Peace message as Jim receives medal
Proud day for 98 year-old WWII veteran
A Second World War veteran has been presented with a special medallion commissioned to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the global conflict.
Legion Scotland has been issuing the medallions in honour of those who made a contribution to the war effort.
And last week, 98 year-old
Jim Thomson, who lives in Comrie, was presented with the honour by Gillian Brock, chair of Comrie Community Council.
Jim began his career in the army in 1942, aged 19, when he was called up to begin infantry training with the Royal Sussex Regiment at Chichester.
He was an apprentice engineer so was transferred to the Royal Engineers.
Jim told our sister title the Strathearn Herald: “In 1943, while I was a cadet at an Officer Training Unit, our entire cadet company was sent on 10 days’ leave and ordered to India to complete our training at the Indian Army Officers Training School.
“During the leave, my late wife Mary and I were married and remained so for 66 years.
“On completing our training, particularly in Urdu, the language of the Indian Army, we could choose whether to join a British regiment in India or transfer to the Indian Army.
“I chose the Indian Army, where the pay was better, and was commissioned into the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. My first posting was to the North West Frontier, but in late 1944 I was transferred to the Arakhan sector of the 14th Army.”
There, Jim became the commanding officer of a semimobile repair workshop.
He recalled: “Almost all the 120 mechanics were Pathans whose forefathers had waged war against the British for generations. They worked in appalling conditions of blazing heat or monsoon rain.
“In the rains, clothing and bedding were always wet and the ground ankle deep in mud.
“However, the worst irritants were multiple body sores which never healed.
“In different locations we did this work for two years.”
“Shortly after VJ Day, we went by trucks to Chittagong, which was railhead and there we parted.
“Those I am proud to call my Pathans went home to what became the new Pakistan. I went home by air for 28 days leave.”
On his return to India, Jim, now a major, was posted to General Headquarters in New Delhi, to do a comfortable staff job.
Independence was coming to India the following year and part of Major Thomson’s job was preparing the Indian Army.
Jim was finally demobilised in April 1947 and was granted the honorary rank of captain in the British Army.
In the first two-and-a-half years of their marriage, the Thomsons had only spent 30 days together.
Much of Jim’s professional life was spent working with the YMCA, where he was involved with the work of the charity with refugees.
This meant living in Africa for some years and later in Geneva
Second World War veteran Jim Thomson with his medallion and a letter from the Scottish Government as head of the World YMCA Refugee Office, which took him back into war situations such as in the Middle East and Vietnam.
He was in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War and, on the day after it ended, negotiated with the new government for the continuation of humanitarian aid.
Jim was also involved with sending aid to Guatemala and arranging care for children who had lost their families following a terrible earthquake in the Central American country in the late 1970s.
He eventually became National Secretary of the YMCA in Scotland.
Mr Thomson was also overseas director of the Ockenden Venture, one of the first refugee charities to be set-up in the aftermath of the Second World War, and finally spent four years as a consultant for the Oxford University Refugees Studies Programme, before retiring to Comrie 22 years ago.
On receiving his award, Jim commented: “I feel that the years have passed and it’s a distant memory now, but I hope that the young people of today never have to go through what their ancestors did.
“Let us have peace.”
Mrs Brock presented the medal, along with a letter from Graeme Dey MSP – the Scottish Government’s minister for parliamentary business and veterans.
She said: “It was an absolute honour and privilege to be asked to award Mr Thompson with his medal.
“My grandfather, Gordon ‘Gogo’ Philips, was a great British Legion man and a major in the same war so to be asked to do this was very touching.
“It was presented with great pleasure on behalf of our community and the people of Scotland in grateful appreciation for his contribution in the allied war effort during World War Two.”