Indeed! Post more by all means!!!
Indeed! Post more by all means!!!
[B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]
[CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
[SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
OK here goes,,,,
On a warm afternoon June 12, 1918 while reclining in a wicker chair at his airfield near Clairmarais, France, Lt. George "Tommy" Thomson took time to write his fiancé Ruth Sanders a letter explaining that he “was waiting on the shout of the klaxon horn as an order to go over to the war”.
He wrote that he was eager to get this evenings patrol over with as he and the men of his squadron were to celebrate that night the good news that the gunnery officer’s wife had just given birth to a new son. Little did he know that instead of champagne and caviar with his mess mates he would be dining on black bread and beer as a guest of the Kaiser.
"Tommy" was born on June 12, 1892 in Craig, Missouri an eldest child and first born. “Frank” as he was called by his parents grew up in Craig and enjoyed a comfortable childhood. He graduated from Craig High School, attended Evanston Academy prep school in Evanston, Illinois and then enrolled in Northwestern University majoring in journalism. It was there that Thomson met and fell in love with the young woman that would some day become his wife.
After graduating in the Class of 1914, Thomson first worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago News-Index. By 1917 Tommy was working as a press agent in Boston, Massachusetts for Filene’s Department Store. It was while living at 224 Milk Street in Boston, that Tommy received the news that the United States had declared war with Imperial Germany. Thomson along with thousands of others rushed to the recruiting stations to enlist, but to his disappointment Thomson was turned down by every branch of the US Military, having been declared physically unfit due to a childhood heart aliment. Tommy cast about looking for some means of service and had about resigned himself to service with the YMCA when he encountered a British recruiting mission and inquired if Americans could enlist. He was assured that if he could pass the physical there would be no problem.
Apparently the requirements of the British Empire were not as stringent as Uncle Sam’s for before he knew it, Thomson found himself onboard a train heading north to Canada to “Serve King and Country” as a cadet in the Royal Flying Corp. After successfully completing his training and receiving his commission, Thomson sailed for England in the early spring of 1918. He then finished his flight training and was assigned as a replacement pursuit pilot with the famous 74 Squadron.
In the annals of British aviation 74 Squadron was known as one of the hardest fighting squadrons in the B.E.F. It hosted a series of pilots whose names ring out in the pantheon of WWI aviators. Eddie “Mick” Mannock , Harris “Clem” Clements, “Swazi” Howe, “Zulu” Savage, Sidney “Timbertoes” Carlin who had a wooden leg from a wound while fighting in the trenches, Keith “Grid” Caldwell and Ira “Taffy” Jones to name a few. With the well earned nickname of the “Tiger Squadron”, 74 with its SE5a aircraft was a plumb assignment for young Lt. Thomson.
Thomson arrived at 74 on May 19, 1918 and noted the relaxed atmosphere and wrote to Ruth that his flight commander (Mannock) sometimes flew early missions while wearing his pajamas under his flight suit. Tommy quickly fell into the routine and began going on several patrols each day. On June 12th he, along with two other pilots, “Clem” Clements and “Swazi” Howe left their aerodrome at 7:30 PM heading south towards Armentieres. Thomson noted later that he was flying a borrowed plane as his had been damaged by a pilot from another squadron who accidentally landed on his aircraft while coming in for a night landing. Tommy soon discovered that this borrowed plane was not up to snuff and he began to have difficulty maintaining his place in the formation. Unknown to his comrades Tommy fell behind and was on the verge of turning for home when they were attacked by a formation of seven German Pfalz fighters. Tommy was quickly cut off and in his words the enemy tracers flew past him like “ribbons”. A young German pilot from Hofstetten, Bavaria named Josef Schafer flying for Jasta 16 fired a stream of bullets that pierced the engine of the SE5a that was in his sights and he saw the plane roll over and go into a spin. Tommy describes the incident as happening so fast it was hard to realize what had happened. He was able to level his plane out just before it crashed and after it smashed into a tangle of barb wire and flipped over, he found himself hanging upside down over a shell hole and he was drenched in gasoline. Tommy unbuckled his safety strap, dropped down and crawled out from underneath the wreckage just in time to look up to see two enemy aircraft diving down on him. At first he thought they were going to strafe him, but they waggled their wings and waved goodbye before they zoomed back up to join their comrades. As Tommy stood there more chagrined than hurt, a German medic approached to ask him “Ist Sie Krank? (Are you sick?) Thus began Tommy’s nine months of incarceration as a Prisoner of War.
To be continued,,,,,
Tommy Thomson; this photo was taken in February 1918 at the Officers Hospital , Tidworth England while Thomson was recovering from a bout of "rheumatism".
The "Hun" that shot Tommy down.
His name was Lt. Josef Schafer of Jasta 16. On June 12, 1918 while on patrol north of Armintiers, Schafer while flying this Pfalz aircraft was credited with downing an SE5a flown by George Thomson of RAF 74 Squadron. This was Schafer's first victory. He was credited with two more before being shot down himself and killed on October 10, 1918. Scafer is buried in Krefeld, Germany.
Here are some photos of the type of aircraft Tommy flew as a member of 74 Squadron.
After Tommy failed to return from patrol he was officially listed as "missing" as neither Howe or Clements saw him crash as they were engaged with their own German opponents. The group contains the letter Thomson's C.O. Major Keith Caldwell, sent to his parents informing them of the bad news.
"Long before this letter reaches you, you will have had the distressing news to the effect that your son George F. Thomson is missing from patrol since 12th June"
Conflicting reports lead to confusion.
"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated"
Meanwhile back in German occupied Belgium,,,,
Thomson’s description of his encounter with the “Hun” continues;
“Such an inviting target as I presented made them trigger happy and eight guns opened fire. I responded with my two guns, the aluminum clips from my Vickers flying past me in a stream, while the smoke from their tracers enveloped my machine in a ribbony pattern. I glanced at my instruments. The oil pressure showed zero. The motor died. Bullets had pierced the petrol tank. I fell into a spin, my wings were clipped, I was out of the Heavens and into Hunland",,,
After assuring both himself and the German medic that he was unhurt, he followed the soldier to a nearby farmhouse. After a brief wait while he was the subject of much interest by a small group of soldaten, an Unteroffizier appeared and asked Tommy to follow him. They walked through some much fought over woods and presently arrived at a regimental headquarters where Thomson was ignored for the most part by a group of gray clad officers. After a while a young officer came over and explained that they had already had supper and inquired if Tommy had eaten. He replied that he hadn’t, (he had planned on eating supper with his squadron mates and drinking to the good health of Gunnery Officer Smith, Mrs. Smith, baby Smith and any other Smiths they could think of.) so shortly an orderly appeared with a bowl of soup and some rather tasteless black bread.
Soon after his meal was finished, Thomson sent on to the local battalion headquarters so he was crammed in between two burly soldiers perched on top of a horse drawn soup kitchen with another German soldier riding a bicycle as the guard. When the driver of the wagon discovered that Tommy was an American he became very friendly and explained that he had a brother that drove a beer wagon in Chicago and once the war was over he hoped to move their himself. Tommy told him he thought that was a good idea and that he should run for mayor as soon as he arrives.
After a bumpy ride they finally arrived at their destination sometime after midnight; a shambling ruin near Steenwercke serving as the battalion HQ. He was welcomed by several young officers who inquired of his health, told him of the military gains the German Empire had made that day and also expressed that if he tried to escape it would unfortunately be their pleasure to have him shot. Thus Tommy spent his first night in a guardhouse, lulled to sleep by the snores of his guards.