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Remembered Today:

D. Thomson, M.C; a mediocre Major?



David Thomson was born in February-March 1879 at Aberlady, East Lothian, Scotland to John Thomson. David enlisted into the Gordon Highlanders on May 11th, 1899 at Edinburgh with the service number 6735. At the time, he was 20 and 2 months and joined the 1st Battalion. He fought in the Second Boer War with the 1st Battalion, serving from December 16th, 1899 to December 31st, 1901; just over a full two years! He earned both South African campaign medals, QSA with 5 clasps and KSA with 2 clasps. He went on to serve in the East Indies from January 1902 to February 1908 where he would be promoted to Lance Corporal (June 1st 1902), Corporal (Dec 6th 1906) then to Lance Sergeant (Dec 10th 1907), returning home to take 7 months furlough, returning to duty by September 1908. Lance Sergeant Thomson was promoted to Sergeant on March 9th, 1909 and was discharged from the British Army on November 6th, 1911 after 12 years service. It is worth noting that newspapers state he served 10 years in India, which I cannot confirm.

He came to Australia and shortly after his discharge joined the Administrative and Instructional Staff rising to Warrant-Officer Class Two. In 1913, he was a Staff Sergeant-Major in Area 37B (Wollongong) in the 10th South Brigade. He was at the Kiama Training Centre when he was summoned to Victoria Barracks in Sydney where he was offered to join the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force but was also shortly after offered a post in the other force; the Australian Imperial Force.
*AWM states he was a member of the 3rd Australian Commonwealth Horse during the Boer War, but this is erroneous

An either pre-war or post-war Thomson

He enlisted into Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade on August 17th, 1914 at Randwick [New South Wales], immediately appointed the Regimental Sergeant Major with the service number 31. He embarked with on October 18th, 1914 with his Division. After a few months training in Egypt, they were reorganized from 8 companies to 4 in January 1915, mirroring the British Army. On April 24th at 5am, they left Mudros Harbour. On April 25th shortly before sun up at 4:30am, the 3rd Brigade landed on Gallipoli as a covering force. The 1st Battalion was on a vessel anchored two miles from Gaba Tepe at 5am, with soldiers viewing the exploits of the 3rd Brigade. At 5:45am, a couple of destroyers came alongside and brought the 1st Battalion aboard. They landed on Gallipoli at around 7:40am whilst the beach was still 'hot' with enemy contact. The orders were vague, but a vague dispositions of the Battalions Companies were as follows.

(A Company - Near the Pimple )
(B Company - Right of 'A' Company ) 
(C Company - Between Wire Gully and the Chessboard )
(D Company - Near Fisherman's Hut and Pope's Hill )

A rough representation of the locations of the said Companies. It is worth noting that they were not sticking together as Companies, they were mostly acting as platoons, fighting alongside other Battalions.

At sundown, it came to a total of 42 men of the 1st Battalion killed on the first day. Among them was Lieutenant Duchesne, Major Swannell and Lieutenant Williams. On April 26th, 300 stragglers of the 1st Battalion were located in Shrapnel Valley as were most of the Battalion Staff. On April 29th, a muster was called on the beach. 30 Officers and 942 Other Ranks had landed, 366 [inc. 18 officers] had been killed, wounded or missing. It was by this time that R.S.M Thomson was appointed Second Lieutenant [April 28th], replacing Officer casualties. On May 1st just prior to sundown at 5pm, the 1st Battalion moved up Shrapnel Valley to relieve a Battalion of Royal Marines. The Battalion were positioned near MacLaurin's Hill where they were directly opposite to 'German Officer's Trench'. On May 11th, communication trenches had been dug, loopholes created, etc but a shortage of sandbags had been problematic for the men. May 12th saw Lieutenant Colonel Dobbin, their CO, evacuated ill, Major Kindon taking acting Battalion Command. On May 19th, the 1st Battalion was warned about an attack by Turkish Forces, which took place at the positions held by the 1st Battalion at 3am. The enemy dead piled quickly, falling to the machine gun fire, merely 3 Turks managed to hop into the trenches. The 1st Battalion suffered only 1 Officer and 17 other ranks killed, 34 wounded. Colonel Dobbin resumed command on May 23rd. On May 24th, there was an armistice to bury dead on either side. This was the only official ceasefire on Gallipoli held by both sides.

Burial of dead by Turkish and Australian forces; May 24th, 1915

During this time, there is no mention of Thomson being evacuated or seconded or so on. Occasional patrols were sent out to the German Officer's Trench and enemy mining during June. On June 11th, the Battalion was relieved by the 8th Battalion - the Battalion then moved to Braund's Hill. On June 29th the 1st Battalion [with the exception of the Machine Gun Section and Working Party] were to embark on two vessels towards Imbros Island.  They reached Imbros at 2:30am on June 30th with 19 Officers and 536 Other Ranks. After a period of rest, they landed on Gallipoli once again at 2:45am on July 8th, moving towards Braund's Hill, then relieved the 2nd Battalion near Owen's Gully. On July 14th, Second Lieutenant Thomson came down with Diarrhoea, later diagnosed as Dyspepsia on Lemnos the following day. It is not known when he was discharged from Hospital, but the next mention in his record is when he was appointed Lieutenant on August 4th on Gallipoli. This evidence points towards the likely-ness that he was present for the August Offensive at Lone Pine. On August 6th at 5:40pm, 'A' Company began the attack, followed by 'B' Company at 6:20pm, then 'D' Company shortly before 7pm. 'C' Company was present in the attack by 8pm. The Battalion alongside the Brigade managed to capture the enemy trenches at Lone Pine, fending off enemy counter-attacks in the early morning of August 7th. The Battalion was withdrawn at 11:35am, then sent back into the line at 3pm to fend off further attacks. These attacks concluded at 11:30pm, then on August 8th at 4:30am they commenced once again.

Shown above is the land that the 1st Battalion charged across on August 6th, 1915.

By 8am, the attacks had died down, and the 1st Battalion was relieved by the 7th Battalion at 2pm. On August 9th, they reinforced Lone Pine again, relieving the 3rd Battalion. It was after this relief whilst holding Lone Pine that a Captain Shout M.C. of the 1st Battalion would conduct his acts to become a posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross. Captain Shout, accompanied by 3 other soldiers, charged down Sasse's Sap with bombs in hand, killing 8 and sending the other Turks fleeing. Later that day, Shout and Captain Sasse gathered 8 men repeat this feat, this time with more bombs and sandbags. Shout ran whilst throwing bombs and Sasse with revolver in hand. They built a temporary barricade and Shout began lobbing  bombs. At one point, he lit 3 at once and failed to throw the last one which detonated immediately after he threw it. He was severely wounded with his right hand in tatters, left eye missing and burns to the upper half of his body. He was quite cheerful and drank tea. He died two days later. Sasse [who survived wounded] received the DSO, later receiving a Bar to his DSO for his actions in France [August 23rd, 1918].

A notable photo, members of the 1st Battalion in the captured trenches at Lone Pine on August 9th, 1915. The man walking down the trench with the bandage around his eyes is Captain Sasse [later DSO and Bar].

The Battalion losses for August 6th to 9th, 1915 show 1 Officer and 44 Other Ranks killed; 6 officers and 283 Other Ranks wounded; 27 others missing. On August 10th, the Brigade had consolidated its position at Lone Pine. The Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Battalion on August 11th. On August 13th, they relieved the 7th Battalion at Lone Pine, then they were relieved on the 15th by the 7th Battalion. They were in the line for two day intervals and on a rest period for two day intervals with the 7th Battalion for the rest of August. Lieutenant Thomson was assigned to escorting Turkish Prisoners via the H.M.T Anglo Egyptian from Gallipoli to Alexandria on August 21st, rejoining the Battalion on September 17th on Mudros.

Lieutenant Thomson was transferred to the Transport Section for the 1st Infantry Brigade Headquarters on October 13th, arriving in Alexandria for his duties on October 17th, then taken onto strength on the 19th. Lieutenant Thomson rejoined the 1st Battalion on December 29th. As the new year dawned over, the AIF was in the process of a re-organization; otherwise the 'Doubling The AIF'. In this regard, a large number of personnel from the 1st Battalion would become personnel of the 53rd Battalion in the 14th Brigade from February 1916. The newly formed 53rd Battalion was placed under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ignatius 'Bert' Norris, formerly an officer in the Militia.

David Thomson in Egypt, 1916

After a month in the 53rd, Thomson was promoted to Captain on March 10th, 1916. He went to hospital on April 15th with Malaria, later diagnosed as Influenza. It appears he recovered quickly, taken back onto strength of the 53rd Battalion on April 21st, just under a week from when he first reported sick. He then went to hospital with Malaria once again on May 22nd, recovering sufficiently to return to the 53rd Battalion on May 30th. The 53rd Battalion then got the 'marching orders', embarking from Alexandria on June 19th, arriving in Marseilles on June 28th. 

An almost infamous - if not notorious photograph used to visualize the moment before going 'over the top' at Fromelles. The photograph contains men of the 53rd who in minutes are about to go over the top. Out of the 8 men in this photograph, 3 survived although wounded.

Battalion Structure per July 19th 1916
Battalion Commander - Lieutenant Colonel Norris
Battalion Adjutant - Lieutenant Moffitt
O.C 'A' Company - Captain Thomson
O.C 'B' Company - Captain Murray
O.C 'C' Company - Major Sampson
O.C 'D' Company - Captain Arblaster

On July 19th, 1916 he was commanding 'A' Company, who were to go over the top in the first wave, followed by 'B' Company which would be 100 yards behind, followed by 'C', then 'D' with HQ Company. Captain Thomson went over the top with his Company at 5:43pm at Fromelles, followed by 'B' Company under Captain Murray shortly thereafter. Thomson's Company captured the German frontline where shortly afterwards they were reinforced by other Companies. At 6pm, they went over the top once again to capture the German second line, but it was during this action that the Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Norris and his Adjutant Lieutenant Moffitt would fall next to each other. The men at the German second line began consolidating the position and began sending forward parties to deter enemy bombers. It was at 9:30am the following morning that the order to withdraw was given by the Brigadier after their right flank had been forced into retirement. 

During the action at Fromelles and the period after, he was recommended for a Military Cross

'Capt. Thomson has commanded a Company of this Battalion throughout its period of active service. In the action of 19th/20th July 1916 near FROMELLES, he went over with the leading two waves. He was wounded in the foot early in the action, but continued at his duty, and took complete charge of the consolidation of the trenches then won, which were held until repeated orders to retire had been sent to this part of the line. Although very lame from his wound Capt. Thomson insisted on remaining at duty after knowing that nearly all the officers of the Battalion had been casualtied [sic] of action. He has put his whole energy into giving every assistance in reforming the Battalion under difficult circumstances, and done most thoroughly good service throughout. Although often in great pain from his wound, he struggled on, until some weeks later he was ordered to hospital, from which he insisted on returning to duty in a very short time. He served for some months on GALLIPOLI'

Captain Thomson's Military Cross appeared in the London Gazette on January 1st, 1917 on page 44 at position 78

An Australian killed at the German second line, held by members of the 5th Division including the 53rd Battalion. This photograph was taken not too long after the Germans had recaptured the trench.

At the end of July 1916, the battalion mustered 4 Officers and 222 other ranks, meaning that 24 officers and 601 other ranks were killed, wounded or missing; among them was the CO, Adjutant and the Company Commanders for 'C' and 'D' Coy. The surviving officers were Major Croshaw [attached from Brigade; Btn 2iC], Captain Thomson [O.C 'A' Coy] and Captain Murray [O.C 'B' Coy]; The fourth officer included in the end of month strength is Second Lieutenant W.M Smyth who joined the Battalion on July 21st. The remaining officers decided that the battalion was to be formed into a nucleus; that is, A and B Company would be merged under Captain Thomson with C and D under Captain Murray. This took effect on August 6th at Fleurbaix. On the 11th, Thomson was evacuated with a Growth in Foot, later a Ganglion foot. He was discharged to duty on the 27th, rejoining the Battalion on September 5th. A few days after he returned, the Battalion was restructured back to the 4 Companies. Below is the change.

(A Company - Now Commanded by Captain D. Thomson [later MC] )
(B Company - Now Commanded by Captain J.J Murray [Later DSO, MC; WW2 AIF Maj Gen] )
(C Company - Now Commanded by Captain P.T Roberts [Later DSO, CDeG] )
(D Company - Now Commanded by Captain R. Ramsay [Later MC; WW2 AMF Major] )

Captain Thomson was appointed to Major on November 11th, and made Battalion Second in Command under the newly appointed Lieutenant Colonel Croshaw; a British Army Regular and Boer War veteran who had been acting as Battalion Second in Command at Fromelles. On Christmas Day, Thomson was evacuated with 'Pyrexia of unknown origin', this was deemed serious enough to send him to England. After a spell, he was discharged from hospital to Perham Downs on March 3rd, 1917.

On March 7th, a Corporal Morgans of the Military Foot Police was walking down the High Street in Andover at 9.15pm when he saw Major Thomson in a minor Fish and Chips shop creating a disturbance. He was said to have been drunk. Major Thomson was put into a motor car at put into the custody of Staff Sergeant Jackson of the Australian Provost Corps at Bhurtpore Barracks, Tidworth Camp. A report along these lines was sent to the Assistant Provost Marshal on Salisbury Plain. A Charge sheet was made, the offence being 'Whilst on Active Service - Drunkeness'. Lieutenant Colonel George Hodges Knox [Later Knighted, CMG, etc], the Officer Commanding No.1 Command Depot sided with Thomson, evidenced by a document sent to the authorities.

Lieutenant Colonel Knox on Gallipoli in 1915. I have cropped the photo, omitting Lieutenant H.C MacIndoe [Invalided to Australia in January 1916]

Below is a large portion of the document Colonel Knox sent to the authorities, omitting the formalities at the beginning;

'On receipt of these papers I had Major Thompson [sic] paraded infront of me and have placed him on open arrest. I desire now to record a very strong plea in favour of this Officer, and I understand that Lieutenant Colonel Williams, Commanding Anzac Provost Corps, is prepared to back my plea for leniency in this Officer's case. I have been in communication with Colonel Williams on the subject. I most respectfully recommend that the General Officer Commanding deal with this case summarily. Major Thompson [sic] is an ex-regular soldier of the Imperial Army, and is employed in the permanent forces in Australia. He informs me he has risen from the ranks to Second in Command of his Battalion, and he wears the King and Queen's South African Medals, as well as the Military Cross. His behaviour and general bearing while under my Command have been in every way beyond reproach. For your information I beg to add that Major Thompson [sic] has complained that at the time of his arrest, the New Zealand A.P.M [Assistant Provost Marshal] had him deprived of his medal ribbon bar and his money, which action appears most irregular. I submit this Officer's case for your earliest consideration and yuling.'

A statement written by Major Thomson and transcribed at a later date can be seen below

The Major General in command of all A.I.F Depots in the U.K decided to be lenient only due to his previous and gallant service. He was allowed to rejoin his Battalion, crossing the channel on March 27th, rejoining the battalion on April 3rd. Major Thomson took temporary command of the Battalion as Acting Lieutenant Colonel during May-June 1917, leading the Battalion at the Second Battle of Bullecourt. Croshaw took over command on the night of May 13/14th but was wounded by a stray shell on the 18th, leading to Captain Percival Roberts [later DSO, CDeG] taking overall command, followed by Major Thomson shortly thereafter. During May, the Battalion suffered 19 killed and 146 wounded. The 53rd Battalion started June at Beauencourt (Beaucourt?), with the first half of June spent training. On June 15th, they moved by train to Varennes and then reached Bouzincourt. The rest of June was uneventful. On July 11th, Lieutenant Colonel Croshaw resumed command of the Battalion, and the following day the Battalion was playing sports whilst His Majesty the King was observing. On July 24th, he went on to Boulogne on leave, returning on July 31st. On August 20th, 1917 the 5th Division HQ War Diary notes the following;
Major D. Thomson, M.C., and Captain R. Ramsay, M.C., both of 53rd Battalion, appeared before the Divisional Commander in connection with a charge laid against them by their Commanding Officer of disobedience of orders. Major Thomson, M.C., was severely censured, and the G.O.C., 14th Infantry Brigade, was instructed to arrange for his transfer to another battalion of the Brigade if possible. Captain Ramsay, M.C., was censured.
There is no evidence to say that they even disobeyed orders from the 53rd Battalion War diary. Nonetheless, it was decided to move Thomson to another battalion in the Brigade, to which the Brigadier-General commanding was against. Brigadier-General Hobkirk wrote the following document to Headquarters 5th Division.


It was decided to place Major Thomson in another Brigade, away from the 53rd Battalion. In the end, Major Thomson's position as 53rd Battalion 2iC was swapped with Major Oswald Fuhrman [later OBE] who was the 14th Battalion 2iC, which was severely objected by the Brigadier-General commanding the 4th Division.

Major Fuhrman, whilst in the 14th Battalion.

Major Thomson's tenure in the 14th Battalion began under Lieutenant Colonel Walter Smith on September 6th. He then went on leave on the 15th to England, returning on October 1st. It is interesting to note that during his leave, Lieutenant Colonel Croshaw of his former Battalion [the 53rd] was killed leading his men at the Battle of Polygon Wood. The total number of men lost at the Polygon Wood with the 53rd is 8 officers and 342 other ranks. Major Thomson went to Hospital on October 12th with Gastritis and Enteritis, returning on October 17th, the day after the Battalion moved off the frontlines. The following 4 days were merely work parties for fellow officers and other ranks. It wasn't long before they were thrown into the line again; They moved to relieve the 13th Battalion on October 21st at 5pm and were set by 10pm. They were located on the Broodseinde Sector, where they were located just two weeks prior. Whilst relieving the 13th Battalion, Captain Walklate [14th Btn] was killed by a shell whilst walking on a duckboard track. The following day saw no enemy artillery, with a couple of patrols sent out. October 23rd was another story - Heavy enemy shelling to the rear during the morning, followed by the frontlines at 4:30pm until 5pm. They were relieved by the 8th Battalion by 7:45pm. During their time on the frontline, 1 Officer was killed, 5 OR's killed, 17 wounded and 1 evacuated sick.

'German shell bursting near a concrete pillbox on Broodseinde Ridge' - October 15th, 1917

The Battalion moved to Devonshire Camp on October 24th where they received 336 men as reinforcements, 3 Second Lieutenants [Langford; Thomas; Griffiths] and 2 Lieutenants [Appleton; Hudson]. The rest of the month was 'spit and polish' amongst training. Major Thomson was President of a 'Wounded and Missing' Court of Enquiry on November 7th, determining the fate of 14th Battalion men on April 11th, 1917. It was noted in a Red Cross report that the Germans did not take the wounded that were left behind in dug outs. On November 17th the Battalion started to rotate around locations, finishing a week later at Fressenvile Abbeville on November 24th, where they organized and trained. On December 1st, Major Thomson became acting Battalion Commander whilst Lieutenant Colonel Smith was on leave in England. His tenure consisted of paperwork whilst the Battalion was training in the art of tactics, cleaning billets and ablutions. Lieutenant Colonel Smith resumed command on the 18th. The remainder of December 1917 was thankfully quiet for the 14th Battalion whilst they were behind the lines, finishing the year at Templeux-la-Fosse.

January 1st consisted of games, drill and kit inspection, as did most of January 1918. There were a few working parties sent out towards the end of the month, but it was moreorless quiet. They moved up to the frontline once again on January 29th, moving to Fusilier Dugouts [I.36.c.9.5]. The forward posts were set at 'Belgian Wood', 'Potsdam', 'Hessian' and 'Chateau Road'. The Battalion was at ideal strength with 44 Officers and 667 Other Ranks. January 30th was a foggy with enemy artillery firing from 11am to 5pm with brief intermissions. Fusiliers Dugouts and the surrounding areas was heavily shelled shortly after sundown with a mix of HE and Gas shells between 7:30pm to 8pm; 9pm to 9:30pm; 11pm to 11:30pm. 1 OR was listed as killed on January 30th in the War Diary, but he was actually killed on January 31st, Private Charles Spencer [real name Richard Bailey Spencer] who enlisted in 1915 at 16. On January 31st, it was again a foggy day and a repeat of the day before; the German artillery shelled Fusiliers Dugouts with gas with a large number of men caught 'on the hop'. A handful of patrols were sent out. An interesting occurrence is noted; 
'The night garrison of Post C.3. (POTSDAM GROUP) P.1.6.2C.25. was withdrawn after daybreak in accordance with the Post Orders, and the day garrison consisting of 1 NCO and one man left out. At about 4:30pm. when the night garrison went to take over, no trace of the two men could be discovered. A careful reconnaissance of the ground proved that no struggle had taken place near the post. The Lewis Gun, ammunition, etc was intact, also blankets, equipment,, etc. The only arms missing were two revolvers. The most feasible solution is that the two men, Corporal E. Frost and L/Cpl Jefferies, saw some enemy movement, and both being men of a resourceful type, went out to investigate and were either hit or outnumbered and captured. The approaches to the post are very marshy and well nigh impassable in addition to being well wired.'
Example of a forward post - 1918

That day, 50 men were listed as casualties, 2 officers and 56 other ranks were also listed as gas casualties. The fate of Corporal Frost and Lance Corporal Jefferies was, as speculated; Frost and Jefferies was captured and forced to march in the cold whilst barefoot. A Red Cross report lists that Frost's overcoat was left behind and his revolver was located under his pillow. His helmet was also left behind. Both were repatriated in 1919 and lived fairly long lives; Frost died in 1970, Jefferies in 1961. 

February 1st started with a few gas shells and HE shells, not much else decides from fog. The following day in light of the Frost and Jefferies incident, they decided to strengthen the wire and defenses. Another few shells with a combination of HE and Gas caught Major Cox and Second Lieutenant Langford. February 3rd was quiet, however February 4th presented a rising activity of artillery near the forward posts, with gas shells sending Lieutenant Bear away with 4 OR's. February 5th led to the Allied artillery firing on the German lines, knocking out one of the machine guns. An enemy patrol was said to have gotten near their side of the wire. The battalion was relieved by the 45th Battalion at 8:30pm without any casualties. The were moved to Murrumbridge Camp with 38 officers and 616 other ranks. This was the last time Major Thomson saw the Frontline.

On February 7th, 1918, Major Thomson's Brigade Commander wrote this report to Headquarters, Australian Division;
'I have to recommend that Major D. THOMSON, M.C., 14th Battalion (transferred from 53rd Bn:) should be returned to Australian - Services no longer required.) - After a months trial (6th September to 6th October 1917) I was very hopeful that he would make good, but, after a period extending 3 months, the conclusion arrived at is that he is not a good senior Major and has none of the qualifications of a Battalion Commander. He lacks initiative, energy and ordinary foresight. The Commanding Officer has always to tell him exactly what to do. He fails to realize that a senior Major should be a help to his Commanding Officer by anticipating his wishes and exercising a constant supervision over Company Commanders, and in many ways lightening the C.O's burden. - Major Thomson is senior to both Major C.R.M Cox [14th Btn]; and Major A.R Cox [14th Btn]; who have both secured good reports from the C.O's School at Aldershot. His removal must eventually increase the efficiency of that Battalion. To transfer him to a base appointment would be unsound. I therefore strongly urge that he be returned to Australia - services no longer required. Major THOMSON, M.C. has been informed.'
[Note: There is no mistake with Cox. There was indeed 2 Major Cox's in the 14th Battalion, them being Charles Reginald Cox and Arthur Roy Cox. None of them rose past Major]

The General Commanding the 4th Australian Division; Brigadier General J.W Glasgow concurred with this report on February 11th; coincidentally, Major Thomson had gone sick with Chronic Bronchitis on February 8th, and was moved to 14th General Hospital at Wimereux on the 11th. His removal from the 14th Battalion as the Second in Command was probably very timely, as the German Spring Offensive took place only a month after his removal. He was moved to England on February 18th, admitted to 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth on the 19th. He was discharged from hospital on March 5th, and embarked from England on March 13th aboard the 'Dunvegan Castle'. He was transferred to the 'Field Marshall' at Durban on April 28th, disembarking at Melbourne on May 22nd. His appointment in the A.I.F as a 'senior' Major was terminated at Sydney, New South Wales on June 6th, 1918. 

Not too long after his discharge, he caught Spanish flu, but quickly recovered. In an article published not too long after the war, he states that he was offered a Commission in the American Expeditionary Force whilst in France, to which he declined. In later years, David Thomson became a Civil Servant, also joining the Kogarah Branch of the RSSILA [otherwise RSL] and becoming a member of the Finance Committee member. He ran for council of East-Ward, Kogarah against Francis Dunleavy and Philip Lipman during 1921. The results came back with Dunleavy with 67, Thomson with 122 and Lipman with 198. That was the beginning and the end of Thomson's career in the council. He joined the Repatriation Department at some point in the early-mid 1920s. In 1928, David Thomson married Helene Agnes Shipton, daughter of a veteran Royal Navy Officer. 
*Just a summary; his father-in-law was John Perceval Shipton who entered the Royal Navy in 1884 at 13. He was promoted to Lieutenant on April 1st, 1893 at 22 years old, then to Lieutenant Commander on April 1st, 1902 at 31 years old, taking his discharge shortly after I believe.

David Thomson died on October 16th, 1928 at Prince of Wales' Hospital at Randwick, New South Wales due to being gassed in the First World War. He fell ill at his post at the Repatriation Department a few days prior. He was buried at Randwick General Cemetery on October 19th after the Reverend W.J Cakebread conducted a service at St Jude's Church.



Edited by tankengine888
Revising Information


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There is a David Thomson record on Fold3. Same place of birth as Australian record and matching enlistment date 1899. London Highlanders could match ?

There is a census from 1881 David Thomson born abt 1879 Aberlady as Grandson in the family.



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26 minutes ago, busterfield said:

im half asleep currently. I will have to evaluate that in the morning. I'm not sure if he was born in Aberlady unless I missed something. Thanks for sending it this way though! 

Side note - interesting if that is him, lowering his age for the AIF unless raising it to join the London Highlanders.


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I decided to stop being lazy [as it's only a few minutes to 9pm] so here is what I found on that man.
Thanks for the AIF record pointer.

David Thomson, Gordon Highlanders
Enlisted on May 11th, 1899, aged 20 and 2 months at Edinburgh. Birth listed as Aberlady, Lanark, etc. He lists on that he is on service '4th u.b the Royal Scots' but he also lists he never served.

Signs on for 7 years active service, 5 in the reserve. Assigned to the Gordon Highlanders..
Lance Corporal on Nov 1st, 1902
Corporal on June 13th, 1906
Lance Sergeant on December 10th, 1907
Sergeant on March 9th, 1909
Discharged on November 6th, 1911.

Home from May 11th, 1899 to December 15th, 1899
South Africa from December 16th, 1899 to December 31st, 1901.
East Indies from January 1st, 1902 to February 5th, 1908.
Home from February 6th, 1908 to September 16th, 1908
East Indies from September 9th, 1908 to an unknown date.

South African Medal clasps 'Paareburg', 'Driefontein', 'Johannesburg', 'Belfast', 'Cape Colony'
Other SA medal had 'SA 1901' and 'SA 1902'

His father is.. this. I fail to read cursive. [John Davidson Mains?]

His faith and all other information [complexion, eyes, faith, etc] match up with his AIF record; even his chest expansion! The weight is different [as expected] and the height is different - he is half an inch higher in the AIF recor

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Thank you for that one Rockford.. That would make sense then [the name atleast, the address not.]

An article in his AIF record exists. It notes that he was at the visit of the Emir, Kitchener, etc but I do not see that the Emir visited S.A or East Indies? Perhaps I'm not thinking straight..

Just to make sure.. (courtesy of Fold3)
Would you concur it states Home, S. Africa, E[ast] Indies, Home (Furlough/leave) and East Indies?

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Posted (edited)

Hello again,

Yes, I would concur that his service between 1899 and 1908 is as you have transcribed it.

I wouldn't get too hung up on Davidson's Mains being "too far" from his birthplace in Aberlady/Haddington, as it was fairly common for agricultural workers at the time to move between locations quite regularly. My own family went from Lanarkshire through Peebles into Mid/West Lothian.

On the 1891 Census, there is a David Thomson, aged 12, b. Aberlady, Haddingtonshire at Cramond, Midlothian [only a stone's throw from Davidson's Mains], living in the household of his grandparents, John Thomson, recorded as 60 years old and a Dairyman, and his wife Marion, recorded as 65 years old.  Demonstrating the point about mobility, John had been born at Manor in Peeblesshire and Marion at Dunsyre in [now South] Lanarkshire.  They are still in Cramond in 1901, but no trace of David, which would fit an initial enlistment of 1899.

David is also with John and Marion in 1881, aged 2, at Ballencrieff Mains, Aberlady.

Best wishes


Edited by Rockford
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Hello Rockford,

Thanks for the pointers with the location distances, helps put an idea into it.

Grandparents.. makes you wonder what happened to his parents.


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Thank you for posting.

A very interesting blog.  Such detailed information is rare and similar events I’m sure happened to many officers but their files have, probably rightly, been pruned.

He was undoubtably a brave man who it seems was pushed beyond his abilities in the most trying of circumstances. Being a WW1 Infantry Battalion, CO or Company Commander required a very special kind of character and strength. 


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Posted (edited)

Thank you Andrew!
I admit that I have put alot more effort into this post than the others; The McGrath Brothers one [the second latest] was done in one afternoon for a friend. It is often hard to find unique men who have not been mentioned, like Major Thomson (though, documentation for officers is more vast).  
He certainly saw action, proving himself on several occasions. He was lucky to get out of Fromelles with a very minor wound when the Battalion was wiped to 3 officers which no doubt would stressed him. 
Not sure if this'll be of too much interest, but I'm currently writing another man up, also a 53rd Battalion Officer. He was a Company Commander and is rather interesting [WW2 Involvement] yet lacks available photos.


Edited by tankengine888
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