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My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

Article about: I thought the story had ended there, but two years ago I was contacted by the daughter of one of Sid's crewmates who died with him on that ill fated flight. Enclosed with the email was a sub

  1. #1

    Default My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Hi Guys, earlier today I posted a thread about my local war memorial and how my Great Uncle is recorded there.

    Here is the rest of the story about my Great Uncle Sid.

    I only know of him through stories that my Dad has told me. Sid was my Dad's Uncle as he was Brother to his Mum, my Grandma. Sid volunteered for the RAF in 1940. Like most young men he wanted to become a pilot.

    My earliest memory of Sid was seeing his photo in a silver frame at my Grandma's house which she kept in the china cabinet.

    Here is Sid not long after joining up in 1940.

    In 1993 I applied to the RAF for Sid's service records. As my Dad was nearest living next of kin, he signed the forms for me. His ranks were:



    Aircraftman 2nd class 21/12/1940
    Aircraftman 1st class 24/10/1941
    Leading Aircraftman 1/6/1942
    Temporary Sgt 20/8/1942

    Sid trained as an Air Gunner in Canada. He was there for two years and enjoyed his time there, as he was able to visit his sister Mabel, who had emigrated there prior to WW1 in 1910. I have scanned the entries from his service record of where he served in Canada. You will see he had a long stay in hospital: I have yet to find out why?

    This is the photo I remember as a child. This photo was taken outside of Great Aunt Mabel's house in Canada.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Sid-4.jpg   Sid-1.jpg  

    Canada-entries.jpg  

  2. #2

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Here is Sid (2nd from the right) in Canada with some comrades. Note that they all wear RCAF Battledress. You can tell this by the cut of the pocket flaps, which lack the three pointed cut of the RAF version. The caps are pure Canadian "Yukon" pattern.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Sid-3.jpg  

  3. #3

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Sid quailified as an Air Gunner in 1943. He was then posted to No.4 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit based at RAF Alness, Scotland.

    Sid's unit flew "Sunderland" flying boats. Here is a rare photo taken at RAF Alness which shows several Sunderlands around the hangers.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture RAF-Alness..jpg  

  4. #4

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Here is Sid with the rest of his crew. He can be seen in the middle, just right of the stove. This photo was taken within their Nissen hut on the base. Maybe it is one that can be seen in the above photo?
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Sid-2.jpg  

  5. #5

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Close up on Sid. Here he wears a BD blouse with a non regulation leather name tape above the left breast pocket and an air crew whistle on his collar. These were used in the event of ditching in the sea. But were also very much a fashion item with aircrews.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Sid 5.jpg  

  6. #6

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Here is Sid's last letter home to my Grandma. Note the RAF note paper and his comment "Same lousy place".


    Sid was posted missing in action on Feb.16th 1944.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Sid's-last-letter-home-1.jpg   Sid's-last-letter-home-2.jpg  


  7. #7

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Sid is recored on the Runnymead memorial (Panel 239) to RAF Aircrew with no known grave (One of over 50,000 men) and on the village War memorial in his birthplace of Ruddington, Nottinghamshire.

    In 2001 a new memorial was unveiled at the site of the former RAF Alness to comemmorate the aircrew lost.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture RAF-Alness-War-memorial..jpg   1.jpg  

    2.jpg   3.jpg  

    Ruddington War Memorial..jpg   Name on Ruddington War memorial..jpg  


  8. #8

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    At around Christmas of 2004, I got to thinking more about Sid. I decided to do some research on his last flight. I contacted the RAF Historical Branch and they were very helpful. As my Dad was nearest living next of kin they were prepared to release the findings of the court of inquiry to him. Within a week of my initial phone call, I had photo copies of the report on the loss of his aircraft. I have a history of the aircraft itself plus the crash reports:

    Sunderland II T9088 'JJ' of 4(C)OTU, Alness, crashed in sea 65 miles E. of Shapinsay, on 17/2/44. Was due back from ops 06:30.
    ASR searches by the units Sunderland’s 'W', 'KK', 'GG' and 'Q' on 17th, 'Q' and one other on 18th and 'KK' on 20th found nothing. Oxfords from 4(C)OTU, Evanton, also took part:'G' searched on 18th & 19th and Oxford 'F' on 17th. These efforts revealed nothing.

    These men all died together:

    Sgt Derek AUSTIN - 1808975
    Sgt Basil BAXTER - 982255
    Sgt Eric A. CAIRNS - 1614727
    Sgt Andrew W. FLETCHER - 1098158
    F/O Alan D.H. GRAY - 123248
    F/O Kevin R. GUITON - 128703
    F/S Maurice J.H. JERRARD - 1339621
    W/O George MARSH - 1164460
    F/O Eric N. McLEOD-NIBBS - 146475
    Sgt Sidney THOMPSON - 1083332

    After my sucess with the RAF, I thought some more. Sid was a married man when he joined up in 1940. After he was killed his wife started a new life and began to see another man, who she eventually married. This was a different era to today. My Grandma did not really approve of this at all and my Great Aunt was shunned by most of the family. A sad thing, but I guess this happened at lot during wartime and it is easy to judge 60 years on and in a very different time?

    I got to thinking "I wonder if Great Aunt Ethyl ever claimed Sid's medals?" .

    My Dad did not know, so we contacted the RAF Medals Office. We were sent the appropiate form, filled it in and sent it back. After a short time a letter came back stating my Dad was not nearest Next of Kin? They said he still had a wife. A phone call to them proved a waste of time, even though Ethyl died back in 1995, they wanted proof! I asked why did they not just check with the War Pensions office, no cannot do that "Wrong Dept". They wanted a death certificate. This we could not supply and would cost us to obtain. I rang back again on my Dad's behalf. I had looked at the records we had otained 8 years before and found her name had been entered twice on his service records; once correctly and then again with her second name listed as her first. I asked, even if I did provide a death cert they might argue the name was not right? The reply I got "well there was a war on you know!" This did not help me. What I heard next made me see red! The man said "look his medals are not worth very much, I can put you in contact with a dealer friend of mine who can sell you some". I then had to put the phone down to cool off. After a while I calmed down and phoned back. I said "ten years ago we filled in the same form to obtain his service records and you were very happy to take the £15 fee, no questions asked! Now we try to obtain his medals which belonged to a man who died for his Country and you are putting problems in our way!" The reply came "Oh, don't be like that Mr Stevenson!" After telling him what I thought of the way his office worked, he gave in. Send a signed statement that Sid's wife was dead and they would release his medals.

    So we waited, and waited. It took 6 months for the medals to arrive!
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Sid's Medals..jpg  

  9. #9

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Here are the details of the aircraft, serial number T9088. It was one of a batch of 8 aircraft, T9083 to T9090 built by Blackburn at Dumbarton near Glasgow under contract # B37753/39. It served with:


    9 March 1942 to 288 Squadron
    2 May 1942 to 461 Squadron RAAF
    8 May 1942 to 228 squadron
    29 July 1942 to FBSU (Flying Boat Servicing Unit) Wig Bay
    25 Aug 1943 to 4 (Coastal) OTU
    Failed To Return from exercise off Orkneys 17 Feb 1944.

  10. #10

    Default re: My Great Uncle: Sgt Sid Thompson: Royal Air Force

    Here is the findings of the court of inquiry. I hope that it will be readable after shrinking it to the forum size restrictions?

    A transcript of this reads:

    Non Operational Night Training.

    Aircraft failed to return from exercise.

    Missing.

    "Plot" believed this aircraft showed it 30 miles off track.

    Only two wireless telegraph contacts made.
    Crew sent on Operational Flying exercise having just returned from one! Fatigue.
    Weather excellent. Bright moon.

    Court of Inquiry:

    No evidence as to cause of accident. CO agrees: ... also agrees.
    Air Officer Commanding Court of Inquiry: agrees but taking action as to why crew sent on Operational Flying Exercise immediately after completing one. Pilot probably tired.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture 1.jpg   2.jpg  


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