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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. J A Thomson


James Anderson Thomson was born on 18th January 1916 and joined the RAF on a short service commission. He began his initial training on 25th November 1935. He was posted to 11 FTS Wittering on 22nd February 1936 and after completing his training joined 56 Squadron at North Weald on 24th August.

Thomson went to 64 Squadron at Church Fenton on 6th August 1939 and then joined 72 Squadron, also at Church Fenton, on 4th September 1939.


Above: with 302 Squadron, L to R: F/O PEG Carter, P/O ZTA Wroblewski, F/Lt. JA Thomson.

Above image courtesy of Brian Gates.


He joined 245 Squadron when it was reformed at Leconfield on 30th October 1939 as 'A' Flight Commander with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

Thomson took 'A' Flight to France on 16th May 1940, the flight rejoined the squadron, then at Drem, on the 21st.

Over Dunkirk on 30th May 1940 he damaged a Do17 and on 1st June damaged a Me109.

He was posted to 302 Squadron at its formation at Leconfield on 13th July as 'A' Flight Commander. Thomson was sent to RAF Duxford with a 302 detachment from 18th to 25th September 1940 to operate with the 'Big Wing'.

On 29th October Thomson collided with F/Lt. JT Czerny during a routine patrol over Brooklands. He baled out, slightly injured. His Hurricane, P3085, crashed at Penny-Pot Hill, Chobham. He was posted away from 302 on 28th December 1940.

In September 1941 he was given command of 258 Squadron at Martlesham Heath. The squadron flew to Debden on 3rd October to prepare for overseas deployment. Leaving their Hurricanes behind, the twenty-two pilots went to Abbotsinch on the 30th and two days later sailed in HMS Athene for Gibraltar.

Hurricanes with detached wings were carried. After arriving on the 21st the aircraft were unloaded, to be taken by Ark Royal  to Malta later. However the carrier was sunk returning to Gibraltar so other plans were made for the 258 Squadron pilots.



They left on Christmas Eve 1941 on the Athene. They berthed at Takoradi on 1st January 1942 and disembarked. The Athene left, taking their Hurricanes with her.

On the 3rd they flew on the Middle East ferry route in a DC3 and arrived at Port Sudan, from where they sailed south in HMS Indomitable on the 9th, still with their Hurricanes aboard.

They flew off on the 28th and later in the morning arrived at Airfield P2 at Palembang, Sumatra. In the afternoon they went on to Seletar airfield, Singapore and flew their first operation on 31st January 1942, they were immediately in action.

On 10th February 1942 the three surviving Hurricanes of 258 were withdrawn to Palembang. Of the fifteen surviving pilots, six were required to remain behind there to fly with a reformed 605 Squadron. One was nominated, two volunteered and the other three were selected by cutting cards.

Thomson was one of the nine pilots evacuated from Java to Ceylon in the MV Kota Cede. His command of 258 Squadron ceased on 28th February 1942.

Postwar Thomson stayed in the RAF, retiring on 18th December 1957 as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander.

He died on 30th October 2001 and is buried in St. Mary the Virgin churchyard, Ewelme, Oxfordshire.


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