Farewell to campaigning war hero

A DECORATED war hero responsible for extending Ipswich's cenotaph has died aged 96.

A DECORATED war hero responsible for extending Ipswich's cenotaph has died aged 96.

Walter Thompson was a long-time campaigner with the Royal British Legion (RBL) who fought for a proper tribute in the town to those who lost their lives in the Second World War

He devoted much of the past 50 years to Royal Navy veterans and was awarded ten medals in his lifetime, including the British Empire Medal and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

Mr Thompson was vice-president and the last surviving founder member of the Ipswich branch of the Royal Naval Association, founded in 1952.

In the same year he was presented with a British Empire Medal - equivalent to today's MBE - for his services to the Royal Navy.

After his retirement from the Navy as chief gunnery instructor, he became involved in the RBL.

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He was named vice-chairman in 2003, having retired as treasurer - a role in which he devoted much of his time to raising the money needed to inscribe the 615 names of fallen Ipswich servicemen who gave their lives in the Second World War on to the cenotaph in Christchurch Park.

As recently as 2003, at the age of 92, he took the helm as director of Ipswich's Remembrance parade and, as welfare officer for the RBL, prepared packs of sweets and cigarettes and delivered them to elderly residents - many of whom were younger than him.

The father-of-three was also actively involved in the Poppy Appeal and his commitments were recognised with an Unsung Heroes Award.

But it is perhaps his campaign for an extension to the cenotaph that Mr Thompson will be best remembered.

He and cousin, Peter Thompson, joined former Ipswich RBL president, Reg Driver, in battling for a £250,000 tribute to Ipswich's fallen heroes.

Speaking to the Evening Star on his birthday in 2001, he said of the campaign: “It would make my 90th year.”

Mr Thompson's dream was finally realised in 2004 when the cenotaph was cleaned and the names of soldiers, sailors and airmen from the town killed in the Second World War added.

A memorial service will be held for Mr Thompson at Ipswich Crematorium on Thursday, October 9.

WALTER Arthur Francis Thompson was born on October 15 1911, in a lean-to shelter between the parish church and the priest's house in Woodbridge Road.

He began his naval career in 1923 at the Royal Hospital School in Greenwich before going on to HMS Ganges, the former naval training establishment at Shotley.

During the war he served mainly on HMS Phoebe in the Mediterranean but also on other ships, including HMS Vanguard, as regulating chief petty officer.

He returned to HMS Ganges as a gunnery instructor training new recruits and after his retirement began working for the Suffolk Press - part of Eastern Counties Newspaper Group, which was renamed Archant and is publisher of The Evening Star.

In his later years he enjoyed tending an allotment in Sidegate Lane - a pastime he continued to pursue until the age of 90.

Mr Thompson, who had been fighting prostate cancer for some years, died at Thurleston Residential Care Home, Ipswich, on September 13.

He is survived by five grandchildren and three children, Peter, 66, Robert, 60 - both of whom also served in the navy - and Karen, 53. His wife Gladys died in 1982.