An ideal son, Fred Thomson
By Marg Powell, Specialist Library Technician, Metadata Services | 6 September 2016
Recently retrieved from the repository of the State Library of Queensland, this large wooden-framed photograph, posed a huge question?
Who are the Australians featured in it? At 1.4 m long x 32cm high, it must have represented something significant to the owner.
It was donated by the Brown family of Buderim and the soldier pictured in the first row, 11th from left, was Frederick James Thomson. Non-commissioned officers who showed merit were given the opportunity to attend Officer Training schools, often in England, where they would graduate as 2nd Lieutenants.
Cropped image showing Cadet Frederick James Thomson. 6721 Panoramic Photograph of Officer Cadets in Oxford 1917, State Library of Queensland
There are 17 Australians featured among a total of 144 men, it is virtually impossible to identify any others without further information. Fred. J. Thomson was an officer with the Lands Court in Brisbane before enlisting in the AIF in November 1915. His family lived in Greenslopes, and his father John Thomson was the Town Clerk for the Coorparoo Shire for many years.
Thompson Family group, Mr and Mrs Thomson seated, and their two children Agnes and Fred, standing. Negative number 82694, State Library of Queensland.
Thomson arrived in Egypt in March 1916 when battalions were being reorganized after the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula. He was assigned to the 49th Infantry Battalion and embarked for England for several months training before joining his unit in France.
Private Thomson quickly rose through the ranks of his company and by May 1917 had been appointed Sergeant, earning him the opportunity to attend an Officers Training Course in Oxford later that year.
Lieutenant Thomson graduated in October 1917 and returned to his unit in December 1917. In June 1918 Australian companies were given the objective to capture the German front line defences at Morlancourt and Sailly Laurette. Thompson was platoon commander of “C Company” as they went into the front line on the eve of the 10th June. Although the attack was thought to be a success, Australia lost approximately 400 men, including Lieutenant Thomson.
Teresa Thomson travelled to England in 1918 intent on visiting her son’s grave, but was advised at the time that it would be a very difficult journey.
Originally buried at Vaux-Sur-Somme Communal Cemetery Extension, E.N.E. of Corbie, Lieutenant Thomsons’ remains were exhumed and reburied at the Villers Bretonneux Military Cemetery, in 1920.
The inscription on his headstone reads:
“An ideal son, deeply mourned by his father, mother and sister”
- NAA: THOMSON, Frederick James
- 6721 Panoramic Photograph of Officer Cadets in Oxford, 1917
- View photograph in sections: negative nos. 85081, 85082, 85083, 85084, 85085
- Honour Board, Coorparoo School of Arts and Memorial Hall
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