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Thompson, Colin    Create Anzac Certificate
Place of Birth: Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Service Number: 5633

Place of Enlistment: Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Next of Kin: Thompson, Francis (father)



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Sapper Colin Thompson, 2nd Australian Tunnelling Company
Submitted by: Allan Murray
    

Colin Thompson was born in 1884. In 1916 he was living at 42 Railway Street, Cooks Hill, Newcastle. Still single, he was a miner with experience in gold, coal and tin mines. His brother, Willy Thompson, was serving with the 8th Brigade in Egypt. Australia had experienced the Dardanelles campaign and was beginning to grieve over the eight thousand deaths. The horrors of the Western Front were known to Australians through the newspapers but major Australian troop losses on that front had not yet occurred. Colin Thompson applied to enlist.
Colin Thompson completed his Application to Enlist in the Australian Imperial Force on 25 May at Newcastle and was declared fit and accepted by the Recruiting Officer. Later that day he signed the Attestation Paper for Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad. Colin Thompson had no previous military service but he was a miner with a chest measurement of 37 inches (94 cm). This was to influence his future service. He was allocated number 5633 on 29 May and joined the Newcastle Depot Battalion with the rank of Private. In July, he moved to Seymour, Victoria and from 5 July was allocated as Miners Reinforcements with the rank of Sapper. He trained in Victoria for a further three months as the infantry divisions of the Australian Imperial Force were committed to action on the Western Front. Colins brother, Willy, participated in the battle of Fromelles. There was no doubt in his mind what he were preparing for.
On 25 October 1916, with 515 other reinforcements, Colin Thompson embarked at the port of Melbourne aboard HMA Transport Ulysses destined for England. The port of Durban was reached on 13 November. Windy weather was experienced going around the Cape and they arrived at Cape Town on 19 November. Freetown, Sierra Leone was the next port of call from where departure was delayed until 14 December, as it was not safe to proceed further. Plymouth, England was reached on 28 December. Next day, he marched into the Australian Details Camp at Perham Downs on the Salisbury Plains. Training continued for a further month.
On 28 January 1917, Colin Thompson boarded SS Onward at Folkstone and proceeded to the 2nd Australian General Base Depot at Etaples, France. Colin Thompson was allocated to 2nd Australian Tunnelling Company (ATC) and attached on 8 February.
The 2nd ATC were around the Bluff and St Eloi of the Messines Ridge area undertaking more standard engineering tasks in the trenches. Under command of Major E. N. Mulligan, the 2nd ATC task was split between developing dugouts and ramparts around the Bluff and St Eloi for the infantry and shallow shafts in support of 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company, who were defending the massive St Eloi mine.
After the explosion of the mines on 7 June, 2nd ATC supported the advance on Messines Ridge for a few days. At White Chateau on 9 June, temporary Sergeant R. Close earned a Distinguished Conduct Medal setting explosives in support of an attack.
In the second week of June, Colin Thompson and the 2nd ATC moved to Nieuport on the Belgian coast. Company headquarters and camp were established at Coxy de Bains. 2nd ATC was to tunnel through the sand dunes to assist forestall a German attack across the Yser canal and prepare the area for a major British attack.
Colin Thompson caught a cold in June and a cough persisted but he continued to work. British forces relieved the 29th French Division at Nieuport from 1 July. 2nd ATCs four Sections were respectively conducting deep offensive mining; sinking wells; building dugouts; and building dugouts and tunnels. The Company strength had been increased by the attachment of 160 of its reinforcements and 500 British infantry for working parties. By early July, tunnels were approaching No-Mans Land. In addition, accommodation for a battalion headquarters was practically completed, and one underground communication trench had gone 90 m with five entrances at intervals, and was being simultaneously worked on at several points further ahead.
On 10 July, the Germans launched Operation STRANDFEST, heavily shelling the Nieuport region as a precursor to a large raid. 2nd ATC lost only one man killed with 4 officers and 3 others being wounded. But in what became known as the Affair at Nieuport, 1 officer and 41 others were taken prisoner by the Germans, a few of these were wounded. On 12 July, the 2nd ATC camp moved to St Idesbalde and the work continued.
Colin Thompson reported sick to the Field Ambulance on 13 August, complaining of pains across the chest and the back, between the shoulders. At the Field Ambulance, the initial diagnosis was emphysema and chronic bronchitis. On 15 August, the decision was made to evacuate Colin Thompson and he was transported to the coast for return to England. He had served six months and one week with 2nd ATC. Transferred to England by the Hospital Ship St Denis on 20 August, he was at Ionic Street Military Hospital at Rock Ferry from 22 August to 4 September, mostly staying in bed. He transferred to 1st Australian Hospital at Harefield, Oxbridge on 14 September where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis lung on 16 September. The Medical Board was confirmed on 19 September, declaring the disease was a result of active service.

On 20 September, Colin Thompson was discharged to No. 2 Command Depot at Weymouth for general duties, pending return to Australia. He sailed to Australia on HMA Transport Therristocles from Devonport, embarking 5 November and considered non-effective from that date. On arrival in Australia on 3 January 1918, he proceeded to 4th Army General Hospital and was recommended for discharge on 13 February. He was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force by 2nd Military District staff on 28 February and granted a pension of three Australian Pounds per fortnight from that date.
Colin Thompson died at West Wallsend, Newcastle in 1922 from tuberculosis and was buried at Sandgate Cemetery. Remembered by his great, great nephew Brigadier Allan A. Murray CSM.
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