Born on the day that the Battle of the Somme began, 8th April 1916. A sickly child, he spent a long time as an in-
In 1935, Jim Thompson heard that the Earl of Harwood was planning to form an Auxiliary Air Force Squadron near to his home. It was actually 60 miles away, but as he owned a BSA motorbike and sidecar, he was able to attend the recruitment day, 10th February 1936. He was the first airman to sign up, number 809000, although Haslam Wood thought that his number, 809001, made him first. He must have ignored the man standing directly in front of him.
Jim was in the Squadron’s first Remembrance Parade through Leeds in 1936. They marched between two bands that were playing different tunes with different beats. He recalled that their marching was extremely irregular as a result.
Wanting to learn to fly, he found himself unable to do so with 609. So in 1937 he joined the Leeds Aero Club, training pilots on behalf of the Civil Air Guard. They shared Yeadon with 609 (WR) Squadron. It cost Jim 25p and hour, and aged 21 he went solo after 8¼ hours of tuition.
At the outbreak of war, Jim, now a 23-
Now married to Rene, he was offered a Commission if he moved stations. The cost of new accommodation was too much for the young couple, so he declined, and remained at Finningley until after D Day, when he went to France as i/c a Flare Path team at Bomber Command Emergency Airfields. They saved the lives of several bomber crews by talking them down safely. When back in the UK after the war ended, Jim took his 12-
Post war, Jim sold medical equipment to hospitals all over the UK for 25 years. After retirement, Jim became a local Councillor, and a staunch member of his local Methodist Church, as well as being a senior Freemason, and member of the Royal British Legion. He was a great raconteur, and you never needed to worry about a strained silence if Jim was in the room!
Aged 80, he was given a trip in a Cessna 180 by the Sherburn Aero Club, and told me that on reaching 90 he was sure that he could still handle a Tiger Moth.
Jim said at this time how proud he had been to know 609, and the bods in it. They were as good as any Guard’s Unit in his view. He told the guests at a 609 Squadron dinner that “One thing that will happen to all of you. You never retire from the Service. It sticks to you like glue!”
Jim Thompson was buried at his local Church on 1st December 2008, aged 92. He was a gentleman, a patriot, a proud and loving father, a leading member of his community, and an absolutely marvellous man to have known.