. By doing away altogether with dry etching, we have successfully realized a simple vertical 43 μm thick h-10BN detector which delivers a detection efficiency of 51.4% for thermal neutrons, which is the highest reported efficiency for any semiconductor-based neutron detector The h-BN detectors possess all the advantages of semiconductor devices including low cost, high efficiency and sensitivity, wafer-scale processing, compact size, light weight, and ability to integrate with other functional devices.