Obituary: Air Commodore Tommy Thompson

John Marlow Thompson, air force officer: born 16 August 1914; DFC 1940 (and Bar 1942); DSO 1943; AFC 1952; CBE 1954; commanded RAF Leeming 1956-57; Director of Air Defence, Air Ministry 1958-60; AOC, Military Air Traffic Ops 1962-65; General Manager, Airwork Services, Saudi Arabia 1966-68; married 1938 Margaret Rowlands (one son, one daughter, and one son deceased); died Brighton 23 July 1994.

JOHN MARLOW THOMPSON received a short service commission in the Royal Air Force in 1934, and like all those with that surname in the Forces was thereafter nicknamed 'Tommy'. A man of considerable height and fine physique, Thompson was an all-round sportsman, and established a reputation for himself in the boxing ring and on the rugby field. His size, dignified manner and impressive moustache at first sight made him a rather intimidating figure, an impression soon dissipated by his warm smile and personality.

By the outbreak of the Second World War he was recognised not only as an accomplished fighter pilot but also as one with great leadership potential. After serving as flight commander with No 151 Squadron, at the beginning of the war he received command of the prestigious No 111 Squadron, equipped with the Hurricane.

The squadron was not actually stationed in France but, when the German attack finally developed in April/May 1940, was heavily engaged in the fighting over France, a campaign which was just as intensive as the subsequent Battle of Britain and where many of the initial lessons of that battle were first learnt. Thompson himself scored a number of confirmed victories over the Luftwaffe and several probables before himself being shot down over France.

On return he resumed command of No 111 Squadron mainly flying from Croydon airfield. He led with determination and courage and with considerable originality in the development of tactics, notably head-on attacks on bomber formations. After a further period of intense and successful action he was briefly rested with a staff appointment. But he re-entered the fight in 1941 and founded and commanded the first all-Belgian Royal Air Force fighter squadron. Shortly thereafter his late Battle of Britain AOC, Keith Park, who had taken command in Malta, had Thompson appointed as his Fighter Wing Leader there in 1942.

Once again he led the defence battle with great distinction and skill and continued to lead when the island's aircraft were at last able to go over to the offensive. For his outstanding performance in both roles he was awarded a Bar to his DFC and the DSO. He had actively participated in three of the most crucial and hard-fought battles of the war.

During the latter part of the war and during the first 20 years of the peace he continued to specialise in air defence duties, including all the problems and challenges of introducing and getting the best out of jet-propelled aircraft. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1952. He was retired in 1966 but his expertise in air defence matters was acknowledged by consultancies with several developing air forces, including the Saudis. However his metier after retirement proved, perhaps surprisingly, the secretaryship of golf clubs. He was for three years at Moor Park in Hertfordshire and repeated that success for a longer period at the famous Monte Carlo course, where he initiated important improvements and made many friends.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears