b. 13/07/1911 Fulham, London. d. 24/01/1944 at sea.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 05/1940 – 24/01/1944 Italy.
Jenkin Robert Oswald “JRO” Thompson (1911-1944) was born on 13th July 1911 in Fulham, West London, the son of Dr Patrick Oswald and Jane Thompson (nee Lloyd). After a private education, he went to university to study medicine. He qualified as a Doctor on 7th February 1939, and his other qualifications included the Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons.
In 1939, he married Marjorie Bispham in Claygate, Surrey, and they went on to have two children, Richard and Patricia. On the outbreak of war, “Ossy” as he was known, was keen to do his bit, and enlisted with a Regular Army Emergency Commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) on 3rd January 1940. He was soon in the thick of the action, despite the “Phoney War” taking place. In May and June 1940, Lt Thompson was serving in the HM Hospital Carrier Paris and, when the evacuation of Dunkirk began, the Paris was sent across the Channel. Here he assisted with the evacuation, transportation and recovery of some 700 casualties from Calais to the UK in just 24 hours. Sadly, the Paris sank on 2 June after being bombed on her sixth outward voyage. Fortunately, Lt Thompson was to live ‘to save a life’ another day.
After a spell back in England, he was drafted onto the 2,700 tonne hospital ship, St David and it was on this ship that he reached the Mediterranean in June 1943 in time for the landings at Salerno in Italy. During the ship’s time in the region, it carried 6,000 patients and travelled over 25,000 miles. Ossy’s gallantry was noted particularly during the periods 10th-14th July 1943 in Sicily and 10th-15th September 1943 at Salerno where he again showed a complete disregard for his own safety under enemy bomb attacks.
On 23rd to 24th January 1944 at Anzio, Italy, HMHS St David was hit by bombs and started to sink. Thompson organised parties to carry the seriously wounded to safety in the boats and by his efforts the lives of all the patients except one were saved. When the ship was about to founder, and all were ordered to save themselves, he did nothing of the sort, but returned alone in an endeavour to save the one remaining patient who was still lying trapped below decks. He could not save this man, so he remained with him and they went down with the ship together.
Ossy was awarded a posthumous George Cross for his actions (London Gazette 2nd February 1945), though sadly he has no final resting place as his body was lost at sea. Captain Thompson is commemorated on Panel 18 of the Brookwood Memorial which stands within Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. His name is contained in the RAMC Book of Remembrance 1939-45 in Westminster Abbey and framed tributes in the AMS Museum and Medal Room at the RHQ Officers’ Mess. A magnificent memorial plaque to him was installed in the RAMC Plot at the National Memorial Arboretum. His medals including his GC, 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, Atlantic Star and War Medal 1939-45 are held by the Museum of Military Medicine, Mytchett, Surrey.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ARMY MEDICAL SERVICES MUSEUM, MYTCHETT, SURREY
BURIAL PLACE: LOST AT SEA.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Thompson GC Medal Group at the Royal Army Medical Services Museum.