For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar
Remembering John Thompson - written by Ted Gibbons
During a multitude of Squadron tours I was crewed up with many observers but I think I was with John for the longest stretch of any and we participated in many memorable events.
We (Larry Washbrook, John & AB Milton) were crewed up prior to the fall Eastlant cruise in 1962. I think it was John’s first deployment as the senior crewman. On the way to the UK the Flying Tiger Super Connie ditched off Ireland. A few days later we were tasked to take some photos & newsreel footage to London, spend the night in London and then fly to Holland. Milton was replaced by a LCdr Murphy, Bonaventure's First LCdr who was to organize the ship’s berthing arrangements in Rotterdam. The spontaneous reception John organized in London is legendary. The famous bicycle race took place in Rotterdam and then we sailed for Exercise Sharpsquall during which, on Oct 15, 1962, we made the 11,000th landing on Bonaventure. Because of the exercise there were no ceremonies but we had a momentous crew party later in a Portsmouth club to celebrate the event. A picture was taken on the flight deck in Portsmouth to record the event.
Bonaventure was ordered back to Halifax 2 days before our scheduled departure to participate in the Cuban Crisis. A story about our adventures on that deployment is contained in Vol II of Stu Soward’s “Hands to Flying Stations”. On return from that historic event I was appointed to VU-32 and although I was to do 2 more tours in 880 I never flew with John again.
He was a highly professional operator, a valued team mate, a wonderful shipmate and a great friend. He will be missed but fondly remembered.
Ships served in:
(1) Ted Gibbons, John Thompson, AB Wilton and Larry Washbrook pose for a photo after Exercise Sharpsquall during which, on Oct 15, 1962, they made the 11,000th landing on Bonaventure. (2) Poem by John Thompson - He sits in two (3) Poem by John Thompson - Early Morning Brief (4) Poem by John Thompson - OM's Course Nineteen..
An accute case of serendipity by John Thompson
Warrior magazine Summer 2014
I was serving as Tanky; (Navigator's Yeoman) on HMCS Inch Arran, and on Shelburne patrol, when the message came in. Somebody told me my name was on it so I tracked it down and it read...
The following men are to attend the selection board for Observer's Mate; followed by the date. I checked the long list looking for my name, but didn't see it. I continued reading, until I came to the last sentence, which stated "Able Seaman John G.D. Thompson may also apply if he so desires.
I had re-entered the navy as an ABNQ (not qualified). I therefore didn't have a branch I could call my own. I was then told I was to be a Quartermaster a seamanship branch. I was informed that I had no choice in the matter.
I aced the QM's course, spending most of it as a projectionist in the seamanship school, while the instructors toddled off to the tavern near the centre gate of the dockyard. On completion I was sent to HMCS Nipigon, had one trip up the St. Laurence on her, and was then drafted to commission Inch Arran, in Sydney, NS,
I recalled that while on my second session of basic training in Cornwallis as a re-entry, I had requested to transfer to ship's diver but had been turned down for being a few months past my "sell-by-date.
An "Observer's Mate by the name of Detchoff, who was on a leadership course at the time, and who painted an interesting picture of his branch of the navy. Incidentally, I did find him very hard on the new entries in my custody as their "Divisional Captain," and asked him to check with me before administering punishment to those recruits in my charge.
In spite of of this little bit of friction between us, I appreciated his information about his branch, and immediately submitted another request form, to transfer to his branch, I didn't hold out much hope, and forgot about it, although, I was determined that I was going to be something other than a Quartermaster, which was to be my apparent destiny.
I terminated my basic training, after a couple of months, much to the chagrin of my divisional petty officer, P1Hart, (a former, with his wife, dominion champion ballroom dancer,) as I was basically doing his job of running the division. My divisional officer, was also perturbed at my desertion all what he called my responsibilities. But after two months, I'd had enough of my second dose of the chicken manure routine and wanted to be able to go ashore.
Until my division graduated, I was seconded to Joining Block as an instructor. A job I quite enjoyed.
Now my discontent with my naval future was coming back to bite me.
I quite enjoyed my job as Navigator's Yeoman, and was inclined to straddle the fence.
I received a message to report to Number One right away. The Jimmy was waiting for me on the bridge, and I had noted previously that he wore pilot's wings on the left breast of his uniform. He received me with such enthusiasm, and congratulated me on being selected. He proceeded with enthusiasm to paint me a great picture of life in Naval Air, so much so, that he convinced me to give it a try. He even sent the signal stating that I would attend the selection board.
Now I was sitting in the Aircrew Division cinema awaiting my turn. The projectionist was showing non-stop airplane crashes on American aircraft carriers in the Pacific, ostensibly to separate the men from the boys, I surmised. One or two did leave the theatre before being called for the interview.
I apparently passed the selection board and moved in to Warrior Block eventually, along with Dodd, Blake, Barnes, Pomeroy, Weir, Chapdelaine, Lahey, and Elrick. I did know morse code, but was having trouble reading it at 18wpm on the final exam. At wings presentation, mine were on an elastic band and sprang back into the box, until I passed my final morse. We all ended up on VS880 in Trackers. Where we were subjected to other little adventures over the years.
Two consecutive Pier-Head jumps by John Thompson
Warrior magazine Summer 2016
It was the summer of 1957, I was nearing the end of my first five years naval service as a photographer, and planned to leave when my commitment was over. The branch had planned one more adventure for me, and I was drafted on temporary assignment to HMCS St. Laurent, the first of the new DDE's. I had only been a few weeks back from five and a half months in the Arctic with HMCS Labrador.
I was enduring what was referred to in the navy as a pier-21head jump, an immediate assignment without any prior notice. Old sailors know... That the ship waits for no-man (with perhaps the exception of the Captain) I had no kit, no pay, or any other records, just my camera gear, the clothes I had on my back, and chemistry to develop film. My assignment was basically for public relations photographs, which to all accounts could be used to promote navy recruitment. The DDE, HMCS St. Laurent had been commissioned for a about a year and we were heading to Bermuda with the newly commissioned HMCS Assiniboine. They would be doing their work-ups on her way South, and was destined after visiting Bermuda for a trip to Europe.
I was on the bridge with my speed graphic camera as ordered, to photograph the first discharge of our ship’s new (to the Navy at that time) twin 3 inch/L50 guns, using live rounds. Shutter speed leaver cocked and ready I stood behind a waist high steel bulkhead. The first volley of single shot fired successfully, and splashed a long way off. I'm really not sure how it goes, but I think they switched to rapid fire and one of the second volley exploded shortly after leaving the gun. I had taken my picture of the barrel flashes and almost simultaneously heard a thud in front of me. When the shoot was in hesitation mode, I lowered my camera and peaked over the steel wall to see a crotch-high dent in it, and a piece of still smoking shrapnel on the deck .I backed off a little and surreptitiously checked my crotch for damage. I overheard the first Lieutenant report the event to the Captain. The Captain replied," for God’s sake don't tell the photographer, or we’ll never get him up here on the upper deck again.” For reasons of self-preservation, I chose to ignore his snide remark.
Our rendezvousing with the aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent at the halfway mark was to be my second adventure on that ship. I was on the compass platform once again with the “brass,” and my trusty camera at the ready.
Maggie appeared on the horizon, and the word went out. Sailors came out from all the nooks and crannies of the ship for a look-see. I’m pretty sure we were doing our maximum speed of 28 knots bearing on a course that would it take us about a quarter of a mile in front of Maggie’s bows and line astern of Assiniboine also going full tilt. The new ships were highly manoeuverable, could turn on the proverbial dime, and apparently we were going to show off our prowess to the venerable Magnificent by tearing in to line ahead of her. The Assiniboine out in front did a violent full speed turn to port so she was line ahead of Maggie and we were to turn in after her. Which we did. Assiniboine slowed down, which we didn't. All compass platform binoculars were focused on Maggie, with no one paying attention to where we were going. I was checking out my camera settings and looked up to see that we were rapidly approaching Assiniboine's stern. I tapped the arm of the nearest officer and pointed, and he quickly yelled “Starboard 30” down the voice pipe. We cut safely across Assiniboine's wake, missing her with a few yards to spare. There were a few red faces on the bridge, but I never heard another word about it, and never mentioned it until now.
My adventures were just beginning. A signal came through, attaching me to Assiniboine for her maiden voyage to Europe to show her off. The first stop was to be Lisbon Portugal. I joined her, still with no records; pay or otherwise, and no kit; and another pier-head jump.