Royal Naval Air Service; Royal Air Force
HMS President II; HMS Daedalus; No 2 Observation School; 39 Wing
Place of birth:
Date of death:
Cause of death:
Grave or panel reference:
Name of father:
Frederick Arthur Thompson
Name of siblings:
Alice Beatrice; Albert Arthur; Henry Clarence
Name(s) of children:
Arthur Ernest; Kathleen; Frederick Alan
Date of birth:
Place of enlistment:
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Name of mother:
Alice Thompson (nee Seaman)
Name of spouse:
Esther Thompson (nee Moffat)
47 Arthur Road, Holloway
Ernest Victor Frederick Thompson was born on 10 October 1897 in Clerkenwell. His parents were Frederick Arthur Thompson, an insurance agent (who had previously been a dairyman), and Alice Thompson (nee Seaman). Ernest was the youngest of four children. He had an older sister Alice and two older brothers, Albert and Henry. Ernest was baptised in St Philip’s Church, Clerkenwell. The family were living close by in Wilmington Square. Ernie was admitted to Grafton Road School in March 1903, by which time the family had moved to Arthur Road, Holloway, the other side of Seven Sisters Road from the school. They were still there in 1911 when Ernest’s father was described in the census as of private means; one of his brothers was employed as a coach joiner, the other as a ticket writer’s apprentice. When Ernest was 15 he was employed as a junior booking clerk on the Great Northern & City Railway for six months, and then another six months as a toolhouse lad, a post from which he appears to have been dismissed. His pay was 5s/-. Ernest became a member of New Court Chapel in 1915.
In May 1916 he joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as an Air Mechanic Class II, and was assigned to HMS President II, which was a ‘stone frigate’, not an actual ship but an accounting base for various naval vessels and establishments. His trade is given as Labourer. His record states that he had brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion; and his previous occupation in civilian life was a warehouseman. In a later report he was considered of very good character and moderate ability.
Ernest started his service with six months in Lowestoft, and then spent three weeks at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, a training establishment, presumably still undergoing training. Following that, in December 1916, he was posted to Luxeuil in France. The RNAS was supporting troops on the Western Front, including carrying out bombing raids in Sopwith biplanes, such as that on Freiburg in Germany on 17 April 1917, in which two men of RNAS No 3 Wing were killed and two captured by the enemy. After this disastrous raid, the RNAS were withdrawn: the aircraft were given to the French and the crew and ratings were sent to fill the requirements of units of the Royal Flying Corps. Ernest seems to have been among them as he returned to the UK, to Manston in Kent, an important training establishment, in May.
From 3 August 1917 he was an Aircraftsman Class 1 in the RNAS, with pay of 1s 8d, and his trade was Labourer. Manston was under HMS Daedalus, the nominal depot ship of the RNAS, and also an accounting base for the emergent Royal Air Force. The RAF was officially launched in April 1918, but it is clear that they regarded RNAS men as in their ranks from earlier than that as Ernest’s record says that he enlisted in the RAF on 3 August 1917 for the duration of the war. The RAF took on the army ranks of the Royal Flying Corps so Ernest now became a Private.
At Manston he was at No 2 Observation School before being transferred in September 1918 to 55 JDS under 39 Wing of the RAF. It seems possible that he was training to be an observer, or even a pilot or navigator, which would be consistent with his position in WWII. On 4 January 1919 he was sent to the Dispersal Centre in Wimbledon, where he was classed as medical category A, and then transferred to RAF ‘G’ Reserve on 1 February. He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals for service in Europe.
In July 1921 Ernest married Esther (‘Hetty’) Moffat, the daughter of a cabinet maker, in Holy Trinity Church, Tottenham. His occupation is given as commercial traveller. They were living at different addresses in Tynemouth Street at the time. In May 1924 they had a son, Arthur, whose birth was registered in Edmonton; in 1930 a daughter Kathleen, registered in Epsom; and in February 1933 another son, Frederick, registered in Kingston, Surrey.
By 1939 the family had moved to Worthing in Sussex. Ernest was now a divisional manager of an assurance company (taking after his father) and an ARP warden. In World War II he was granted a commission as Acting Pilot Officer on probation in the Training Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was not on the active list but was awarded the 1939-45 Star. From 1945 onwards the family were living in Cheam, Surrey, where Ernest died on 11 May 1971, aged 73. His wife survived him by almost 20 years, dying in 1990 at the age of 94.