Cyril James Ockelford Thompson was a twin, born and raised in Springfield and Chelmsford, the son of the owner of the Essex County Chronicle and seven-times Mayor of Chelmsford. He was educated at the town’s Grammar School and after leaving school in 1912 went to work for his father’s newspaper. After attending Sandhurst Cyril was given a commission. Cyril saw action in France, Salonica and Palestine. He was wounded in his leg during the capture of Gaza in November 1917, and fatally wounded the following month, succumbing to his wounds on Christmas Day. His home was in Springfield Road.
THOMPSON, CYRIL JAMES OCKELFORD,
Lieutenant, 2/18th (County of London) Battalion (London Irish Rifles)
A third report in the same edition revealed:
“Lieut. R.J.T. Thompson, R.E., son of Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Thompson, Chelmsford, is mentioned in dispatches for gallant service on the Western front, and at the same time his twin brother, Lieut. C.J.O. Thompson, London Regt., is reported killed in action on the Eastern front, dying on Christmas Day near Jerusalem.”
The day’s Essex Weekly News, included the following family announcement:
“Thompson. - In the Holy Land, on Christmas Day, 1917, of wounds received in action on Dec. 23, and after serving both in France and Palestine, and being wounded in the capture of Gaza on Nov. 7, Cyril James Ockelford Thompson, Lieut., London Regt., dearly-loved son of Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Thompson, Chelmsford, aged 21 years. ‘He died that others might live’.”
The same edition also reported:
“Lieut. Cyril James Ockelford Thompson, London Regt., who died on Christmas Day of wounds received in action two days previously, was a twin son of Alderman J. O. Thompson, J.P., Deputy-Mayor of Chelmsford, and Mrs, Thompson, of The Eaves, Chelmsford. Much sympathy is felt for Mr. and Mrs. Thompson in the great sorrow that has befallen them.
The deceased officer, who was 21 years old, was commissioned to a London Battalion soon after the outbreak of war, his twin brother, Reginald, having previously obtained a commission in the Royal Fusiliers, whence after considerable service with a famous Battalion on the Western Front (where he still is) he was transferred to the Royal Engineers.
Lieut. Cyril Thompson had seen service in France, in Salonica, and in Palestine, and only recently it was announced that he had been wounded at Gaza on Nov. 7. While in France he had the alarming experience of spending a night lost and alone in No Man’s Land, where he had gone out to make a reconnaissance. After some hairbreath escapes he finally found himself early in the morning in proximity to his own lines, the first person to greet him being his platoon sergeant. He had been given up or lost, and there was much handshaking and congratulation over his reappearance.
A friend who was present when Lieut. Thompson was wounded in Palestine wrote: ‘During the whole of the affair his coolness and his splendid example as a leader of his men were too good for words.’
In private life he, like his twin brother, had joined the staff of the ‘Essex County Chronicle’ with which his family have long been associated, and his quiet unassuming manner, coupled as it was with a keen sense of humour, made him a great favourite with all who came into contact with him/ A third son of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson left home early on Monday to join a Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers to which he had been gazetted out of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where, at the age of 18, he passed out 81st out of 320.
On Monday at the anniversary of the opening of the Y.M.C.A. Hut at Chelmsford, in which Alderman Thompson had taken a great interest, Mr. J. W. Hayes, the organising secretary for Essex, explained that the absence of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson was due to the sad news they had received of the death of their son, and said he was sure they all sympathised with them in their great bereavement.
The Bishop of Chelmsford said he was sure all of them in Chelmsford would agree with what had fallen from the lips of Mr. Hayes with regard their sympathy with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson. They knew how during his year of office Alderman Thompson threw himself into all the work connected with the borough, and how heartily he was in sympathy with everything good, and especially with the work of the Y.M.C.A. Their sympathy would go out to him, and they would, he was certain, join in praying that comfort and consolation might be given to Mr. and Mrs. Thompson in this great bereavement.
In the evening at a meeting of the Chelmsford Town Council the Mayor, Councillor J. Gowers, said he wished to refer to the very sad news received that day of the death of Lieut. Cyril Thompson, a son of the Deputy-Mayor. He proposed that a vote of condolence and very great regret be passed for the Deputy-Mayor and Mrs. Thompson in their sad bereavement. The Council sympathised with them very much. - The resolution was carried in silence by the members rising from their seats; Alderman Thompson briefly thanked the Council for their sympathy.”
The April 1918 edition of the King Edward VI’s Grammar School’s publication, The Chelmsford Magazine, reported:
“Another sad loss is that of Lieut C.J.O. Thompson who died of wounds in Palestine and who will be affectionately remembered by many of the younger O.C’s.”
Cyril is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, on the Springfield Parish Memorial at All Saints’ Church, and by the Chelmsford Parish Great War Memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral. He was entitled to the Victory and British War medals. He left an estate valued at £425 9s. 2d.
On 15th March 1918 the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“The late Lieut. C. J. O. Thompson. - A special ‘Scouts Own’ service is to be held at the Empire Theatre on Sunday afternoon next, at 3 o’ clock, at which will be presented to the Boy Scouts sets of stretchers and bugles as gifts in memory of the late Lieut. C. J. O. Thompson, ho died of wounds received in action in Palestine on Christmas Day last. The General Commanding his Division has written that he was a most brave and fearless officer and leader of men, and his loss is deeply mourned, He was only 21 years of age and had seen active service in France, Salonica, Egypt, and Palestine, and had been previously wounded. the Rev. Canon Lake will deliver the address at the service, which will be public.”.
The 1918 register of electors listed Cyril’s parents at The Eaves 26 Springfield Road, Springfield (later renumbered 86-94), a large house on the southern corner of the junction with Navigation Road.
On 20th December 1918 the Essex County Chronicle included the following in memoriam notice:
“Thompson. - In the Holy Land, on Christmas Day 1917, of wounds received in action on December 23, and after serving both in France and Palestine and being wounded in the capture of Gaza on Nov. 7, Cyril James Ockelford Thompson, Lieut., London Regt., dearly loved son of Mr. and Mrs. J. O. Thompson, Chelmsford, aged 21 years. ‘He died that others might live.’”
Cyril’s parents, a brother and two nieces were killed in 1940 during an air raid on Chelmsford.
Cyril was born in Springfield on 28th July 1896, one of twin sons of John Ockelford Thompson, O.B.E., J.P., C.C. and Emma Thompson (nee Tanner). He was privately christened at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 2nd August 1898 along with his twin. Ockelford was the maiden surname of Cyril’s paternal grandmother.
Cyril’s father had been born on 8th October 1872 in Springfield the only son of Thomas Thompson. Cyril’s parents married in 1895 in London. Cyril’s
mother had been born in Chelmsford in 1862.
Cyril’s four siblings, all Springfield-born, included his twin Reginald John Tanner Thompson, Thomas Cloverley Thompson (born on 25th May 1899 and christened at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 25th July 1899), William Brierley Thompson (born on 6th February 1901) and Robert Thompson (born on 19th August 1904).
The 1901 census listed four year-old Cyril living with his parents, three siblings and two servants at 3 Meadowside in Springfield. His father was the proprietor of the Essex County Chronicle. He became editor following his father, Thomas Thompson’s death in 1908.
Cyril was educated at Miss Stanley’s Private School in New London Road, Chelmsford, and then at King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Chelmsford, which he entered as a day scholar in Form I on 11th May 1905. At the time his father (himself a student at the school until 1888) was described as a journalist, editor of the Essex County Chronicle of The Eaves, Chelmsford.
In April 1911 the census recorded 14 year-old Cyril living with his parents, four brothers and two servants at The Eaves in Springfield Road, Springfield (pictured), a property at the junction with Navigation Road. They had moved there in 1902 or 1903. Cyril’s father was described at the time as a newspaper proprietor and editor. In July 1911. Cyril obtained the Cambridge Local Junior qualification, followed by the Cambridge Local Senior qualification a year later. Aged 16, he left the Grammar School in Form VI on 30th July 1912 to pursue a career in journalism.
Cyril’s twin Reginald also attended the Grammar School for the same period of time as Cyril. Their brother Thomas was there between May 1905 and December 1913. Their sibling William was there from May 1906 to July 1915, as was their brother Robert from January 1910 to March 1918, when he left for Brentwood Grammar School.
Cyril went to Sandhurst and was given a commission in the 2/18th (County of London) Battalion (London Irish Rifles). The battalion, a Territorial unit, was formed in London in August 1914, and spent the early months of the war at Reigate. It later moved to St. Alban’s, Bishop’s Stortford and Sutton Veny before landing at Le Havre, France in June 1916. In November 1916 the battalion moved to Salonika, before going to Egypt in July 1917, and then on to Palestine. There he was wounded during the capture of Gaza.
On 16th November 1917 the Essex County Chronicle reported that Cyril had been wounded:
“Lieut. C.J.O. Thompson, London Regt., one of the sons of Mr. J.O. Thompson, J.P., the ex-Mayor of Chelmsford, is reported wounded in action in Palestine on Nov. 7. No other particulars are yet to hand. The official reports record that in this fighting the London Regiment showed great gallantry.”
A similar report appeared in the day’s Essex Weekly News:
“Lieut. C. J. O. Thompson, London Regt., wounded in Palestine on Nov. 7, is a twin son of Alderman J. O. Thompson, J.P., and Mrs. Thompson, Chelmsford.”
A week later the paper reported:
“News was received on Monday that Lieut C. J. O. Thompson, London regt., son of the Deputy-Mayor of Chelmsford, Alderman J. O. Thompson, reported wounded last week, had been admitted to hospital suffering from a gunshot wound to the right leg.”
Cyril was mentioned in a further report in the Essex County Chronicle on 21st December 1917:
“Success at Sandhurst. - Gentleman-Cadet T.C. Thompson, third son of Mr. J. O. Thompson, J.P., of Chelmsford, stands 81st in the list of 320 passing-out successes at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and is being gazetted a Sec.-Lt. in the Royal Fus. His wounded brother, Lt. C.J.O. Thompson, London Regt, shot in the leg at the capture of Gaza, is now out of hospital and rejoining his battalion; and his other soldier brother, Lt. R.J.T. Thompson, R.E., returned to France from leave on Saturday morning last.”
Cyril died of wounds on Christmas Day 1917 while serving as Lieutenant in the 18th Battalion of the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles). He was aged 21. He is buried at Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel (grave: S. 42).
On 4th January 1918 the Essex County Chronicle, edited by Cyril’s father, included the following family announcement:
“Thompson. - In the Holy Land, on Christmas Day, 1917, of wounds received in action on December 23, and after serving both in France and Palestine and being wounded in the capture of Gaza on Nov. 7, Cyril James Ockelford Thompson, Lieut., London Regt., dearly loved son of Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Thompson, Chelmsford, aged 21 years. ‘He died that others might live’.”
The same edition of the paper also reported:
“Lieutenant Cyril James Ockelford Thompson, aged 21 years, who died on Christmas Day of wounds received in action in Palestine on Dec. 23, after being previously wounded in the capture of Gaza on November 7, was a twin son of Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Thompson. last year’s Mayor and Mayoress of Chelmsford.
Lieut. Thompson before the war was associated with his father in the conduct of the Essex County Chronicle, Soon after the outbreak of war he was commissioned in a Battalion of the London Regt., and was in active service in France, Salonica, and Palestine. On one occasion in France he spent a night alone in No Man’s Land, held up by German barbed wire and bombed by the Bosche. The description he wrote of that experience shows the kind of work which a soldier is occasionally called upon to go through, and the story, which was published in the Essex Herald on Tuesday, showed that the writer possessed considerable literary ability.
He was a young man of charming character and beautiful life, always studious of the wants and comforts of others before his own. A friend who was present when Lieut. Thompson was first wounded in Palestine writes of him: ‘During the whole of the affair his coolness and his splendid example as a leader of his men were too good for words’.
The deceased officer’s twin brother is a Lieut., R.E., also on active service, and another brother, aged eighteen, joined on Tuesday a Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers to which he had been gazetted out of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. A younger brother, aged nearly 17, is a lance-corporal of Volunteers, after service in his school O.T.C., and a younger brother still, aged 13, is in his school Cadet Corps. while the father, Alderman J.O. Thompson is an officer of the Volunteers.
On Monday afternoon, at the anniversary of the opening of the Y.M.C.A. Hut a Chelmsford, the Mayor, Mr. J. Gowers J.P., presiding, Mr. J.W. Hayes, the organising secretary for Essex, said the Deputy-Mayor (Ald. J.O. Thompson, J.P.) was unable to be present, he having received a telegram announcing the death of Lieut. Cyril Thompson. He (Mr. Hayes) was sure they sympathised deeply with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson in the great bereavement.
The Bishop of Chelmsford rising to address the gathering, said: ‘One scarcely feels in the humour to speak after the announcement that has just been made. I am sure all of us in Chelmsford will agree with what had fallen from the lips of Mr. Hayes with regard o our sympathy with Ald. and Mrs. Thompson. We how as Mayor the Alderman threw himself into all the work connected with the borough, and how heartily he was in sympathy with everything good and especially with the work of the Y.M.C.A. Our sympathy will go out to him, and we shall, I am certain, join in praying that comfort and consolation may be given to him and Mrs. Thompson in this great bereavement.’
On Monday evening, at the Chelmsford Town Council, the Mayor said that before they proceeded with the business he wished to refer to the very sad news which had been received that day of the death of a son of the Deputy-Mayor. He proposed that a vote of condolence and very great regret be passed to Alderman and Mrs. Thompson in their sad bereavement. they sympathised with him very much - it was such a shock that only those who had received it knew what it meant. The resolution was carried in silence and the Deputy-Mayor, who was very much affected, briefly thanked the Council.”