Who's Who - Christopher Thomson

Christopher Thomson Christopher Thomson (1875-1930) served in staff positions with the British Army throughout World War One.

Born on 13 April 1875 in India the son of a Major-General, Thomson was educated first at Cheltenham College and then then at Sandhurst, entering the Royal Engineers in 1884.

Prior to the outbreak of war in August 1914 Thomson served in Mauritius from 1896-99 and in South Africa where he saw active service during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902

With the peace in South Africa Thomson returned to Britain, taking up a teaching position at the Engineering School in Chatham and after that at the Staff College in Camberley.

From 1911 Thomson worked with Sir Henry Wilson, the then-Director of Military Operations and the man considered most likely to become Sir John French's Chief of Staff in the coming European war (Wilson's role in the 1914 Curragh Mutiny put paid to this ambition however).

1912 saw Thomson's appointment as military attaché to Serbia, in which he was a spectator during the Balkan Wars.  The First World War in August 1914 brought Thomson a further liaison appointment, this time with the Belgian Army.

Despatched next to Romania he was promised with ample reward were he to bring that country into the war against the Central Powers.  He succeeded in doing so but was subsequently rueful in light of the prompt German invasion of Romania and its consequent problems for the Allies.

With the fall of Romania Thomson's next posting took him to the Palestine Front where he served alongside Sir Edmund Allenby in the successful advance on Jerusalem of December 1917.  Commanding a brigade himself in the capture of Jericho Thomson was awarded the D.S.O. in 1918.

Promoted to Brigadier-General Thomson accompanied the British delegation to the Paris Peace Conference; he was in violent disagreement however with the terms of the consequent Versailles peace treaty.

Thomson brought his military career to a close in 1919 with his decision to join the rising Labour Party and stand as its parliamentary candidate at Bristol.  He was unsuccessful in this and numerous subsequent attempts to gain election and was eventually raised to the peerage by Ramsay MacDonald upon the latter's rise to Prime Minister in 1924.

In the first Labour government Thomson was appointed MacDonald's Secretary of State for Air.  In this capacity he was chiefly responsible for the government's involvement in aircraft construction, including the R100 and R101 aircraft.

With the fall of the Labour government Thomson took up a position as chairman of both the Aeronautical Society and the Air League.  Labour's return to government in 1929 saw Thomson's restoration to the Air portfolio.

Having championed its development Thomson was among the passengers of the inaugural flight of the R101 airship on 5 October 1930; when it crash-landed he was among the fatalities.

Aged 55 at his death Thomson was the author of numerous works, including Old Europe's Suicide (1919), Victors and Vanquished (1924) and Air Facts and Problems (1927).

Prevalent dysentery among Allied soldiers in Gallipoli came to be referred to as "the Gallipoli gallop".

- Did you know?

Who's Who