Today is about raising public awareness and showing our support of all the contribution made to our country by all the men and women who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

It is also an opportunity for some of our residents to kindly share their experiences of serving in the Armed Forces;

Arthur (Tom) Charles Thompson and Joan (Jo) Thompson –

Mr and Mrs Thompson live together at Immacolata House and talk of their experience in the RAF.

Tom was born in 1917 in Calcutta and has recently celebrated his 97th birthday. On returning to England as a boy, the love of aircraft began. Living near Croydon airfield, 16 yr old Tom would walk the 20 minutes, almost daily, to wash and polish an Avro aircraft in exchange for any possible rides in the aircraft!

At 19 he became a boy soldier in the London Scottish and one particular day he was asked if he was coming to shooting practise, but Tom replied he was off for a ride in the Avro. This was duly noted and the RAF came calling, to recruit Tom; as half the required training had been done by the experiences with the Avro and its owner! So at 19 Tom joined the RAF and was a pilot during WWII.

Jo Thompson was born in 1920 (recently celebrating her 93rd birthday) and had joined the Women’s RAF (WRAF) at the age of 19, to train as a radio operator for direction finding and locating aircraft based at Warmell, Dorset. Tom and Jo met in 1943/4 while Jo was based at Farnborough Flying Control Tower. Jo was moved to Belgium for a time to direct fighters and then to Berlin to assist bringing in the final 40 aircraft to the main Berlin airfield Templehoff. Jo celebrated her birthday on DDay! Jo has two medals to her name – one for Service in Europe and one for serving in the WRAF – this is one more medal than Tom who didn’t receive the European medal!

Tom was employed as a Test Pilot for Blackburn, but endured several crashes; one of which left him in and out of hospital for a year. Tom then was sought by Frank Whittle “Power Jet” to test engines with no flying involved!

Tom and Jo were married in 1947 in Leicester and had two sons in the coming years.

 

Peter Kerry, Resident at Clarence Park, has writted a wonderful, detailed story of his 8 years at sea – Here is a snippet of it, we will post the full story at a later date, but please click to see his originals below;

Peter Kerry – 8 years at sea as a Radio Officer. June 1939 – May 1947

30 July 1939. My first ship was the ‘Antonia’ a 14000 GRT, Richard Liner.

My first two trips were Liverpool/Montreal. On my third trip, World War II broke out. Following us was the Anchor Donaldson Liner, ‘Athenia’ (14000 GRT) bound also to Montreal from the Clyde.

She was torpedoed just north of Ireland. Several of the causalities were U.S citizens. This concerned Hitler, as he was worried it might bring the USA into the war.

Waiting in Montreal were Americans, waiting to take the Montreal-Clyde passage back. When Antonia arrived in Montreal, the passengers were transferred to our ship. On arrival back in Liverpool the whole crew were paid off and the vessel taken over by the M.O.W.T.

I then signed on the ‘Jamaica Planter’ bound to Kingston to load bananas.

This ship was designed for fruit shipping and being very fast, did not sail in convoys.

We took a full cargo of bananas, probably for sale in the UK. Arriving back in the UK, I later joined a Shell Oil tanker called ‘Pellicula’ I sailed 4 ½ years on this vessel without returning in the UK. As we had our hull surrounded by heavy coils of wire connected to a generator to counter magnetic mines, we could not enter British waters or ports therefore. System known as ‘degaussing’.

We then did 3 or 4 trips loaded with diesel oil from Haifa to France. We left the river Seine after we filled all our tanks with river fresh waters for use on the island Aruba, which had no fresh water supplies. After discharge we sailed across the Atlantic to Freetown, Sierra Leone. We now had a full cargo of bunker fuel from Aruba. On arrival at Freetown, we spent 5 weeks in the harbour, supplying bunkers to various ships. On leaving Freetown, we set sail for the Persian Gulf. In all we visited Abadan (Persian Gulf) 19 times with a few breaks in Mediterranean ports such as, Alexandria (Egypt), Malta, Sicily, Algiers, Beirut & Tunisia.

On one visit to Abadan we were used as a decoy ship and tied ahead of a Jamaican gun boat. The Iranian government had been given till 4.30am to throw in with us and the Russians. Both Russians and ourselves were afraid German fifth columnists would try to take control of Jamaican oil terminal. At 4.30am there were all sorts of explosions going off. We thought it must be an air raid, instead it was gunfire from a British gunboat anchored on the side of the river. A stray bullet hit our second officer in the cheek, he was carried down and the hole plugged with cotton wool. He recovered fortunately. Two engineers and I were watching all this from the cabin on the Iranian side. We were watching a gun mounted on a house, suddenly the soldier mounting the gun noticed our telescope sticking through the port hole and fired in our direction.

One bullet hit the ironwork outside the captain’s toilet in which he was sitting. He came down pulling his pants up. Another bullet came through the port hole and shattered the mirror over the wash basin. The three of us jumped into the bunks. Other bullets broke the mooring ropes which were tied to bollards. Later we had an engine failure and lay at anchor in outer harbour, awaiting repairs. At 6am in the morning a British cargo ship entering the port, ran into the side of our ship creating quite a large hole, water gushed in and we began to sink. Luckily being a tanker, it was only necessary to open a seacock in the tank opposite, so that began to fill and we came upright.

The Arabian Gulf is noted for microisms in the sea that sometimes coated a gloss beneath the surface, so that looks as though someone has switched on underwater lighting. At 2.30am I went on deck for some fresh rain. Looking over the side, I noticed a streak under the surface coming towards us at speed. Ah I thought.. a dolphin. I watched it go right under the ship and come out the other side. As I lay in my bunk, I thought we never see a dolphin swim in straight lines, but weaves about. So I think it may have been a torpede instead….

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