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raf ensign.animated gifA National Serviceman

photo.jpgAlthough for most of my life I knew Dad as Bass, Baz or Basil, it was only in the months before he died that I discovered he was known as Jim or James in the Regiment.Before he was called up he couldn’t wait to be enlisted…….once in, he couldn’t wait to get out!On call up he was asked did he have a preferred arm to enter, he said Navy, so the RAF was his destination! Joining the RAF he noticed that the Geordie and Durham lads were mostly Regiment gunners, so instead of an RAF interlude he “remustered” as Gunner J. B. Thompson.
First contact was with No. 3 Recruits Centre RAF Padgate from 5/2/46
Then 1 RAF Regiment depot, Grantham Lincs. from 11/4/46
After this, a move to 3 RAF Regiment depot RAF Folkingham. From 11/6/46
Before his posting to Palestine he went to No. 5 Personnel Dispatch Centre, RAF Burtonwood, where he arrived on 21/10/46. While here he trained as a Gunner Armourer, obtaining a “B” grading. Embarkation for the Middle East was on 1/11/46
His arrival 1 on 2924 Squadron was on 14/11/46. In Palestine they were on an airfield called Ras-el-Ain. During this period, Dad and his mates were here-there-and-everywhere; the Regiment graphic link to photo album.giftried to protect everything possible throughout Palestine with fewer and fewer men. Eventually it was realised this was futile and the RAF concentrated it’s resources in a smaller number of airfields.2924 was absorbed by 2899 Rifle Squadron in January 1947, remaining at Ras-elAin, before being renumbered as 66 Rifle Squadron in June 1947, moving to Lydda. Just over one year was spent in Palestine and Dad arrived in the 101 Personnel Dispersal Centre RAF Warton on 12/1/48 before obtaining Demob leave. Of a two year “stint” almost ten months were spent training!!!On Jan 14 1948 LAC 2293178 Jim Thompson was released from National Service to return to whatever passed for normality in 1948!

On patrol in the desert, one of the Arab "boys" broke his leg.
The M.O. went to see if he could help and was politely told that they, the Arabs, had knowledge to sort things out. The M.O. persisted; the leg was badly broken and needed re-setting. "We know", he was told, "we have ways of taking his mind off the pain when we move the bones." The M.O. was VERY intrigued by this, and asked to see what and how this could be achieved. It seems he, too, came back very white! The "knowledge" to distract the poor bugger while his leg was re-set was simple. 
Dad & co couldn't walk properly for days, just the thought did it!

 (Another story he told me, just weeks before he died, was about a roadblock. ) After the Irgun hung the two Sergeants in the Olive Groves he said he was on a roadblock searching for the murderers. (I think he said a Flight Lt. by the name of Garstang/Garston(?) was in command. )
A car careered through and as they all stood, surprised and stupefied (what kind of maniac risks driving atween 3 Bren carriers?) that Flt. Lt. calmly said, "well, don't just stand there, open fire." Anyway Dad reckoned to survive was miraculous, but I think everyone did! (He reckoned they all tried to escape some time later, and all died resisting recapture. Mind you, I don’t think that last sentence is really publishable!!!!)
That is probably "traceable" I'm sure he wasn't the only one still alive to corroborate that!!

(My favorite, and it isn't "exact" is:) 
While out on yet another patrol or convoy escort the "terrorists", (don't think they knew which side, Arab or Jew) fired on the convoy of three ton “Garries”. (Garries, it seems, were the slang nickname for the three-tonner lorries) Dad said the one thing he remembered was something like, F10233/44560/AEFB/2!  “What the hell is that?” I asked, "the chassis number of the lorry I hid under!" he said!!!  Not TOO good a piece of cover, 'cos he found himself in VERY close proximity to the fuel tank!!! 
Still, even if he was shooting a line, it's a bloody good story!!! 

 Some time before the Old Man and his mates came home to demob, they were waiting in a camp (Lydda???) to embark for home. It seems they had a kick-about between what Dad called "The Netty" (Geordie for toilet!) and the outer fence. This was a double fence of razor and wire netting. Between the inner and outer fence was a strip of sand, a few yards wide. Outside the base a sign, in however many languages, read "MINES KEEP OUT" of summat similar. Weeeeelll this "match" had been played out many times with many opposing teams, over many months. The ball, of course, often went "over the wire" and various blokes (don't think they called themselves "Rocks" or "Rockapes" then) dived through the "impenetrable" barrier.  HOWEVER, on this particular night, the ball REALLY DID hit a mine!!!  Several tanned, not to say bronzed faces, it seems, turned deathly white when they realised THEY had been in there to collect the ball. 
No one, of course, believed the "mines" notice! That was just to keep the locals out!!!! 

Returning from Palestine in late 1947, Dad & his unit were on board a troopship.This took the usual shortest route home and they found themselves in Italy. Now Italy at that time was hardly a wealthy nation. But the locals had things like wine, cheeses and fresh fruit and veg. The “currency” was tabs. (For the non-Geordie amongst us, they are ciggies!) Some of the “wide boys” had engineered a way of reducing the amount of tabs in the tins. Let me explain, at that time the tabs were Capstan, full strength packed in 50’s. These were round, sealed tins of, as I said, fifty.But the mob had found that by splitting the seam on the side of the tin, losing a few tabs in so doing, they would remove the majority and could then repack the tin with whatever was to hand so it felt full.

All went well until…….some pillock from a higher deck chucked a tin to one of the Ities……..And the recipient missed his catch!
The smells hit the fan really quickly!
Everyone was banned from trading with the locals and it seems it took a while for the authorities to calm the situation down!!!1
These days, as you said in your story of the Rockapes nickname, the lads would be called “entrepreneurs” and given a Knighthood!!!


rafensign.gif The information and photographs in this gallery have been supplied by the late J B Thompson's son. If you served with James or have any pics or info regarding 2924 Sqn and 66 Rifle Sqn please contact the Webmaster