In 1957, Comrade Tom did not know he would be in service to our country until 1992. His call to duty can be traced back to his family’s military history, to the Boer War.
Originally from Bracebridge, Comrade Tom moved to Toronto. Along with some buddies he decided to ‘check-out’ the Air Force but they weren’t hiring and it was suggested that they cross the street to the Naval Office. One hundred five men were recruited as cooks!
Twenty-two ships later (ten of these were Second World War era), Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Thompson has many travel tales. Comrade Tom has circled our globe five plus times and visited most countries with the exception of communist bloc nations.
Comrade Tom has served on the East and West Coast of Canada; spent five years in Kingston on Recruiting; experienced two tours of duty in Damascus, Syria; worked on 1 Squadron Staff on the East Coast and 2 Squadron Staff on the West Coast. He has served in the Canadian Arctic, visited the Orient, South America along the Eastern seaboard and the Caribbean. In addition to managing a large staff at various naval bases, Comrade Tom was in charge of rewriting the Canadian Forces Diving Manual for the United Nations (Fleet Diving Unit – Pacific).
Comrade Tom vividly recalls his early days as exciting, strict and rigorous. His first trip was to Lagos, Nigeria to guard the CANDU Reactor prototype. Landing in Lagos was ‘like visiting another world; it was a bustling metropolis; the people were very active, musical.” He has no complaints about life in the Navy. Food was plentiful, better than expected and they had all the necessary tools to do the job. The occasional stress (due to large war-time exercises) was relieved by opportunities to sight-see at their many ports-of call and by kind offers to visit local families.
Comrade Tom sustained a minor injury in Lebanon and was once washed over-board into shark-infested waters where two of his shipmates succumbed to these predators.
Sharing his most memorable experience, Comrade Tom said it was when he was the Administrator for the Esquimalt (Naval Base in Victoria, British Columbia) 75th Anniversary Military Tattoo. As well, he was on staff at the Royal International Nova Scotia Tattoo in 1987.
Chief Petty Officer Thompson is recipient of these medals: the Canadian Forces Decoration – 35 years; Confederation Medal; Queen’s Silver Jubilee; Canada 125; UNDOFM (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Medal (two tours); Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal; and Special Service Medal. To this last one, add the NATO Bar, and the Humanitas Bar (for service in Haiti).
As a past member of several Legion Branches, Comrade Tom counts the following Royal Canadian Legion Medals: Branch Past Office Medal; Fifty-year Service Medal (with 55 year bar); Branch Service Medal; Legion 50th Anniversary Medal; Legion 60th Anniversary Medal; Legion 75th Anniversary Medal; Legion 90th Anniversary Medal and Canada 150th Medal.
Comrade Tom shared that his military experiences influenced his thinking about peace, life choices and allowed him to “keep an open mind and broadened my horizon ten-fold.”
Comrade Tom was in Victoria, British Columbia when he retired from the military. He pursued work with a chemical company and was the Assistant Manager of the British Columbia Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.
He maintains friendships with past military, Legion and industry personnel. His liaisons include being the historian for HMCS Haida, and Member Friends HMCS Haida – Flagship of RCN (Hamilton, Ont.)
Bringing this interview to a close, Comrade Tom shared that “the Legion is a fraternal organization and it should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Our Branch is remarkable in that people are basically very friendly.”
Comrade Tom, we thank you for your service.